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10 Networking Habits

Did you make any New Year Resolutions this year? The New Year starts with such great intentions and I was curious enough to find out what the top ten resolutions were in 2013* (as a bench mark for 2014);

1) Eat healthy and exercise regularly (code for ‘lose weight’)
2) Drink less (I am hoping that means drink less alcohol because we do require fluid to function)
3) Learn something new
4) Quit smoking
5) Better work/life balance
6) Volunteer
7) Save money
8) Get organised
9) Read more
10) Finish those around the house “to-do” lists

* It must be true I read it on The Google!

Statistically studies have suggested that 20% of resolutions are broken within the first week of January. At least 80% are broken within one year, and the actual figure is probably much higher. The common reason is that “Resolutions” set us up for failure by luring us into all-or-none thinking. Most people think in terms of “keeping” their resolutions, or “breaking” them.

So, instead of being unkind to yourself in 2014 and setting yourself up to fail cast aside the resolutions and create successful business habits for yourself, including networking. Here are 10 Networking Habits I recommend that you adopt to ensure that get the most out of your networking investment;

1. Create A Networking Strategy

Write your Networking Objectives for the next 12 months (a minimum of 3).  If you don’t have any then create them and don’t start to network until you have!

Stephen Covey, 7 Habits of Successful People, says it is all too easy to continue climbing the ladder of success only to discover it’s leaning against the wrong wall, which means that every step we take just takes us to the wrong place faster!

Sometimes we find ourselves being really busy without being effective. Having clarity about the future enables you to ask the question:

“Is what I am doing now going to move me towards my goal?”

2. Plan Your Networking Events

It’s important to book time in your diary to prepare your business presentation at networking events. This is crucial to get your message across effectively. What you say and how you say it will have a direct impact on the results you get. Take the time out of your schedule and plan your presentations for the year based on your business plan. Reflect on the following questions when planning your presentations for the year:

3. Build The Relationship First

Networking is about building relationships. We ‘do’ business with people that we know like and trust and that can take time. You wouldn’t approach someone you didn’t know at a party and say, “Please help me get me a job at IBM”.

We have had ladies turn up at an Athena event as a visitor and advise us after one meeting that it didn’t work for them. What they really meant was that no one purchased their product or service at the meeting. This is a short sighted strategy in the long term and for a business to be profitable relationship development is essential.

Bonus: Don’t attend a meeting intending to sell, no one is attending with the intention to buy!

4. Show Interest

In order to make those connections happen, you need to show interest in the person you’re talking to. Ask them questions, and listen closely. Then ask more questions to expand the conversation. Make it conversational, and remember don’t talk all about business!*

Avoid scouring the room for the next attendee to talk to when you are in conversation. Be respectful and give your undivided attention whilst you are in conversation.

It isn’t wise to have a conversation with the same person for the whole event so, once you have made a good connection, if appropriate, exchange contact information then move on to the next person.

You both want to make connections with several people, just don’t turn it into a numbers game … quality over quantity!

*some of my best business leads have come from a personal conversation about hobbies and interests.

5. Bring the Right Agenda

The key to successful networking at ANY time is having the right agenda. And the key to that is focusing on building connections – meaningful connections.  So be sure to keep that in mind at all times. Don’t ever try to sell, even if they actually ask about your products and services. Agree to meet at a later time after the event.

6. Have an ‘Attention Getting’ Introduction

How to get the conversation started on the right foot? At networking events (and social events) you will be asked you what you do, it is a social currency, one of the top four conversation starters. Create a jaw-dropper of a response

I always encourage Athena members and clients to tell people what results their clients achieve as opposed to what it is that they do.  You can start by saying who your best clients are and what challenges you help them overcome. One thing for sure… Don’t just say your label!  Like… I’m a consultant, I’m a mortgage broker, I’m a massage therapist. Why? People filter through their own best/worst experience of that profession and label you the same, at best it is their best experience and at worst well …

Have a few client success stories prepared and ready, we learn by stories and it is one of the easiest and most memorable ways to get the attention of anyone who’s either in the market for what you do – or knows someone who is.  Pause and wait until they ask for more information. Obviously, if they don’t ask for more, they’re not your perfect prospect and or they don’t know anyone who might be. Not a problem. Just change the conversation topic to more general themes and ask them about themselves.

