Business Networking Skills for the Home Based Business Owner
By Debra Fine
Venturing out to do “networking” becomes even more challenging when you are a home-based businessperson. As a home base business owner myself, I understand the challenges. Most of our human interaction is via the Internet, telephone of fax. We become unaccustomed to interacting face to face, especially with people we don’t know. First and foremost we must take the risk of attending association, industry, education or chamber of commerce events. I make reservations and block out the time and date. No excuses, I paid, now I must attend! I make myself do this at least twice a month. When I don’t discipline myself to do this I fall into a rut. Never meeting new people. Never expanding my educational horizons. Once I arrive at the event I employ the following conversational skills and techniques:
- Be the first to say “Hello”.
- Introduce yourself. Act as if you’re the host behavior and introduce new arrivals to your conversational partner or partners.
- Smile first and always shake hands when you meet anyone.
- Take your time during introductions! Make an extra effort to remember names, and use their name frequently in the conversation with them.
- Maintain eye contact in any conversation. Many people in a group of three or more people look around in the hope that others in the group will maintain eye contact on our behalf. But people don’t feel listened to if you’re not looking at them.
- Get somebody to talk about why they’re attending the event and you’re on your way to getting them engaging them in conversation.
- Show an interest in every person. The more interest you show the more wise and attractive you become to others.
- Listen carefully for information that can keep the conversation going.
- Remember: People want to be with people who make them feel special, not people who are “special”. Take responsibility to help people you talk to feel as if they’re the only person in the room.
- Play the conversation “game”. When someone asks, “How’s business?” or “What’s going on?” Answer with more than “Not much”. Tell more about yourself so that others can learn more about you.
- But be careful with business acquaintances. You wouldn’t want to open a conversation with: “How’s your job at (fill in the blank)?” What if that person just got fired or laid off? Be careful when you’re asking about an acquaintance’s spouse or special friend: you could regret it.
- Don’t act like you’re an F.B.I. agent. Questions like: “What do you do?” “Are you married?” “Do you have children?” and “Where are you from?” lead to dead end conversations.
- Be aware of body language. Nervous or ill-at-ease people make others uncomfortable. Act confident and comfortable, even when you’re not.
- Be prepared. Spend a few minutes before an anticipated event preparing to talk easily about three topics. They will come in handy when you find yourself in the middle of an awkward moment…or seated at a table of eight where everyone is playing with their food.
- Show an interest in your conversational partner’s opinion, too. You’re not the only person who has opinions about funding the space program or what will happen to the stock market.
- Stop conversation monopolists in their tracts. If possible, wait for the person to take a breath or to pause, then break in with a comment about their topic. Immediately then lead the conversation in the direction in which you want it to go.
- Be prepared with exit lines. You do need to move around and meet others.
- Don’t melt from conversations. Make a positive impression by shaking hands and saying goodbye as you leave.
As long as you keep looking for new people to meet, and you show an interest in other people, you can make friends and enjoy lively conversations. John Nesbitt suggested in his book Megatrends, in this high-tech world we live in, most of us long for high-touch. That includes reaching out to connect with others who not only will buy from us but also will connect us with others and enhance our lives.