Business Networking 101 – Part 1

At a recent Driving for Profit seminar, hosted by NAL Insurance and KRTS Transportation Specialists, business networking guru Allison Graham shared some insight on how to network effectively at business functions.
For the second time in a row, I was unable to attend the seminar in person, but thanks to the wonders of TV – or WebTV in this case – I was able to catch all of her engaging presentation on video afterwards. Segments of her presentation will be featured in an upcoming episode of our WebTV program, Transportation Matters, and I encourage you to keep an eye out for it. This is an episode you won’t want to miss.
By way of introduction, Allison Graham is president of Elevate Seminars and Strategic Development, and author of the book Business Cards to Business Relationships; Building the Ultimate Network. During her presentation, she offered insight on common networking mistakes as well as ‘top tips’ on how to get it right.
Business networking is one of those things that seems to come naturally to some, yet poses a real challenge to others. Just glance around the room of any business function and you’ll see it yourself. There are those who glide effortlessly around the room, seemingly at ease conversing with anyone about anything. Then there are those who find it awkward making small talk with strangers.
I’ll break this blog into two parts, focusing first on classic networking mistakes, as outlined by Allison.
CLASSIC MISTAKE #1 – MISSING THE BOAT: Allison explained that too many people show up at an event with unrealistic expectations and if they don’t land a big deal, they feel that attending the event was time wasted.
“It takes six to eight times of meeting somebody casually before they even get who you are,” she suggested.
For starters, when you’re at a networking event, Allison says you must take responsibility for telling people: who you are; what you do; and what you have to offer. The goal is to make someone think of you when they are in need of something you can help them with.
Letting people know what it is you do is important, as there are two primary goals of networking, explained Allison: 1) To be sure that when your contacts have a need you can fill, that they think to call or recommend you first; and 2) that when you have a need, such as growing your business, you know who to call – and when you do, they want to answer the phone.
“The only way that’s going to happen is if people know who you are, what you do and what you have to offer,” she explained. “Once you’re known, you’ll be known for something – you need to determine if that’s a good or a bad thing. Be sure your contacts like you, trust you and they believe you are competent.”
CLASSIC MISTAKE #2 – PUTTING IT IN CRUISE CONTROL: Too often, according to Allison, people tend to cling to people they know when attending industry functions. She said companies will often spend $1,500 to send 10 salespeople to a function, and then they’ll sit together all night.
“That’s a very expensive water cooler conversation,” she pointed out.
She urged attendees to stray from their comfort zone and talk to new people while attending events. She made everyone at the Driving for Profit seminar take three minutes to introduce themselves to someone in the room they didn’t know.
“That’s what we come to these things to do,” she said, “yet when you walk into a room, the natural tendency is to go talk to the people you already know.”
“Each time you go to an event, make it a point…try to come out with two quality contacts you want to follow up with and meet again,” she urged.
CLASSIC MISTAKE #3 – FUMBLING THE FIVE FUNDAMENTALS: Even some very successful senior-level executives struggle with the five fundamentals of successful networking, according to Allison. She laid them out during her presentation.
Fundamental 1 – The handshake: Allison referred to the handshake as the “subconscious communication of your character.” She said to make eye contact while shaking hands. “Eyes are the window to the soul; give people a glance,” she said. “Make it a habit that when shaking hands, you’re looking them directly in the eye.”
Fundamental 2 – Remember their name: Help others out by reintroducing yourself when you meet them for the second time, suggested Allison, and make an effort to remember the names of others. She said we tend to forget names because we don’t pay attention when introduced. Allison suggested taking a mental snapshot of a person when they introduce themselves and then take a moment after the event to think about them and file away their name and face for future reference.
Fundamental 3 – The proper use of name tags: The name tag should be placed on the right-hand side of the chest, according to Allison, since that’s where the eye falls naturally. She referred to the name tag as a “cheat note” on your chest, and suggested displaying it prominently.
Fundamental 4 – Remember your business card: Too often at networking events, Allison said people forget to bring their business cards. When you receive a business card, read it carefully and keep it. Business cards are “the greatest marketing tool you have,” she said.
Fundamental 5 – Follow proper dining etiquette: Allison said finger-licking runs rampant at events where hors d’ouvres and meals are served. “Finger-licking is everywhere. You may not even know you’re a finger-licker,” she insisted.
And many times the first person to sit down at a table grabs the wrong drinking glass or napkin. She pointed out bread is always on the left and water on the right.
In Part 2, we’ll look at three top networking tips offered by Allison at the Driving for Profit seminar. To find out more about Allison, or to order her book, visit

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James Menzies is editor of Today's Trucking. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 20 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.

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