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Shhhhhh, I’m networking: The art of skillful engagement

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Shhhhhh, I’m networking: The art of skillful engagement

by Bev Barnfather

hello networking 600wWe all know that good networking skills are vital to gaining new clients and alliances, building good lasting relationships and establishing your reputation in the business community. That’s a given. The trick however is how to successfully overcome the urge to gather as many business cards as possible, fly through the room like a whirlwind, and at the end consider it a successful effort.

Having networked for over 40 years in various capacities, both in the corporate sector and in my own businesses, I have learned that networking is more than just business card distribution and “meet and greet." Successful networking is an art. You need the proper knowledge, tools and guidance in order to build connections and maximise your outcomes.

Experience has taught me many things, some harder to adopt than others. Allow me to share the main elements:

1. Listen more and talk less

When you listen to others, two things happen: you actually learn about them, their pain points and what’s important to them. Secondly they feel that you are interested and then respond accordingly. Direct eye contact, the nod of agreement, intelligent questions interspersed at the right moment, all lead to the development and establishment of a quality relationship.

2. The “gold” is in the follow up… but only if you do it well

Making a good first impression is vital but the real gain from good networking comes from how effectively you “follow up” – an art all on its own! 

3. Always remember: Networking is never about yourself – it is always about the other person

Find opportunities for others first and think of how you can help them rather than how they can help you. This attitude will help others grow their business and in time will benefit you too. Remember the saying: “When you row another person across the river, you will get there yourself.”

4. Continue to develop your networking skills

We network each and every day with people from all walks of life – at home, with friends, at work, or with other business people. Observe yourself during these interactions and ask: “What are my strengths? Which skills can I improve on? Where am I effective and where am I lacking?” Consulting with a mentor will help you identify which skills you need to develop and how best to fine tune them. Work with your mentor or business advisors, attend workshops, or join classes and groups. Whether you are a novice or a seasoned networker, never miss the opportunity to brush up on your skills and learn about new trends in networking. 

 


Bev Barnfather is the founder and CEO of the Ladybird Group which includes:

  • Ladybird Gifts – a corporate gift specialist showcasing bespoke gifts and hallmark presentation (no “cellophane in sight”)
  • Ladybird Consulting – a gift consulting service working with companies to show them how to reward and retain their clients, and maximise their referrals using best practices in gift giving
  • Ladybird Mentoring – provides workshops and private consultations suitable for business owners and/or employees looking to improve their networking skills

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