Lillian  D. Bjorseth

Article Summary:

Business networking is an art that demands a strategic plan to be successful.

Business Networking: The Top 10 Principles of Good Networking

1. Make networking a part of your written strategic marketing plan.
Determine your business/career focus and your target market. Decide on where you can meet/interact with them. Then set timelines and allocate money to join organizations and attend business functions to carry out your relationship-building activities in a planned fashion.

2. Work an event, not just a room.
Just as the Chicago Bulls didn't win six championships just by how they "worked the floor," you also won't get the full benefits of networking just by working a room. Learn what to do before the event, during the event and after an event. Develop a winning attitude (this is a worthwhile event for me to attend!) and continue to hone your communication skills so you can execute well throughout the process. A master networker is a master communicator.

3. Make a professional first impression through your appearance and demeanor.
People decide 10 things about you within 10 seconds of meeting you. Decide what impression you want to make and then how to make it through the colors and styles you wear, your posture, handshakes, eye contact and facial expressions.

4. Create a 10-15 second verbal business card filled with benefits of doing business with you.
It should inform others about what's in it for them and entice them to want to talk with you more. Save the "who you are" and "how you do it" for later in the conversation.

5. Adapt your verbal business card to a short e-mail signature to continue to establish your brand.
Conduct your own ongoing public relations campaign by continually reinforcing your marketing strategies.

6. Start conversations with open-ended questions to avoid the "Yes" and "No" scenario that soon causes your conversation to run out of gas.
If you want to start with a "yes or no" question, have several open-ended ones in your back pocket. Bonus: Ask questions that will carry the conversation and provide you with important information simultaneously. 7. Be prepared with small talk about your industry and timely topics. Men, move beyond your big three: sports, business and current events or, as some women would say: sports, sports and more sports. Women, prune your hundreds of topics to those most suitable for the occasion. Both sexes: Be willing to bend and flex, depending on the occasion.

8. Follow my 10-minute rule for working a room.
Since networking is planting seeds, not sales (which is harvesting), keep your interactions to about 10 minutes per person. That's ample time to make a positive impression and decide if the person is someone with whom you would like to build a relationship. It's okay to plan endings just as you plan openers so that you can gracefully exit.

9. Follow up.
Whether it is to acknowledge your initial encounter, set up a breakfast or luncheon meeting or share an article or a contact, do what you promised to do. You will immediately stand out from the pack when you do what you promised you would do. Choose the vehicle (e-mail, telephone, handwritten note) that you think best fits the other person's behavioral style.

10. Give without keeping track.
You will be rewarded ten-fold. People who understand this premise are the ones who truly benefit personally and professionally from the networking process.

Lillian D. Bjorseth, according to the The Chicago Tribune, is a "networking expert". The Association Forum of Chicagoland calls her "the business networking authority". She's a speaker, trainer and author who helps entrepreneurs through Fortune 100 employees build high-value relationships by honing their business development, business networking and communication skills. For more information, visit

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