Every week as @SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with Kevin Knebl ( @KevinKnebl ), the owner of Knebl Communications, www.kevinknebl.com, a Colorado-based company specializing in Online and Offline Networking Skills and Social Media training. He is a professional speaker, trainer and coach whose clients include small, medium and Fortune 500 companies. Kevin is an in-demand keynote speaker for conferences, conventions, company trainings, and many other engagements. He assists individuals and organizations in significantly growing their networks and businesses through dynamic, inspirational and humorous trainings, webinars, teleseminars, workshops and individual and group coaching.
Smallbizlady: What is networking?
Kevin Knebl: Networking is the cultivation of mutually-beneficial, give-and-take, win-win relationships. It’s not schmoozing or throwing business cards at someone at a networking event. It’s taking a sincere interest in helping other people grow their networks and businesses. We are not dependent on each other; nor are we independent of each other; we are all interdependent with each other. All things being equal, people do business with and refer business to people they know, like and trust.
Smallbizlady: How can we network more effectively?
Kevin Knebl: Have a strategy before networking. Decide in advance who your networking prospects are and seek to connect with people involved in professions complementary to yours. Be pleasant and approachable. Seek out Centers of Influence and seek to add value to them. Remember that you are there to work; to build your increase your contact list, which leads to business. Have fun, be confident and smile. Introduce yourself to people you don’t know.
Smallbizlady: What things can you do to set yourself apart from the masses?
Kevin Knebl: Develop great listening skills. Focus the majority of the conversation on the other person. Use questions that get people talking about themselves such as “How did you get started in your business? What do you enjoy most about your profession? What separates you and your company from the competition? How can I know if someone I’m speaking to is a good prospect for you?” Follow up with a hand-written thank you card. Refer business to others.
Smallbizlady: Is there an etiquette to successful networking?
Kevin Knebl: Yes, there is. When you give something to or do something for someone, do not ask for or expect an immediate repayment. Make sure that you respect people’s time. If you promise something, make sure that you follow through on your promise. Treat all referred prospects with the best of care and service. Always write a personalized thank you card. The little things mean a lot and many people overlook them to their detriment. Huge doors of opportunity swing on little hinges.
Smallbizlady: What Social Networking sites are good for networking?
Kevin Knebl: LinkedIn is the premier business-networking site. There are over 75 million professionals using LinkedIn to increase their visibility, showcase their credibility and grow their revenues. The average LinkedIn user is 41 years old with an average annual income of $109,000. Twitter is the best real-time online networking site. With laser-like precision you can identify people and resources by targeting keywords. It’s like being at the world’s largest cocktail party.
Smallbizlady: How does Social Networking integrate with traditional networking?
Kevin Knebl: Social Networking is a great addition to traditional networking. Through the effective use of Social Networking you can identify with laser-like precision individuals and organizations that you want to connect with. Leveraging Social Networking sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter will enable you to learn about people and therefore accelerate your rapport building with your new networking partners. When used strategically, Social Networking can greatly enhance your offline networking efforts.
Smallbizlady: How would you start building your Social Network?
Kevin Knebl: When you meet people ask them if they are on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. If so, get their contact information and connect with them on those platforms. You may want to put links to your Social Networking profiles in your email signature. You may also want to put the links to the websites on your business cards. Make it easy for people to find you. In a more and more interconnected world it doesn’t serve you to be in the Witness Relocation Program. Be findable.
Smallbizlady: Where would be a good place to start networking for people new to networking?
Kevin Knebl: There are many networking organizations where people can start their networking efforts. BNI International is the largest networking organization in the world with chapters in almost all major cities in the USA. Look in your local paper for local networking events. They are usually listed at least once per week in your local newspaper’s business section. I suggest attending a lot of events and determining which may feel right to you and your personality style. You need to feel comfortable with the people and the format.
Smallbizlady: What are some networking mistakes to avoid?
Kevin Knebl: Don’t be “that guy.” That guy could be the stalker . The one who hangs onto you as you’re trying to meet new people. That guy can also be the person who never stops talking about themselves and their business. Also, don’t just hang around the people whom you already know and feel comfortable with. Reach out and meet new people. Certainly, say hi to the people you already know and then spend the majority of your time meeting new people and learning about them and their business.
Smallbizlady: Any last thoughts on how to network effectively?
Kevin Knebl: Remember that networking is primarily about building relationships. Think relationally and not transactionally. People are not commodities although many people’s actions would indicate that they think that other people are commodities. What we do speaks so loud that what we say others cannot hear. You’re networking with people. Little things mean a lot. Be someone that people see value in because you see value in them. Learn as much as you can about people and their business and then stay in contact with them in a non-intrusive fashion. All things being equal, people do business with and refer business to people they know, like and trust. Position yourself so that you are that person.
If you found this interview helpful, join us on Wednesdays 8-9pm ET follow @SmallBizChat on Twitter.
For more tips on how start or grow your small business subscribe to Melinda Emerson’s blog http://www.succeedasyourownboss.com.