The saying goes, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.”
Professional networking is a great way to gain contacts that can affect your business. No matter the industry, leaving a positive and lasting impression with those you meet professionally should be one of your main goals.
Whether you are at a tradeshow or happen to bump into someone in a café, you can be prepared to take on any new professional relationship by turning these five tips into habits:
- Beef up your business card.
Throughout your career you may have either seen or heard that the use of business cards is dying in practice—this is not the case! While professionals may not hang on to your physical card as long as they have in the past (partially due to the increase in the use of scanner apps that allow you to import the information found on any business card directly to the contacts in your phone), your card can still make a lasting impression. Utilizing different colors, textures, or shapes in your card – anything aside from the traditional – can allow professionals who have it to remember you, which is the whole point.
- Aim to make a relationship, not a sale.
Whether or not you are a salesperson, chances are you’ve at one time or another been the prospect of a sale. Think back to the worst sales pitch you’ve had to endure: what was the problem here? Was the salesperson too transparent in his or her motives? Did you feel like just another prospect? These are questions to ask yourself so you are able to avoid these behaviors.
People like to make connections, not to be constantly given a sales pitch. Focusing more of your energy on building actual relationships with the people you want in your network will help you stand out against others.
- Take note.
As you are communicating with other professionals, make a mental (or physical) note of what makes them unique. Maybe all of their metaphors sports-related or they may have an interesting travel story every time you talk—whatever it is, it’s important that you remember it and bring it up in later conversations. This shows the other person that you are not only listening to what they have to say, but that you care enough to retain it.
- Follow up!
This is a simple yet underrated strategy of professional networking. Following up is incredibly important to keeping connections, and while it may not be the easiest thing to do, you still have to do it. Whether you choose call, email, or send a carrier pigeon, some kind of communication after an initial meeting is necessary.
- Keep your interactions genuine.
Just like you are, other people are able to read whether or not your interactions are stale and salesy, or free-flowing and personal. To keep a growing and effective professional network is to keep in contact with people in a way that feels comfortable, not calculated.
No matter the industry, networking is a must. From meeting media contacts to potential business partners, you want to make sure you leave a positive and lasting impression with every professional you meet. By utilizing these five tips, you’ll be able to navigate any relationship formed through professional encounters.