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06 Apr, 2011

Turning Small Talk into Positive Business Talk

Posted by: The Coaching Academy In: Coach Plus Articles|Coaching Articles|Life Coaching Articles

Turning Small Talk into Positive Business Talk

Just as location, location, location is the key element in real estate, networking is the key ingredient in any business development plan. Whether your business is large or small, a start-up or one with a long-history, for-profit or not-for-profit, networking, networking, networking is the key to business development!

Sounds simple, right? Why then do so many people struggle with networking events? Why do people find it difficult to introduce themselves to strangers and make small talk at social events? Successful networking involves more than just making contacts. Making contacts is more than just attending networking events and collecting business cards. It’s all about the people-to-people connections!

Turning small talk into positive business-talk depends on developing and following a strategic networking plan to fit your career and personal goals. There is no one-size-fits-all process. Your strategic networking plan begins with a positive attitude and an honest look or “check-up” (self-assessment) of your networking skills. It will be as unique as you are.

Your personal networking plan will be designed to maximize your personal and professional strengths – and your own networking style! According to author and networking guru, Nancy Flynn, some key areas to think about include:

  • Goals – Your reasons for improving or enhancing your networking skills
  • Contacts – Your access to the “right people” at the right time
  • Personal style - Your comfort level and listening skills and the impression you make
  • Tools and techniques – Your experience and comfort level with publicity, public speaking, e-mail, and other networking tools
  • Resources – Your ability to devote time, energy, and financial resources to networking and career development
  • Etiquette and netiquette – Your know-how and savvy can make or break the deal
  • Challenges – Your personal and professional development areas
  • Commitment – Your desire to succeed and willingness to follow through

Most likely you already have some networking skills and will discover other areas that need to be explored or fine-tuned. It’s important to clarify your networking needs and goals and be realistic as you look at your strengths and development areas. Breaking your “check-up” into the following key target areas will help you easily determine what needs to be explored, developed or fine-tuned:

  • Identifying Focus & Setting Goals (Include appropriate networking events and activities in your business/marketing plan)
  • Relationship-Building Skills (Need a professional skills coach?)
  • People Skills (Attend a local workshop)
  • Networking Tools & Techniques (Join a networking group to learn from others)
  • Networking Challenges (Be honest with yourself – there are ways to make it work)

Once you have completed your “check-up” and have determined your personal plan, you are on your way to becoming a successful networker! It’s about taking the time to invest in yourself and your business.

You will learn to start and grow relationships with people who can open doors, make introductions, advance your career and help build your business by establishing long-term, reciprocal relationships with the “right” people.

Who are the “right” people? They are not necessarily the wealthiest, most powerful, or most senior executives in town. Surely, these people are good to have as a part of your networking strategy. Just remember to include all types of people who understand how the networking game is played and are willing to help you get into the action.

If you look at networking as a “two-way street” – a giving and receiving tool – your success as a receiver will be as great as your generosity as a giver. Like a smile, give it away, and it will come back to you in ways that you’d never imagine.

Here are a few tips that work for me:

  • Be generous with information
  • Share your contacts
  • Help people help other people
  • Do favors
  • Ask for help
  • And most importantly, thank those who have helped you!

When you do, you will find people will be ready and willing to open doors, offer tips, make the introductions and connections for you in return.
Positive business-talk reinforces the fact that people do business with those they know, like and trust. Networking is positively the best way to reach out and hold on to people who can make things happen – in a fraction of the time it would take you to accomplish the same goals on your own. As noted by the Society for Human Resource Management, 95% of human resource professionals and job seekers claim networking is the most effective tool to locate job candidates or secure a job.

Who’s in your networking circle? Cast a wide net to include family, friends, co-workers, alumni groups, teachers, students, chamber members, civic and professional organizations, just a few of the many possibilities. Becoming a successful networker does not require being the most extroverted person in town – people skills can be learned. It does require focusing clearly on your career and business goals and implementing a networking strategy to take you there. By pursuing only the networking activities, business relationships, and professional skills that will move you closer to personal, career and business success, you will make a Positive Impact on the lives of others and the communities you serve.

Invest in yourself with a networking check-up! Go out of your comfort zone! Connect with people as much as you can! As the phone company used to say, reach out and talk to someone! Turn small talk into positive business-talk!

by Mary Jane (MJ) Paris

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