At the heart of great networking is the ability to build great business relationships. It is the relationships we develop that will determine how successful we will be in our business or career.
No one is born with a natural talent for building relationships, there are skills and behaviours that can be learned just like any others – once you decide you need to develop them.
1. Ask insightful questions.
When other people sense that we are making a genuine attempt to understand them, they tend to open up and share more insightful information. This deepens the relationship and places you in the group of people they want to seek out and talk to.
The best way to explore more of another person's world is to ak questions about the answers they give. Start the converstation with open questions to get people talking and then ask open specific questions to dig deeper and to demonstrate that you have understood.
2. Be a great listener.
The simple rule is that once you have asked a questions - shut up!
Most people are too busy thinking of what they want to say to be really good at listening. We can all be guilty of wanting to get our own point across, to talk about our business and our products.
Something magical happens in relationships when people believe they are really being listened to. People bond with and want to spend more time with those they meet who actually listen. When you find yourself listening just for the pause so that you can get your own point across, stop and refocus on what the speaker is saying. You might just find out that they want something you can provide!
3. Be open but only share when appropriate
We have all met people who tell you their life story in the first few minutes of meeting us, totally oblivious of the fact that we are likely to have no interest in hearing it. To build strong relationships we need to be sensitive and be able to pace ourselves, only sharing our information when it is appropriate and at a level consistent with the depth of the relationship. Not everyone is ready for or wants your 'warts and all' story.
Good relationship builders show they can empathise, mirroring the emotions of the person speaking. Sharing excitement, joy, sorrow, frustration and disappointment helps human beings to connect. Be sensitive and empathise by sharing a situation from you own experience to show that you can relate to others experience, but never that it overshadows or competes with their experience.
4. Be authentic
Authenticity is the feeling of being your real self and being able to communicate your real self equally to others - not putting on different types of performance for different people. You can't 'learn' ho to be authentic because if you are trying to be authentic you are probably putting on an act!
5. Be emotionally intelligent
Great relationship builders have a high EQ, emotional intelligence quotient. They feel good about who they are and look for the positive in their world. They genuinely want the best for others and want to see them succceed.
The energy of people who are comfortable in their own skin and upbeat creates and atmosphere that people want to be around. They avoid gossip about others and can keep confidences (one of the fundamental building blocks of trust). Being confident they don't need to draw attention to themsleves and they always have time for the significant others in their lives. They are lifelong learners, always open to and looking for opportunities to improve.
The above may not be an exhaustive list of the skills and behaviours that make for great relationship developers, but get better at each one of them and you will be amazed at the effect it has on your networking efforts.
Director, Sterling Networks.
International Speaker and Author.