Networking 101, Part 1: How to "Speak" the Business Language.
When I became a salesman I was told one thing, “hustle.” After months of cold calling, canvassing, and getting bounced out of building after building my Sales Manager came up to me and said in a nonchalant manner “you should network.” In college I was a fraternity man, Zeta Beta Tau to be exact. Networking to me was going to conclaves or conventions, meeting with other chapters and making connections with Alumni. This was minor compared to the networking I was about to embark upon.
What I came to realize was that these meetings, conventions, mixers, etc. were all practice for the real thing. Instead of comparing recruitment ideas, mixer ideas, or college hi-jinx stories we compared ways to make money, or how to expand our business. Instead of visits to fellow brothers’ frat houses we met for dinner at lavish restaurants. Instead of a breakfast of warm beer and cold pizza, it was brunch at Blue Fin. Instead of keg parties, it was cocktails at the bar in the Hudson Hotel. This new life required ascertaining new skills. I needed to learn how to speak the language, learn business etiquette and understand what networking really was. Over my three part series, I will teach you: How to “Speak” the Business Language; Learning Business Etiquette and Ethics; and How and Where to Network.
Business Language is more than just what comes out of your mouth; it’s also what comes out of your body, or body language.
- Only lean forward when you are going to speak. Not only does good posture exude confidence it also shows someone who listens. If you sit upright in your chair you are in “listening mode” and when you lean forward you are in “interrupting or talking mode.” Sit back, take in what the person has to say and really listen. This applies to business, relationships, and any other aspect of your life.
- Make eye contact, but do not stare. When you engage eyes you seem deeply interested in what the person is saying. It is ok and encouraged to break off eye contact every now and again, after all you don’t want to look like you are trying to intimidate the other person. I have been told time and again to maintain eye contact roughly 80% of the time.
- Engage people with a firm handshake. Regardless if the person you are meeting with is a man or a woman, shake their hand firmly. Do not, squeeze their hand, this is not a contest of strength. A firm handshake along with eye contact shows that you are a person of business.
- “Smile, baby!” When you hear Rosalind Russell portraying Rose Hovik in Gypsy you may think of the ultimate stage mom. What I hear was someone who knew what they were talking about. When you smile it shows a person who is happy with not only their life but their product as well. Smiling creates a positive energy and the whole room feels it.
- Stop fidgeting. All of our mothers have probably said this to us at one time or another. We did not realize at the time that they were giving us a very valuable lesson in business / body language. Someone who keeps their feet forward and does not fidget seems to be interested in what you are saying. This is also important for you to know as a sales person. If the potential client begins to fidget or shifts their feet away from you, you are losing their attention. To maintain it, either give them something to look at (a flyer or brochure) or change your approach.
- Lose the slang. I am born and raised in the eastern part of Brooklyn, NY. Slang was a part of my childhood development, furthermore the Urban Dictionary was practically written where I grew up. Despite the fact that slang is used in the mainstream media, and “Ain’t” has made its way into Webster’s Dictionary, they are not suitable for business discussions.
- "Please" and "Thank You." When you are courteous, people not only remember you, they like you. People would rather do business, or have conversations with a polite person than a curt and rude person. When you show a client that you appreciate their business, they will reciprocate by using your services time and again. In the sense of networking, you will become very popular because of your polite and positive demeanor.
Utilize these tips when meeting someone for the first time, and every time after. You will realize very quickly that speaking properly, and giving off proper body signals will improve your business relationships. When you speak and act like a business person, the people in your networking group do not fear that you will embarrass them. This behavior is rewarded by more meetings, more references and often better references. You will also note that the amount of clients you currently have will increase, along with the caliber of your clientele. Finally, your positive and now polished demeanor will improve not only your income, but your personal relationships as well.
Next: Learning Business Etiquette and Ethics