How to… boost your business by becoming a great networker
22:41 GMT, 15 April 2012
Say the word ‘network’ to the average woman and she’s likely to think you are asking her about her mobile phone provider.
Handing out business cards and ‘connecting’ with people you meet — well, it’s just not very feminine, is it
But men have been oiling the wheels of business like this for years, thanks to the old boys’ network, and now it’s our turn…
Connections: The ability to network is essential for a successful business (posed by models)
REMIND YOURSELF: DON'T BE SHY
‘Even seasoned businesswomen — such as Karren Brady on TV’s The Apprentice and publisher Gail Rebuck — confess to finding it hard to use the “N” word because we don’t have a tradition of networking,’ says former T4 presenter June Sarpong, who has launched a female networking forum, Women: Inspiration And Enterprise.
‘But once people start networking, they realise how productive it can be. Women I’ve spoken to say they just wanted someone to give them permission to do it.
'So go ahead. Don’t be embarrassed — talk to people, hand out your business cards.’
OPPORTUNITIES ARE EVERYWHERE
Talk to people you don’t know everywhere you go, not just in business or social situations.
A train journey, standing in a queue in the supermarket, browsing the shelves of a bookstore — you never know who you could be standing next to.
What’s more, chatting to strangers builds your confidence so when do you end up talking to someone who could help your career, you feel more comfortable.
ALWAYS SMILE IN THE FACE OF DANGER
Smile and don't be shy: Good advice from former T4 presenter June Sarpong, who has launched a female networking forum to help women succeed in business
Never underestimate the power of a simple smile, says Peter Handal, chairman of Dale Carnegie and Associates, a global training company founded by the author of How To Win Friends And Influence People.
‘People are so focused on trying to network at a conference that they don’t realise they’re walking round with a scowl on their face,’ he says. ‘People are more likely to warm to someone who says “Good morning” with a broad smile than someone with a dour countenance.’
BE BRAVE AND ‘BIG UP’ YOURSELF
‘Amercian women are not scared of telling you about their accomplishments,’ says Sarpong. ‘Our style is more self-deprecating, but we can learn from the confidence and self-belief of our American sisters.’
So, mentally prepare two key achievements that you can tell people about in a nutshell, such as winning an industry award or bagging an important new client.
Phrasing your achievements in terms of ‘I love my job because…’ won’t make you sound arrogant, and having these two statements rehearsed in your head makes talking about them feel more natural.
HOW TO DEAL WITH A COLD SHOULDER
Don't worry about the risk of being snubbed when you network.
‘It’s better to approach a stranger and risk rejection than miss the chance of meeting someone who might turn out to be interesting,’ says the super-networker Carol Stone, author of The Ultimate Guide To Successful Networking.
Last year, she beat bigger names such as internet entrepreneur Martha Lane-Fox and publisher Arianna Huffington to the title Britain’s Best Connected Woman. She has an extraordinary 40,000 names in her contacts book.
REMEMBER TO STAY IN TOUCH
Stone writes an index card on everyone she meets, containing salient details such as their birthdays, hobbies and passions. It enables her to get in touch when the time is right.
‘Notice the people you meet and keep in touch — you’ll find it comes back one way or another,’ she says.
If you forget someone’s name, don’t panic. ‘Just put your hand on their arm — I think physical contact helps — and say: “I know your face so well, but I just can’t remember your name.” If you do this straightforwardly, no one will take offence.
‘The important thing is not to let someone you’ve enjoyed talking to leave the party without getting their name.’