This column is by Marian Gazdik, MD Europe at Startup Grind
The ugly truth about business networking is that most people waste an awful lot of time with it. They talk to the wrong people, try too hard to impress others and stay too long in conversations with people they will never (want to) see again…
It does not have to be this way. Time is of essence and you do not have to waste it. All it takes is to keep in mind a few simple steps next time you attend a business networking gathering or a business conference.
Let me share a simple, yet incredibly effective networking tip that will save you ton of time and gets you to the next level. Apply it and you will have a business network that would make some presidents jealous. To make it even easier for you, it is broken down to seven simple steps. Follow them and you will never look back.
Enter from the top
If you only want to remember one key business networking principle, it is this: enter any social situation from the top.
Incorporate this tip into your networking game plan and you will start seeing an amazing expansion of your business network. Why is it important? We humans are social animals. We are hardwired to interact and to be around other people. Whether we realize it or not, we have developed strong social filters. We make snap judgments and assumptions, based on seemingly unimportant factors like the way people dress, carry themselves or people they hang out with. Use this insight to your advantage.
Step 1: Make it a habit to meet and greet the host first
When you arrive at a business gathering, make it a habit to meet the host or organizer first. If you know who it is, great. If you do not, no problem. When checking-in, ask who the organizer is and get directed to him or her.
Sure, every host is extremely busy. Acknowledge that right at the beginning. Make it clear that you ‘only want to say hi and thanks for the invitation’. The side effect of it is that people will automatically assume you know the host, because they saw you talking together. They will treat you with more respect, when meeting you. Some of them will proactively introduce themselves to you. Identify key influencers and leaders, meet them or get introduce to them as soon as you can.
Tip: When you go to a business event, find the host first. Introduce yourself, compliment him/her on the event (be genuine) and ask how you can help. When finishing your conversation, ask who they would recommend you to meet. They often make the introduction themselves.
Step 2: Arrive early
Arriving ‘fashionably late’ might be a popular gimmick for a house party, but it is certainly not recommended at a business event. Early arrival gives you the opportunity to better connect with the host, key attendees and keynote speakers. They will be less busy, more relaxed and happy to connect. You will also better understand the dynamics between attendees.
Before you arrive, you might also do your homework and research those whom you will want to meet. Knowing the hobbies or topics your potential business partner or keynote speaker is excited about is a great way to connect.
Tip: Research people you want to meet, arrive early and connect with them on a personal level first. Trust is everything!
Step 3: Use the power of a compliment
Compliments are immensely powerful. They make people feel good about themselves and help establish a personal connection faster. However, there is a big warning sign above every fake compliment. We feel when somebody is not being genuine. A compliment only works if it is genuine, otherwise it might be counterproductive.
All it takes is to train yourself to look for genuine reasons to compliment the person you just met, choose one say it out loud. A genuine compliment goes a very long way.
Tip: Every time you meet someone new, train yourself to look genuine reason to compliment that person right when you meet.
Step 4: Build trust fast, develop a relationship
You can maximize your business networking success when you start looking at it as a relationship, as opposed to a transaction. In most cases those who start selling to you right after you meet, you probably will not trust easily. Don’t fall into the same trap. Build a relationships first. It is well worth it.
One way of building a trusting relationship, is to highlight a common connection. The higher up the social ladder, the better. You might know the boss of the person you want to meet. Make sure to bring it up in the conversation, yet do not brag about it. Ideally say it within a funny story or when sharing an interesting fact.
Tip: Build a personal relationship first. Highlight a common connection, but do not brag about it.
Step 5: Offer help first
Ask yourself first how you can help the person you just met. That is a business networking paradigm shift. If you are not sure, ask. That will instantly make you stand out in the eyes of others. People will remember you more, because you want to help them.
What if there is nothing you can do to help, not even after asking? The least you can do is to make at least one high quality introduction right there and then. Ask why that person came and what kind of people he or she wants to meet. Find that person and introduce them.
Tip: Ask yourself first how you can help the person you just met. Always offer to help, give value or make an introduction, before you ask for anything.
Step 6: Ask to be introduced
This is probably the most hidden trick every successful business networker does not want you to know about. It is easy, socially acceptable and works like a charm. The most likely person to know the high quality people at every event is yet again, the host. Or people the host could introduce you to. Even if you do not get introduced directly, it helps if you just get pointed to people you should meet.
Tip: After you offered help it is OK to ask for tips whom you should meet. Whether personally introduced or just pointed to those you should meet. When meeting them, make sure to mention that they were being suggested by your common connection.
Step 7: Finish in a high note
People with extensive business networks do not appreciate when people they just met want to exhaust the conversation to the limit. Such a conversation often dies and the person you just met will most likely eject and will never want to see you again.
Instead, make sure to have an interesting or funny conversation. When you are having a good time, finish on a high note. Offer to follow up or talk again later that evening or some other time. That will make the person you just met to want to see you again for sure.
Tip: Don’t exhaust the conversation. Finish on a high note. That way the person you just met will want to talk to you again.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of steps you should take to master entering social circles from the top. Yet if you follow these few simple tips, they will make meeting the right people easier.
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