by Cathy Paper
Emily Post was the queen of etiquette. I wish she were around to assist with the lack of networking etiquette I see in the business world from job seekers, sales people and business development professionals.
While I’m not perfect at networking — and, frankly, no one is — a little more intention with your manners and you will see better results in your relationships.
Last time, I offered three networking no-nos that can ruin your reputation. Here, on the flip side, are five things you can (and should) do to further your networking pursuits.
1. Ask how people like to stay connected as you build a relationship
Please don’t assume you can dive right into texting people after a first meeting. I’m old school, and I ask people what types of communication they prefer. I don’t ask right away, but if I get a chance to talk about it, I work to find out what they prefer.
Yes, texting is the fastest way to get an answer today from many people, but it also is still reserved for the closest relationships. Don’t start texting until you’ve earned that level of connection.
2. Be prepared
Time and time again I hear from people that they gave their time to a job seeker, which is noteworthy. But the job seekers continue to show up not knowing anything about the firm, key clients or any active issues, and they have little to no awareness of how the firm works.
It only takes 15 minutes to do a Google search, read The Business Journals, make a phone call or two, and get smart before your meeting. Be sure you’re prepared with background information and at least three to five good questions.
Without showing up prepared on a networking or job-search meeting, you come across as unmotivated and as having wasted time making the other person tell you about their firm. It’s tough to turn around that first impression, and most likely you won’t get a second chance.
3. Be careful with name dropping
It’s a fine line with how to use a name to elevate your status with a person you are networking with without offending them. While you want to impress upon the person you are meeting with that you’ve done your homework and you are friends with someone at the company, if you use that person’s name too many times or share too many “war stories,” you may come across as a lightweight, schmoozer, etc.
It’s always good to make a reference or two to the person you know who works at the firm or who is a shared connection, but be certain those people know each other and care for one another.
I once made repeated reference to the college the person I was meeting with attended. I was nervous, and it just kept coming out. Finally, he politely told me, “While I went there, I’m not super-engaged with them any longer.” This was a great reminder to avoid overkill.
4. Be open to a range of people with whom you can build your network
Yes, yes, we all want the decision-maker, especially if you’re in sales. But consider that your network can help you access other people. Don’t be a snob and only connect with high-level people.
I’ve seen many of my clients gain access to an assignment or a job position because they built relationships at several levels of the organization. Keep your network well-rounded.
5. Think about building your network in more ways than 1-on-1
We want people’s time and we want to build a relationship, but often if we go for a one-on-one meeting, we won’t get access to the person. The more successful people are, the more they protect their time.
So, rather than hounding them, see if you can attend an event where they might be present or host a lunch and invite people that they might benefit from meeting. Get creative to see how you can expand your network without expanding the hours of the week you spend on building relationships.
This applies to online activities and in-person activities. If you only read information on Linkedin and never post, try posting or commenting and letting other people know what might appeal to them.
Building relationships is all about making things easier for other people so that they will keep you top-of-mind for what you want. We do business with people we know, like and trust. Make sure you’re building your relationships the right way so that people want to recommend you to their networks.
Cathy Paper is president of RockPaperStar, which coaches, develops and markets select business owners, authors and unique speakers to national status. The 91-day RockStar Plan impacts marketing plans, career coaching, and business development. Her clients include Harvey Mackay — the No. 1 New York Times best-selling Author of “Swim With The Sharks” — Riley Hayes, Best Buy, and Paramount Studios.