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Becoming a Networking Guru

Bruce Kulberg

The following networking guidelines will help you gain important insight in networking effectively. According to Tim Connor, of T R Training Associates, Ann Arbor, MI., who has done extensive research in the area of effective networking, there are some basic rules you must follow if you are going to be successful in networking.

  • LEARN TO LIKE YOURSELF. You must like yourself. Every positive relationship, including all types of networks, begins with a healthy self image.

  • MAKE THE FIRST MOVE. In any encounter, someone must initiate the relationship.

  • BE WILLING TO BE VULNERABLE. Very few people are willing to put themselves on the line -- to be real. One of the best ways to get others to shed their costumes and masks is to drop your's first.

  • BE WILLING TO RISK. All of life involves risk. In probing a potential network for contacts, information, or common interests, there is the potential for rejection.

  • LEARN TO OVERCOME THE FEAR OF REJECTION. The fear of rejection is one of the major causes of failure in selling, relationships, and business. We all have a fundamental need to be liked, accepted, and loved.

  • PUT YOUR ENERGY INTO YOUR POSITIVE CONTACTS. If you think that everyone you meet likes you, you have another problem. It is unreasonable to be accepted by everyone you meet, regardless of the circumstances. Nurture those relationships where there is genuine and mutual respect, liking, and caring.

  • TO CREATE A POSITIVE FIRST IMPRESSION: BE -- DON'T ACT. What do you look for in someone you meet for the first time? What qualities make you feel comfortable and create a willingness to get to know this person? Why not develop a list of all the qualities in other people you like, then rate yourself on those same qualities.

  • JUDGE NOT THAT YOU MIGHT BE JUDGED. Each of us has something to offer each other and the world. Learn to accept differences as normal. Just because the other person is not like you, it doesn't give you the right to judge.

  • NETWORKING IS NOT A ONE WAY STREET. The desire to grow, learn, and share is the basis of all networking. But to find the areas, with each person you meet that can benefit one of you in the relationship, requires some probing, asking, and learning about each other; your needs, interests, and problems. To successfully accomplish this step requires a two-day dialogue.

  • EVERYONE YOU MEET KNOWS SOMEONE YOU KNOW OR SOMEONE WHO CAN HELP. Everyone you know knows someone that you know. It just depends on how far back you have to go to find the common contact. The chances of improving the number of common contacts increase with a few basic factors: Are you in a common business or similar organization? Do you operate in the same geographic area, have any common interests, similar problems or goals, or face similar opportunities? These are just a few ideas for openers.

  • LISTEN TO YOUR WORLD - YOU MAY LEARN SOMETHING. Few people really listen. We are becoming a nation of talkers. Everyone needs someone to listen to them and everyone has something worthwhile to say.

  • NETWORKING AT MEETINGS IS NOT A NUMBERS GAME. Networking can take place anywhere; on the street, in elevators, in coffee shops, in airplanes, and in business meetings. However, some environments are more conducive to building a productive network than others. Business meetings fall into this category.

Building an effective network contact takes time, respect, and interest. Too many people jump from person to person in a matter of seconds. You know who I mean. They pounce on you by saying, "Who do you know that...", and they are gone. In my opinion, this isn't networking, this is rude behavior.

  • LEARN TO SEPARATE BUSINESS AND SOCIAL NETWORKING. Networking at a special event can be just as productive and beneficial as at a business meeting. In a social setting, the initial networking steps should be taken establishing common ground, interests, etc. Many of the details should be discussed later by phone, or at a future non- social meeting. Learn to separate business from pleasure in this environment. The follow-up in this situation is where the bulk of information should be gained.

  • POSITIVE CONVERSATION IS AN ONGOING GIVE AND TAKE. Starting a conversation can be an easy or a frightening experience. The best way I have found is to either ask an open ended positive question related to the environment or person or make a positive statement about the environment or person. Then follow it up with an open ended question requesting an opinion, feeling, or response from the other person about the environment, an activity, or situation at hand. The rest is easy.

  • BUSINESS CARDS ARE A TOOL, BUT THEY MUST BE USED PROPERLY. Most business cards end up in the trash. Many times people exchanging cards believe that the other person is saving their card. I always ask the other person, "Why would you like it?" I don't do it in a smart manner, I am genuinely interested in their reason for asking. This usually starts the dialogue.

Final thoughts - think about all the people who you know that you met through other people. Think about all the benefits you have gained through this matrix of contacts. Positive networking is like a chain letter. You can't just be a taker, you must be a giver, too. Happy networking!




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