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Business Networking – Are You Story telling or Story Selling?

By Donna Messer

As a professional speaker, I'm amazed at the number of people in my audience that reconnect with me because they remember a story I told. That message that I worked so hard to deliver is suddenly perfectly clear, with the use of a simple, real life story.

I teach my audience to recognize the importance of building relationships when they business network, to find that important common denominator with everyone they meet. But it isn't until I tell a story, that they really get it. I constantly stress that people like people who are like themselves, they buy from them, sell to them, hire them and they refer them. I encourage lateral thinking, and ask participants to stretch their imagination when it comes to achieving those goals they've set for themselves. Do they remember all of the important points I've driven home in my speech? Probably not, until I weave the message into a story.

A client of mine was a financial planner, she attended business networking sessions on a regular basis and she was unhappy with the results she was getting. I asked her what she did when she attended these events and I heard her say, “I gather business cards, I give out business cards, and I follow up as quickly as I can after the event.” I asked her what she did to make that follow up successful – her answer. “I try and set up an appointment to go and see them, so that I can provide them with a complete package on the products my company sells.” No wonder she's disappointed! First of all, she didn't take the time to build a rapport before she exchanged business cards, and second, she didn't ask how she could help them, she simply made the decision that they would be interested in her financial products and services.

I shook my head and suggested that she might want to rethink her business networking process. I use what I call the RISE philosophy. First I build a rapport, taking the time to find common interests between myself and the other person. Once I've found that common ground, I move on to exchanging relevant and timely information – which includes what I do. Then I ask if there is anything my new colleague needs, or if there is any way I can be of help to them. And finally I offer to provide a solution, usually an introduction or a referral, and in every case I make sure that I ask permission before I make the connection. This insures that the referral, the introduction or the resource is provided in an ethical way. My audience will remember the acronym RISE – Rapport, Information, Solutions, Ethically…….and they will remember the financial planner!

Timely tips for effective and ethical business networking.

  • Exchange business cards only after establishing a rapport.
  • Take the time to exchange relevant and timely information.
  • Think laterally – there is more than one way to achieve those goals.
  • Ask how you can be of assistance – offering help usually cements that relationship.
  • Never refer without permission.
  • Follow up is important, make it quick and beneficial to both parties.

Donna Messer is an international expert at business networking. A speaker, trainer, facilitator and author, she designs, develops and delivers business programs that build profitable, strategic alliances and joint ventures here and abroad. Contact Donna at

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