OK so we have all heard the office clichés like “I’m working from home” and “It’s not a piss-up it’s networking!” My question is therefore, “Is it, really?” Done properly, networking is probably one of the most important tools a sales person has at their disposal. Done badly, it is probably one of the leading causes of liver failure!


A fact that might surprise you is the sheer volume of networking training courses we are running (and have been throughout the recession). I have to be honest with you and confess that when I was asked to deliver a day’s session on networking I smirked, although I disguised it to the client. How difficult can it be? You just meet up and network. Then came the tricky part -how do you teach something that is predominantly instinctive? Something that you have always done without analysing or even being conscious of the steps involved.


Initially set objectives. If you are lucky enough to receive a training course, you may begin with introductions and setting objectives. You may be asked questions like; Who are you? What do you do? Why are you here? What do you want from this session? When networking realise others in the room will be thinking the same; i.e. Who are you? What do you do? Why are you at this function? What do you want from this interaction? So now you have something in common to build on. My advice would be to be genuine and open and be interested in them and their agenda. As in the sales situation, ask lots of open questions. Maximise your listening and don’t interrupt. Use the meeting in much the same way as a bank account. Sometimes you make deposits other times withdrawals. You may have to give telephone numbers and ideas or web links for the first few exchanges but every so often they will give you a lead or the inside track on a particular client or prospect. You are allowed to go overdrawn as many times as you like, but one day you will get something that is more than worth it. Have fun doing it also – it doesn’t have to be clinical or dull. If you enjoy yourself others around you will as well and that is a far healthier atmosphere in which to do business.


If you go “with a friend” be careful not to spend all that time networking with each other. Your objective is to learn something new and build your balance up. Just like at the disco-a-go-go on a Saturday night be aware of body language – both your and theirs. You can judge those who do and do not wish to be interrupted and you can make introductions to help you move on. Keep moving is also another good tip. No one wants to be pinned against the wall all evening no matter how fascinating you are! They have also got an agenda so they will probably be grateful of the change also. Finally make notes after the event and follow up. If you say you would do something make sure you do it. Build yourself a reputation and your success is guaranteed.