Holidays handy time to build up business relationships

By Sandra Taylor-Sawyer

As we swing full force into the holiday season with Christmas parties, Hanukkah ceremonies and Kwanza celebrations, one will find themselves meeting new people and refreshing old acquaintances.

This is an excellent time to do word of mouth marketing, fondly called networking. Networking is building and strengthening relationships.

Networking over the years has had a bad reputation. Buzz Gordon, founder of an Internet company, said business owners believe networking disrupts the work day so it is usually a low priority. He said this belief is detrimental, as we meet new people every day without disruption to our schedule. It is imperative that business owners network, for the business as well as for the owners’ personal life.

Here are a few tips to use when building relationships:

• When attending an event, converse with new people and try not to talk only with acquaintances. According to Marshall Loeb of Marketwatch, it is important not to exclude people because the person that is overlooked may be the person who can stimulate a new product or service idea. Always have more business cards than you expect to give; and only distribute a card if the person requests one.

• Another common detriment to networking is the “me” factor. This thought is one of the 10 commandments that financial consultant Mark McGregor discusses on the subject of networking. He recommends when networking the “What’s in it for me?” attitude should be removed. Networking is not about one person, but about building relationships. Networking experts say networking is a “give, receive, and do not expect” exchange. It is important to not view networking as “what will be received,” but view it as the beginning of a lasting relationship.

In order to build relationships one must listen. Noted author Stephen R. Covey said listeners should be empathic, meaning one should listen as if they see the world through the speaker’s eyes and really feel what they are feeling.

• Another key ingredient to networking is the follow-up. Vicki Lynne Morgan, a strategist and Guerrilla Marketing Coach, recommends a 48-hour follow-up. Contact should only be made if the recipient agreed to a follow-up. A simple card expressing appreciation of the conversation and interest in continuous communication is sufficient.

Remember — during the festive events of the holidays and cheering in the New Year — to build lasting relationships by meeting new people, listening, offering assistance, and then watch the positive results networking will manifest.

Sandra Taylor-Sawyer is director of the Small Business Development Center at Clovis Community College. Call the center at 769-4136 or visit www.nmsbdc.org/clovis