Tony Altham,is a leading expert on building business by referral. Here's his guide on how how companies can build better and more profitable relationships through networking etiquette:
Building rapport quickly is essential in building great relationships. Your body language, smile, dress and even your handshake all have an impact. First impressions count so make a great first impression.
Stand ‘tall’ and hold your head up with your chin level as this conveys your confidence.
Smile as you greet people as this confirms that you are warm and friendly and approachable.
Look them in the eyes when you meet and when you are talking to them as this affirms your interest in them and what they have to say. A sure fire way to lose rapport as well as to fail to achieve rapport is failing to this and looking over the other person’s shoulder and around the room to see who else is available for you to talk to.
Dress for the occasion and importantly dress for you. Wear clothes that reflect your style and your personality and dress in clothes that you look and feel good in.
2 Your Handshake
In some cultures it is taboo to offer your hand as a greeting so learn about cultural differences if you are going to be networking internationally. For the purposes of these tips, the comments relate to networking in the UK and westernised business meetings and countries.
In this context, the simple rules are that your handshake needs to:
Match the pressure of the other person. A ‘bone crusher’ can cause pain to the other person, especially if they are wearing rings or other jewellery. Equally, a wet fish or limp handshake tends to convey insecurity and potential lack of confidence.
Avoid fingers only – a palm to palm handshake is important and it should be firm as this conveys confidence, strength and self belief. The opposites of this are a soft handshake that subconsciously communicates a lack of self confidence and weakness (even though this may not of course be the case) and a bone crushing very forceful handshake that can be seen as an attempt to be dominant and at the very least, it can be extremely painful for anyone wearing a ring or rings on their hands.
Notice how the other person approaches you and also how you approach for the handshake. If the hand is offered palm down this a more assertive and dominant characteristic, palm up is more submissive and potentially perceived as less confident and straight on is on the level and greeting as equals.
To build rapport you can choose to turn the other person’s hand slightly over your own as you shake hands, so their hand is marginally on top, as this helps to relax them and remove perceptions of potential threat. In the first seconds of meeting our sub-conscious mind processes our natural fight or flight self protection instincts so the quicker you establish your position the better.
Along with your firm handshake, always ensure you make eye contact by looking the other person in their eyes throughout the handshake as this communicates interest, courtesy and respect. Be mindful that your eyes are incredibly powerful in conveying a great deal of information about you. By looking into your eyes as you meet and speak, others will decide whether you are friendly, angry, warm, engaging, funny, interested, interesting or indifferent. They will likewise give a first impression about whether they trust you or not, so be genuine.
3 Respect and Courtesy
Respect the other person’s space and don’t get too close too soon. Give them your full attention and avoid looking around the room for who else you can talk to as this shows lack of interest. Be polite and courteous in your manner and conversation. You can lose someone’s interest in a second through disrespect and lack of courtesy.
If you really want to test this and ensure you either break rapport or fail to create it in the first place, during one or two of your future networking conversations spend your time looking around at who else you can talk to while in conversation with someone you meet. They will pick up on your eye movements and body language in seconds and the damage is done. Likewise become aware of how you feel when you experience the same in reverse.
4 Certainty and Conviction
Use strong and confident language and you will build confidence and certainty. The word ‘try’ subconsciously means you might try and you might fail. Instead, tell people what you do and how you do it and what this means for them as well as for your customers and clients. Using the word ‘do’ means you remove doubt and convey certainty. We all love certainty because it builds trust and confidence and enables us to relax and buy.
Await your turn to speak and avoid dominating a conversation. Instead, be the catalyst that draws other people into your group and into the conversation. Engage with and involve others in your conversation so they feel included and as you introduce them to other people mention something about them and where possible their business so you can so that the people you are introducing them to find it easy to ask a question or two and or make a comment that will enable them to continue the conversation.
Ideally in a conversation gently encourage and facilitate the other person speaking around twice as much as you do by asking them open questions as these will enable them to speak more openly and expansively about who they are and what they do.
6 Moving on
Often at networking meetings you want to meet a number of people and the people you meet feel the same way, so acknowledge this and respect their time and yours. Brief encounters can be massively powerful and memorable when done well.
Be prepared to move on to new conversations and always do so carefully and considerately. For instance, you can suggest going for refreshments and take the other person with you. You then increase your opportunity to meet other people, start new conversations and of course to introduce them.
You can thank them for their time and say you need a word with someone and have enjoyed meeting them and look forward to speaking again soon.
You can even introduce them to someone else and then make your excuse to leave the conversation, like ‘I’ll leave you to talk while I …’ and so on.
There are many ways to do this well and to leave the other person feeling great about meeting you.
7 The business card exchange
Exchanging business cards is a simple activity that can and frequently will have a very big impact on how you are perceived.
My personal RULE NUMBER 1 is ask for the other person’s card first - always. Keep it in your hand and study it – make a positive comment on the design and or information on it where good to do so and be slow to put it away as this conveys that it is important to you. Only after you have asked for their card do you ask if you can give them yours.
Always receive their business card as they pass it to you. If they pass it with 2 hands receive it with two hands. If they present it with one hand, receive it with one hand and ideally, always your right hand.
When it is your turn, do the same in reverse. If you received their card with two hands, present yours with 2 hands so the card is presented facing towards them. If you received their card with one hand present yours with your right hand, so the information is easily readable as they receive it.
Keep hold of their card while you are talking to them or if you are sitting at a desk or meeting table, place it on the table in front of you during the conversation.
This is respectful and conveys that the card and information on it is important and valuable to you. Keeping it in front of you also allows you to periodically glance at it so you increase your opportunities to remember their name.
When you do put it away, men in particular must avoid putting it into a rear trouser pocket as in some cultures this can be considered disrespectful. The reason for this is that the business card is often seen as an extension and representation of the person and the face of the card is considered as if being their face. Therefore, always avoid placing someone’s business card into a trouser pocket, especially a back pocket.
Carry your own business cards in a business card holder or case so they are kept in pristine condition and keep them easily accessible in a bag or a shirt or jacket pocket.
If you wish to make a note on the business card to remind you about the individual or something they have said during your conversation, always make it on the reverse of the card and ideally do so after you have moved away. If you need to make a note while they are with you, just ask, ‘do you mind if I make a note of …?’ before you actually do so.
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