The following excerpt is from Ivan Misner, Ph.D. and Brian Hilliard’s book Networking Like a Pro. Buy it now from Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound Many people offer advice about what it takes to be good at networking. This advice, however, often lacks a key piece of information: what the average person thinks it takes to be a better networker. Networking involves interacting with others, so what do most businesspeople think it takes to successfully network? Let us underscore the importance: We all need to be cognizant of other people’s expectations and adjust our behavior accordingly if we want to make a positive impression that will help build a powerful network.
To that end, we gathered almost 3,400 survey responses from businesspeople around the world who represent both genders (57 percent men, 43 percent women) and ages that span a person’s entire career. Six percent of respondents were under 30 while two percent were over 70. The bulk of respondents (78 percent) were between the ages of 30 and 59. We gave them a list of roughly 20 different characteristics on networking and asked them to pick the top behaviors they would like to see in a great networker. From those responses, we identified the top seven characteristics that people believe make a great networker.
Here are those seven characteristics in order of importance, according to the survey respondents.
1. Good listener.
Being a good listener tops the list. Our success in networking depends on how well we can listen and learn. The faster you and your networking partner learn what you need to know about each other, the faster you’ll establish a valuable relationship.
A good networker has two ears and one mouth and should use them each proportionately. Listen to people’s needs and concerns and find opportunities to help them. You can’t help others if you don’t know what they need, and you find out what they need by listening. In many ways, networking is about connecting the dots, but to do that, you have to listen so you can help people make the connections they’re looking for.
2. Positive attitude.
The first thing that people see from you is your attitude, how you handle yourself day in and day out. A consistently negative attitude makes people dislike you and drives away referrals; a positive attitude makes people want to associate with you. Positive business professionals are like magnets — others want to be around them and will send their friends and family to them.
3. Helps others/collaborative.
People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Helping people shows that you care. One survey respondent said, “People want to network with individuals who have a collaborative attitude.” Helping others can be done in a variety of ways, from emailing a helpful article to someone to putting them in touch with a person who can help with a specific challenge.
Several respondents commented about not wanting to network with people who are “in it for themselves.” A willingness to collaborate and help others is essential as it builds trust and helps establish a strong relationship.
You can offer the help, the thanks and the listening ear, but if you’re not sincerely interested in the other person, they’ll know it! Those who have developed successful networking skills convey their sincerity at every turn. One respondent stated, “It’s all about the authenticity” that someone shows you. We’ve all seen people who are seemingly good at networking but lack sincerity. Faking it isn’t sustainable — and it doesn’t work.
5. Follows up.
If you offer opportunities, whether it’s a simple piece of information, a special contact or a qualified business referral, to someone who consistently fails to follow up, you’ll soon stop wasting your time with this person. One respondent said that when it comes to networking, “The for;tune lies in the follow-up” and that many people just “don’t follow up anymore.”
One respondent said it best: “It doesn’t matter how successful the person is; if I don’t trust them, I don’t work with them.” When you refer someone, you’re putting your reputation on the line. You have to be able to trust your referral partner and be trusted in return. Neither you nor anyone else will refer a contact to someone who can’t be trusted to handle it well.
One respondent said that people “will forget what you said and what you did, but they’ll never forget how you made them feel.” In other words, when you’re approachable, people feel comfortable. When they feel comfortable, relationships are born. That’s why effective networking always starts with approachability.
Each one of the characteristics above tie into the notion of building mutually beneficial business relationships. Only then will you succeed in creating a powerful network.