Trade Tuesday For Women In Business: What Goes Around Comes Around

Networking is not about hunting. It is about farming. It’s about cultivating relationships.

~ Ivan Misner

The world has become a global village, opening up opportunities for women in business to trade across borders. Success however depends on the ability to develop a strong network of connections across borders. Successful networking can open the door to unexpected business opportunities overseas, and some reports claim that up to 80% of business opportunities are now landed through networking.

In their book “Make Your Contacts Count”, Barber & Waymon describe networking as the deliberate process of exchanging information, resources, support and access in such a way as to create mutually beneficial relationships for professional and personal success.

Simply put, networking is a support system of sharing information, resources and services.  At its core, networking is about building RECIPROCAL RELATIONSHIPS that grow and develop over time.

Building a powerful & robust professional network is a three-step cycle that starts with thinking through what your ultimate objective is.

Define your objectives. Whether you are joining an international networking community or attending an international event, determine what success looks like. After identifying your objectives you must create your personal commercial.  Your personal commercial, is an opportunity to provide information about yourself that ignites interest and it should be less about what you do (your job title) and more about the results that what you do generates, the benefit you deliver and problems you solve.  After you have written your personal commercial, rehearse it and own it – capturing people’s interest with a few good words is as important as taking care of your appearance. 

The next step is to plug in. Woody Allen said that “70% of networking is being there.”  Whichever networking avenue you chose, make sure that you are not only there but fully present and engaged. 

Once at the event or meeting, understand that first impressions are crucial.  The first thing people see is you and the reality is that they will make a judgement on the basis of how you look.  Whatever you are wearing, make sure you look presentable.  In addition to being well groomed, remember that positive body language, tone of voice and facial expressions are key. It is often said that in face-to-face communications, the words we speak actually account for less than 10% of the message that we convey. Body language accounts for more than 50% of our message, your tone of voice communicating the rest. As you converse smile, establish eye contact, maintain a good posture & pay visible attention.

Obviously how you look is not enough in itself, it is also important what you say.  The first few minutes that you talk to someone, they decide if they like you or not. After that conversation, they may not remember what you said, but they will remember how you made them feel.   Be interested in other people – purpose to get to know them better, not just what they do.  After sharing your personal commercial, LISTEN! How can you help someone if you don’t know them, their needs and what makes their business, service or product unique?  Ask open ended power questions that draw them out & give you insight & make a note of their name & any personal information that they share.  As you converse, as you listen, you may find that you are in a position to help them by connecting them to your existing network.  If, as a result of your conversation, you feel someone can be of assistance to you, don’t be afraid to ask for what you need. 

Make sure you exchange business cards with everyone that you connect with.  A business card will ensure that you remember who you met with.  If you are afraid of forgetting crucial information about the contact, make a shorthand note on the back of their business card – just make sure you will be able to decipher your shorthand later!

The last step is the follow up.  And this is the step most people forget.  After a successful networking meeting or event, it is important to remember to re-connect, add the new contacts to your database, take any promised action and stay in touch.

Building a successful network hinges on relationship-building, taking the time to get to know people better and cultivating relationships.  Always think give first – be on the lookout for opportunities that will be of benefit to those in your network and they will respond by doing the same. You may not see any immediate tangible business returns but when a real connection happens, what goes around really does come around. 

Mucha Mlingo

President, OWIT Nairobi

Founder, PTS Africa At OWIT Nairobi, we have a vision to empower women to transform communities through global trade. We are committed to creating opportunities for women to connect to global markets. As a Business Support Organisation, we work closely with our members to ensure access to the necessary tools to build businesses that can go global. For more information about OWIT Nairobi – visit our website

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