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A different perspective on networking

All business people are networkers whether they realize it or not. Some are more effective than others. Some work at it with purpose; others wander aimlessly through the process.

Every time you meet someone, greet someone, pick up the phone, send an email, engage someone in conversation, write a note (yes, some people still write notes), you are networking.

You don’t have to attend a community function, an after-hours reception, a fundraising event or an educational conference to network. Any time you interact with someone else you are engaged in networking. It can happen at the mall, the grocery store, the post office, walking the dog, riding in an elevator or waiting for your next flight to take off.

The purpose of business networking is to build relationships and grow your business, but you can’t be successful at networking if you don’t understand what it is. Some people think that it’s who you know and others believe that it’s who knows you. Networking is a combination of those two, but it is more than that.

Business networking is also about what you know, and, more importantly, it’s about who knows that you know what you know. (Try saying that three times in a row fast.)

It’s not enough to be famous if no one understands what makes you famous. As part of your networking strategy, be clear on who you are, what you do and what you have to offer. Your area of expertise and the unique skills you possess are what others need to understand.

How can you be sure that people know that you know what you know? By being visible and by using, not abusing, every opportunity to showcase your expertise. Once people know that you know what you know, you become the expert and the “to-go-to” person.

It’s a lot easier to have people come to you rather than having to chase them down.

A word of caution: Don’t start your conversations with “Let me tell you about me.” You’ll turn others off before you know it. Open your conversations with questions that begin with “why” and “how” or “tell me about….” Practice good listening skills that indicate your interest in knowing the other person, who they are and what they do.

Before you launch into who you are and what you do, learn about and show a genuine interest in the other person. Most people would rather talk about themselves than listen to you. Give them that opportunity before you start tooting your own horn.

Lydia Ramsey is a Savannah-based business etiquette expert, professional speaker, trainer and author. Contact her at 912-598-9812 or go to her website at www.mannersthatsell.com to leave a comment, ask a question or receive more information about her services.

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