The art of Business Networking

While the old saying of "It's not what you know, but who you know" is something of an overstatement, in business your success depends in large part on the number of people you know and how closely those people are connected to your industry.

Given two competitors with roughly equivalent products and services, the one who is the best at networking will likely enjoy the most success. Knowing this, it's important that professionals who desire to be leaders within their industries and companies develop their understanding and command of the art of networking. Here are six principles you need to know.

 

1. It’s about value. Creating a network that will be influential to your future success isn't about building the biggest database of phone numbers. Leave that to the guys at trade shows who put out fishbowls to collect business cards. Expanding your network is about building relationships that allow you to extract value over time.

However, this is a two-way street. Those in your network must receive value as well. The key is that someone needs to start the value exchange. Make that person you. Be the first to offer value and don't expect something in return. If you are bringing the right person into your network and offering the right value, the reward will eventually come; expect others to be Lannisters who pay their debts.

 

2. Master your elevator pitch. Although "pitch" is the word commonly used here, let's redefine it as your "elevator introduction." You don't want to start your new relationship blasting a sales pitch. You need to be smart and sensitive. Give an overview of yourself and your business and gauge the person's reaction. Use the reaction to fine tune what you say, steering the conversation in the best direction for that individual. Perhaps some natural connections will surface. If so, steer in that direction.

 

3. Find non-traditional avenues for networking. Staged networking events, such as mixers, can be the worst places to develop new relationships because everyone is there to sell themselves. Participate in fun events and just mingle; however, make the extra effort to find those who will be worth knowing. Need a place to start? Check out www.restronaut.me. It's a social dining platform that connects people over dinners at the city's best restaurants and hidden gems. You will meet people and enjoy yourself. That's a win-win.

 

4. Distinguish yourself. We're generally talking about group events here. How can you stand out from the crowd? Simple gestures can go a long way to accomplishing this. If you stick around after most people have left the event, gather up some of the others who are still there and take them out to dinner. That gives you an opportunity to take these new relationships to an even higher level. By the way, pick up the check.

 

5. Develop your relationships. As I said above, it's not about casting a wide net and hauling in hundreds of names. It's about building relationships. This should start immediately. In your initial conversation, listen more than you talk. Ask questions so you can understand the needs of the person you are bringing into your network. This will demonstrate your true concern and go a long way toward building the trust that is vital for any successful business relationship. Continue to communicate beyond the first meeting and prove that you are there "for the long run."

 

6. Build real-life networks, not virtual ones. Every middle school child in the world has an online network that numbers in the hundreds. Don't mistake your LinkedIn connections for a real network. Meaningful relationships happen face-to-face. You can certainly communicate online, but if you never find yourself in the same room as the people in your network, you don't really have a business network.

A good way to find yourself in the same room as people who would make excellent additions to your network is to join a business club, such as the Capital Club Dubai. This option might be a bit expensive, but the investment is very much worth it. However, know that you might need some references, so you will have to do a little network building even before you apply! Once you are in, you will meet the right people and also have the option to host events yourself.

 

These six principles will help you build a network that delivers real long-term value to your professional life and your business. I do, however, have a few additional hints and tips I'd like to share that you should find helpful:

•        Read “Never Eat Alone” by Keith Ferrazzi. The title says it all.

•        If you're a little shy, start building your network through people you know: friends, family, college alumni.

•        Engage in dialogs that lead somewhere. Don't view conversation as a tennis match where the ball is merely hit back and forth across the net.

 

Now it's your turn. Don't expect to be an expert networker immediately. It's a skill that you will develop over time as well as one that will take your career to places that you can't even imagine today.

 

 

About Hamzeh Al Fuqha

 

Hamzeh Al Fuqha is a serial entrepreneur, inventor and angel investor. He founded Next Presentations and co-founded SmartAd. Hamzeh is a frequent speaker at industry seminars and guest lecturer at the American University of Sharjah on entrepreneurship and innovation. He has received several awards and won numerous national public speaking and debating competitions. Hamzeh studied Finance & Marketing at the American University of Sharjah and Entrepreneurship & Management at Harvard Business School.

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