But what if they ARE a perfect prospect?  Don’t fall into the trap of starting to sell. Exchange contact info and follow up.

7. The Secret Of The Ask

Are you ready to get the most from each event? Apply the secret of the ASK!  You’ll be chatting with lots of people, and you never know who knows whom… unless you ask.

And this makes ASK into a powerful “tool” – you’re not selling, just asking for help, for an introduction or connection with specific resources you may need.  You could ask for an introduction to an accountant, a cleaner, or even someone who needs your services. Of course, to make this work effectively, be sure to ask them what they need and offer to reciprocate.

The best thing… this is a powerful way to connect with people. After all, we all generally love to help.  As a bonus, you may find some excellent resources – and have plenty of reason to follow up, further building your relationship with the people you connected with.

8. Follow Up

Honour all of the commitments that you make. If you promised someone you met at networking/social event you would forward your CV or send a business contact, do so.

If you haven’t found their perfect resource yet, let them know you’re still looking. And if you have, go ahead and deliver.

You can also remind them about what you were looking for and see if they can help. What I encourage clients to do is to create an email template so that they can respond quickly after a networking event.

9. Join The Right Network

Join the right network  An informal networking event where it’s up to you to mingle can be intimidating and hit or miss. A structured networking event has a clear agenda and more formality that can help you get more out of it.

What would be best for you? Most organisations encourage you to visit them before you make a decision to join. At The Athena Network you are welcome to visit one of our groups once to see if you like our structure and format.

10. Be Professional

Be professional If you agreed to meet over a coffee approach this the same way that you would a business meeting.  Agree an agenda, how long the meeting will take and be respectful of both.  Listen more than you talk.

A final reminder (so important I am compelled to mention it twice), networking isn’t “selling” or promoting your products or services.  If you do, you’re sending the wrong message and will usually end up in failure.

Instead of just socialising or the opposite, trying to sell, keep your focus on building real connections with the people you meet. Get to know them, see if you can help them in any way, and offer to be a resource for them.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

― Maya Angelou

Now, get ready to reap the benefits of your networking skills!

To Your Success

Jacqueline Rogers
Founder of The Athena Network

p.s. Did you know that we provide extensive training for our members which includes setting up their networking strategy? If you would like to find out more about the network and how you can join a group please email us at headoffice@theathenanetwork.com

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What Athena Members Say …

Nicky Fitzmaurice

"Athena Networking has been the making of me! I have made more friends and learnt more about business tools and networking strategy in the last year than I ever thought possible. Athena’s focus on training members to be the best that they can be, whilst in a supportive and nurturing environment, gave me the confidence to learn and grow which in turn allowed my business to do the same. It is this, that is the heart of Athena. No hard sell amongst the members, we encourage one another to help where we can. I always come away from a meeting inspired and bubbling with ideas on how to grow my business. It’s a fabulous way to live, learn and grow. Nicky Fitzmaurice www.satinpaperbacks.com

Selena Ludick

“The Athena network can be distinguished from any other networking group I attend. Its structure and form mean that members who attend are committed and dedicated to proactive networking which on turn achieves tangible results.  This benefits me and my firm,  in just a two  hour monthly meeting I have the opportunity to talk to other business women about me, my business and what I need and how I can be helped.  The environment for delivering this is focused and professional. As a result referrals are made and recommendations given which, for me achieves increased clients and in turn builds greater contacts.  As a busy business women Athena also provides a forum to connect with other business women on a social / friendship basis so “all work and no play does not make this Jill a dull girl” Athena motivates me, strengthens my vision, equips and endorses me but most of all provides the fuel every business women needs to keep raising her game and stepping up to the mark.”

Rosie Mortimer

Working mostly on my own, I really appreciate the positive camaraderie of the Athena women. Whatever need or concern one has, there is always someone able, and enthusiastically willing, to help with good advice. I find the interaction tremendously stimulating and enjoyable - and highly instructive. A wonderful group to see regularly, with excellent opportunities to meet other interesting and skilled women at training days. Thank you Athena!


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