"Never allow a person to tell you no who doesn't have the power to say yes." -Eleanor Roosevelt, American First Lady, 1884-1962

Twenty-first century networking and marketing is a tough, edgy game that requires planning, execution and follow-up. There's a lot more to successful networking in today's competitive marketplace than just "suiting up and showing up." If you want to learn the insider secrets and shortcuts for becoming a power-schmoozer to save yourself time and money, read on.

News flash: Everyone wants to conduct business with people they like who offer services or products they believe in using. If people like you, they'll help you. If they don't like you, they won't. Power-schmoozing is a highly developed skill that develops trust and deep levels of rapport with people who will, in turn, help you with some aspect of your business.

Remember that networking is not selling. Networking is about meeting people with whom you can begin to build a relationship over time. If you attend a networking event with that "hungry look" in your eye, people will avoid you. In fact, if you're too aggressive in your card-gathering efforts, people will avoid you.

If you want to become a power-schmoozer, here are some fail-proof suggestions for you to follow:

  • You need a good business card and a 10-second elevator pitch that introduces you: "Hello. I'm Catherine Clark. I'm the regional vice president for Coo-Coo Clocks Unlimited in Cincinnati. We design, manufacture and ship more coo-coo clocks than any company in the country."
  • A successful power-schmoozer attends networking events with the attitude that they are attending the networking group to contribute their time, talents and expertise to a group, to get involved with the group and to be of service to them. They also let the people at the networking group know that they are attending to learn from the group. If the people in the group think you're there to sell their attendees anything, you will fail to create mutually beneficial relationships and you'll strike out before the second pitch.
  • Power-schmoozing takes time. Attend networking events as if you are on a relationship-building campaign. If you make a minimum 90-day commitment to become a power-schmoozer and you attend two networking groups per week over that 90-day period, you will develop a minimum of 10 new contacts that you can begin to develop over time.
  • Next comes the part that separates the wanna-be power-schmoozers from the ones who succeed at high levels. After you have identified a few people who fit your criteria for relationship development, then begin a personal campaign around each one of these individuals by sending them articles in the mail that might interest them, asking them to lunch, offering your time to help serve them in their affiliate networking groups, sending them birthday cards, and e-mailing them updates or things that might interest them. Your job as a power-schmoozer is to develop a professional relationship with at least 50 new people every year. By demonstrating your value to these individuals, you are building a quick history with them through your efforts at personal contact.
  • If you're a widget salesperson, don't go to too many gatherings of widget salespeople-they already have their own widgets. Go to groups to meet people that can help you with some aspect of your business.
  • When you attend a networking function, don't talk to anyone for more than eight minutes. You're there to work the room, not chitchat. You will have the opportunity to demonstrate your value to these new people at a later time, but not the first time you meet them.
  • Eat as early in the networking event as possible so you can talk to people.
  • Meet people by standing near the food. People like to talk when they're eating.
  • Ask the people at the registration desk to give you the names of the leaders of the group. When you see them (or spot their name on their name tag), introduce yourself.
  • Listen 80 percent of the time and talk 20 percent of the time.
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Phyllis Davis coaches senior-level executives through her company, Executive Mentoring and Coaching Inc., and has taught corporate etiquette and protocol for the past 28 years. She is the author of the forthcoming book E² The Power of Ethics and Etiquette in American Business, available from Entrepreneur Press in Spring 2003.