The development and cultivation of contacts is an activity that businessmen should not become lax about, despite the technological advances which facilitate communication, or styles of doing business which have been rooted in Western culture for a long time.
Michael Turner, vice president of Regus Latin America, gives the example of Asia. While doing business there, it is assumed that you will first build a personal relationship and social partners.
And, as the executive says, you should pay attention to all your contacts, not only to "important people", a mistake which has been made by big businessmen whose firms have failed in the current crisis.
Turner suggests three essential steps related to networking:
1. Be open to all networks. That means getting involved in all kinds of social networks in order to maximize your connections. It means traveling to explore new markets and meet potential new customers and request information from local experts. It means getting home and talking to your staff, friends and family. It also means being willing to have chance encounters that can arise from conferences, social events or meetings in public places. But this is only the preliminary stage, the establishment of connections.
2. Build relationships. How do you maximize an opportunity for networking? A person who is dedicated to establishing networks of contacts should be able to relax and persuade others to do the same. You can not do that if you are determined to sell something or win an argument: it is okay to be outgoing, but being too dynamic or intimidating will make people become defensive. Respect them, listen to them and give them the opportunity to speak. In the end, you can not force it: You must have a genuinely open mind and ready to listen and learn. Be patient and opportunities will arise.
3. Follow leads to the end. Giving someone your business card will not persuade them to take the next step. If you identified a business opportunity, this is the moment to take the initiative. Remember what that person was interested in and send them an email, offer them something, invite them to an activity. And if you have any doubts, put them to one side.
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