Dale Carnegie wrote in his book How to Win Friends and Influence People, “The unvarnished truth is that almost all the people you meet feel themselves superior to you in some way, and a sure way to their hearts is to let them realize in some subtle way that you recognize their importance, and recognize it sincerely.” Within the last decade there has been a tectonic change in networking enabled by online social media networks such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, Plaxo, Twitter, e-mail and other networks, and yet Carnegie’s thought in dealing with people written in 1936 without our modern age of technology is still true today. The key now is knowing how to apply these time-tested principles in everyday business relationships, whether in-person or virtual, and further strengthening a successful network.
It starts with an essential principle - Give Without Getting. As one friend recently told me: “Every relationship you've ever built was and is genuine in its own right. Not one of them was created as a "get" to promote an agenda. You've done wonderful things for so many people and companies out of a desire to serve and out of genuine friendship, not asking or expecting anything in return.” Networking needs to start well before you need something. Indeed, as one author stated: “it is a continuous long-term proposition that's about building positive win-win relationships.”
The best thing you can do when meeting someone new is to show genuine interest in who they are and what they do. It is a common mantra that people like to talk about themselves - so let them! You will learn so much and if they can sense that you really care about them as a professional, most of the time they will return that genuine instinct to learn all about you. I have only had a few encounters at the hundreds of networking/business events I have attended where the person did not reciprocate a genuine interest in me after I showed true curiosity in them.
At its core, networking is more about giving than taking. Whether meeting in person at an event, or through a more common networking tool like LinkedIn, Plaxo, Facebook, Google+ or Twitter, the important thing to remember in starting a lasting business relationship is to give without getting and you will get so much in return.