The maxim that goes, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” rings true for entrepreneurs and business owners in today’s marketplace that is hyper-competitive and during an era when there are so many communication tools available.
There is no doubt about it; having the right business connections can optimize productivity for your company and even strengthen your bottom line. You’ll find that these professional contacts can open the door to new and exciting business opportunities that have the potential to increase your brand recognition.
The goal for any business owner or entrepreneur is to always look for ways to add to their list of valuable business connections.
Let’s examine ten ways that you can improve your business connections and tap into unrealized potential growth for your organization.
1) Identify Conversational Icebreakers
A good way to overcome initial uneasiness and make a positive first impression is to start the conversation with a compliment. For example, you could say to your contact that you like his shirt or shoes.
You might pose a question to jump-start the conversation. You’ll find asking a question gives the person you’re speaking with the opportunity to talk about themselves. Why not ask your contact what inspired them to get into the profession or solicit their opinion of a recent trend in the industry?
By taking these actions, you’ll be able to make the networking conversation fluid and natural.
2) Establish Your Intentions
There are several factors that must be considered before moving forward with networking events.
You should initially think about your goals for networking. Have a clear reason for meeting with other professionals in your industry. For example, are you wanting to drum up more clients? Are you exploring new job opportunities?
Equally as important as your networking objective is deciding who you want to connect with. For instance, are you looking for a business partner? Do you want to gain more knowledge in your industry? Would you prefer to meet with CEOs at a specific type of company?
When you have a clear sense of why you want to make more business connections and a vision for the relationships you want to establish, you’ll have clarity when choosing the most opportune networking events that will satisfy your needs.
3) Have a Positive Attitude and Stay Away from Controversial Topics
Although it is understandable that you may not enjoy networking events, you want to squelch that instinct and remain positive. One way to do this is to talk about subjects that you deeply care about, which might help you grow your business.
At the same time, you should avoid topics like quotas at companies and anything political. Delving into these topics could upend what might otherwise be a productive conversation.
4) Make It Clear What You Do
Your company name and job title are insufficient when you’re meeting with contacts in your industry. Take the time to explain what your job functions are. For example, as the owner of company X, you are responsible for securing more clients, overseeing initiatives to grow your business and managing product development.
If you provide your business connection with a short description of your role, he or she is able to find some things in common with you and pose follow-up questions.
Meet with Your Business Connections
Take advantage of Burbity meeting and conference rooms.
5) Be an Attentive Listener
The person you’re talking to is probably inclined to talk a lot about himself, and he wants to know that you are interested in what he has to say. Instead of just listening to prepare for your response, also listen, so you are able to absorb and understand what your business contact is talking about.
You’ll want to ask thoughtful questions that show you’ve been carefully listening to this person. You add to the conversation as opposed to asking questions that are meant to clarify or verify already talked about information.
Adhere to the 70-30 rule of conversation, which means you do 30 percent of the talking when you are conversing with a potential business connection. Remember, the focus of the conversation is the professional you’re talking with. Let your story be included in your introduction, and reserve the rest of your encounter for attentive listening.
6) Be Prepared to Network During Your Off-Hours
Sometimes the best opportunities for improving your business connections are outside your working day.
How about launching into a conversation with your son’s piano teacher or at your daughter’s sporting event? Maybe you belong to the Rotary or Toastmasters. Strike up a conversation with members of these civic organizations and see where it leads.
You’d be surprised at how many “away-from-the work-world” opportunities there are for fruitful, work-related conversations!
7) Pay Attention to Body Language
You’ve probably heard of the adage that 90 percent of communication is non-verbal. You’ll gain much more insight and knowledge about someone by paying attention to body movements and gestures than by words alone.
For your part, you’ll want to project openness and sincerity during your networking encounter. So, be sure to maintain good eye contact, nod when appropriate, and stand with open arms. You want to avoid making any movements that indicate you’re tired or uninterested in the conversation topic.
When it comes to your business contact, recognize signs that she may be bored or not focused on the conversation, and then tactfully make an exit.
Non-verbal behaviors allow people to be at ease, cultivate trust, and make connections in the business world. So, be aware of your body language and what that conveys to the person you’re talking with. Similarly, you’ll be able to determine if you’re having a productive conversation if the other person is showing positive physical cues.
8) Have a Plan in Place
Don’t just show up at a networking event without a game plan. You risk being caught off-guard and sabotaging your business connection meeting.
Start off by having an idea of who you want to meet with. Be sure to have prepared questions, so you come off confident and self-assured with your business contact. By having your questions ready, you are likely to have a more meaningful conversation. This could help your business because you will have laid the foundation for a potentially deeper relationship with this contact.
Finally, in advance of your meeting, cobble together some personal anecdotes. These stories add a natural quality to the encounter, and they will also pique the interest of your business contact.
9) Repeat the Contact’s Name
Name recognition is big when it comes to the success of your networking meeting. You want your business contact to feel you value who she is and what she has to offer.
There are two times that you need to say someone’s name when you network:
- As you first meet them – “Good to meet you, so-and-so”
- When you introduce that person to someone else – “This is so-and-so. He works at
Feel free to liberally sprinkle in the name of your contact into the conversation, as long as it seems natural. Doing so will help you form a deeper rapport with this person, and you’re more likely to remember her name if you meet her again.
10) Follow Up with New Connections
If you do decide to follow up with your contact, make sure it is substantive and not just an “it was nice to meet you” message. You should have a legitimate reason to correspond again with your new business connection.
Learn all you can about the person you will be meeting with. Ask thoughtful questions during your conversation with him. This will enable you to identify what information is worthwhile to follow up with.
For example, you might follow up with your new professional connection by mentioning an interesting journal article you read, and you want to solicit her feedback. Maybe you shared with your contact some thought-provoking data about your industry. You could follow up with this person by providing more recent numbers that reflect a major shift in how businesses adapt to this new reality.
The point is that your follow-up correspondence should be of substance and elevate your relationship. This could pay big dividends for your organization when it comes to your connection later sharing valuable information that might even benefit your bottom line.
Look to Burbity Workspaces for an Event Venue for
Burbity Workspaces can provide you with an event space for you to meet with other professionals in your industry as you set out to strengthen your relationships with your business connections.
Our 5,000-square-foot event venue is an ideal place to host networking events. This room is available in the evening and on weekends.
We also have a 1,700-square-foot indoor space that has access to our patio, BBQs, a sand volleyball court, as well as a basketball hoop.
These spaces provide the perfect setting to build and bolster your business connections.