Effective One-to-One Networking

(As published in the Oakland Business Review, Oct 2013)

Have you ever had a one-to-one networking meeting with someone that you’ve met through the chamber or other networking group? The purpose of a one-to-one is to find out if there is a good connection for your business such referring business, supporting each other in marketing efforts, or in other ways.
The first one-to-one is often about getting to know each other. Finding out where we connect on a personal level is very important. If there is no affinity, the relationship will likely be unproductive. There will be a discussion of what each person does in their business, and within an hour or less, you’ve got a feeling for whether you would want to continue the relationship with that person.

The difficulty comes with the follow-up one-to-ones. How do you maintain focus so that as you get to know each other there are measurable results from the growing relationship? People often avoid further one-to-one meetings as they appear unproductive. This hurts the chances of developing profitable, long term business relationships. With the proper preparation and intention, regular one-to-ones with the right people will lead to getting more business done.

The first step to preparing for a one-to-one is to determine the topic. Is it to be learning about your businesses? Is it how to recognize what is a good referral? Is it strategizing on introductions? Is it determining ways that you might collaborate on projects?  Having a focus will help you stay on topic with during the meeting.

My top five tips for effective one-to-ones are as follows:

1.       Meet in a professional environment. Busy locations are distracting. The noise may make it difficult to hear what the other person has to say. Notes can’t be taken easily if the space is cramped or messy.

2.       Be on time and come prepared. Honoring the time of your partner is invaluable. How you show up for a meeting reflects how you show up for your clients. Be on time, bring the appropriate materials, and be dressed appropriately, and cleanly, for your profession.

3.       Have an agenda. If you find that you are talking about something other than what is on the agenda, and that’s not as productive as you intended, go back to it. This honors their time and your time. A simple agenda might be:
a.       20 minutes getting to know each other or catching up socially.
b.      20 minutes of talking about them and how you can help them.
c.       20 minutes of talking about you and how they can help you.

4.       Commit to the follow up. If you’ve agreed to do something, like make a contact or an introduction, put it in your calendar. Include a time to follow up with your one-to-one partner.

5.       LISTEN.  You have two ears and one mouth. Use them proportionately.
Effective one-to-one meetings will take your business networking to the next level. You will get more results in less time, and you will be helping others in the process.

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