Networking: It’s Not All About Collecting Business Cards

NetworkingHow many networking events have you been to where someone comes up to you, says “hello” and immediately either hands you their card or asks you for yours?

I was at a holiday business party once and, upon checking in, the woman in front of me said “I’m going to hand out fifty business cards tonight.” That was her goal and I thought to myself, “Really? How about saying you’re going to connect with fifty people?”

You see, networking is NOT about collecting or handing out business cards left and right. It’s about beginning to nurture and build relationships!

My colleague and business growth strategist Patty Farmer said she lives by this quote, “strive to be a people connector not a business card collector.” It’s definitely advice worth living by.

Your first question shouldn’t be “may I have your card?” Ask thought-provoking questions and be a good listener. Keep in mind that when you show a genuine interest in others, they’ll find you interesting.

As a young salesman Harvey Mackay, author of Swim with the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive, developed the Mackay 66(TM) — a 66-question customer profile that focuses on what makes people tick. For instance:

  • What are they proud of accomplishing?
  • What’s their life like outside the office?
  • How do they want to be seen by others?

If you want to see the exact 66 questions, simply click here.

Here are four characteristics of successful networkers from Jeffrey Gitomer. He said you need:

  • A heartfelt introduction (what I call the “30-second spiel”) that engages and encourages listeners to ask more.
  • A willingness to dedicate the time it takes to network and be good at it.
  • A plan of where and when to network.
  • To know what events to attend where your customers and prospects are likely to go.

When you’re at a networking event and take time to get to know someone, the moment may naturally come when you do exchange business cards. When it does, be sure to follow up. After all, how will you develop a relationship if you just tuck that card in a drawer?

On the back of the business card write down 1-2 points from your conversation and, after the event, do one (or more) of the following:

1. Send a handwritten note. People will appreciate the time you took to sit down and write. Perhaps they talked about their child’s soccer game or a vacation that is approaching. Mention it again in your note.

It’s rare for most of us to receive personal “snail” mail these days so it’s quickly noticed in one’s mailbox. You can send them an email, but I find the handwritten note makes a lasting impression. And, with so few people doing this, you’ll stand out from the crowd.

2. Connect with that person on LinkedIn. However, please don’t send them one of LinkedIn’s generic invitations. Take the time to personalize the invite and reiterate a point you discussed when you met. It’s a great way to continue your conversation and start building on the relationship.

3. Check out their website, read their blog and see if they’re on other social networks (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc.). If so, connect with them there as well. Or better yet, do what Patty Farmer does.

When meeting someone for the first time and obtaining their business card, Patty asks that person how they like to connect. She then folds a corner of their business card to represent their preferred social network. If they say Facebook she folds down the lower right corner, Twitter the lower left, LinkedIn the upper left – you get the idea, right? Later on, she’ll take out the business card and connect with that person according to their preference. A great idea you can implement right away.

You may have heard the saying “it’s all in the follow up.” So when you get back to your office, be sure to continue connecting by following up.

What networking tips do you have? Please share your ideas in the comment section below because I’d love to hear from you. Thanks and here’s to your sweet success.

P.S. This is an excerpt from my book Millionaire Marketing on a Shoestring Budget(TM). You can pick up your copy here.