Networking skills and other tips from a true Canadian expert

This column promises to be a treat as we look into the art and science of networking.

I’m delighted that Gayle Halgren-Rezac, an acknowledged Canadian expert in the field of networking and co-author of Work the Pond, has agreed to share some insights for readers of The Hub.

How would you define networking? “Discovering what you can do for someone else – with no expectation of anything in return,” says Halgren-Rezac.

But aren’t people in business to make money? “Yes, but if you start up a conversation with someone thinking of them just as a potential client, then your approach is different from if you simply come across as likeable, and above all, interested in them and what they have to say.”

Why is networking so important?  “It’s easy:  People do business with those whom they know, trust and like. So if you want to build your business the first thing you must do is become known,” she says.

Why are people so afraid to network? “Four main reasons: They are afraid of rejection. They don’t have the skills. They don’t know how to start a conversation with someone. And they don’t have time to do it.”

How can you network without sounding pushy? “Don’t be too focused on the outcome. It’s just a conversation.”

What are some overlooked networking opportunities? “Self-employed people like home-based agents need a diverse network outside their industry in other associations with, ideally, lots of members. I consider any place where I meet people is a chance to network.”

shakinghands575wHow can you make yourself memorable? “The secret is not necessarily to be likeable – though charm helps of course! – as much as to have the other person believe that you like them,” she says.

“When I go to an event and I see someone on his or her own (I think of them as wallflowers) I go over to rescue them. How do you break the ice? You say ‘Hello’.  Then ‘Are you a member?’ or ‘What did you think of the speech?’ or ‘What brought you here?’ The goal is just to start a conversation.”

She adds it’s important to find out what their business is, what their passions are. “Starting a conversation can be uncomfortable.  But don’t start it and it and 100% guaranteed nothing is going to happen.”

How do you measure the benefits of networking? Do you get business after putting the effort in? “You can’t go to just one event. It’s establishing your brand in the community. You may not get business from your wallflower, but he or she may tell their network about you. Everyone you connect has a network and you never know, this may be the start of you tapping into theirs.”

What social media do you recommend for networking? It’s essential to be on LinkedIn both personally and with a company page, says Halgren-Rezac. “Pinterest is a good choice for home-based agents because it’s so visual and your product is so perfect for that. And Facebook, of course.”

Any tips for messaging on your business cards? “A growing trend for self-employed andsales people is to have your picture on your card, your LinkedIn address and other social media information. Point size should be large enough for older people to read. A great place to start is MOO business cards – you can customize them with multiple pictures of you on your travels.”

Any handy phrases to use while networking? The handiest? ‘Hello’ and ‘Goodbye, it was nice meeting you.’ Be authentic and make a decision you’re going to like that person. Give them 100% of your focus and eye contact and ask them questions. People do like to talk about themselves. Then you end up with all the knowledge and have something to follow up with, as easy as sending a link to an article or website you think they’d be interested in. That makes you memorable.”