Making Successful Business Connections

by Kate Smalley

The graphic design business is a people business, it is who you know that will make you successful. Going to networking events should not be painful, although, sometimes, you do have to step out of your comfort zone. Once you have accepted that you are at the event to meet people, and make successful connections you should be able to make some great connections.

If you have a hard time making successful business connections, don't despair. Anyone can be good at meeting people-if they use the right technique. The whole secret to making a positive connection is knowing how to attract people and inspire them to want to give you a chance.

Here are seven proven strategies to help you make successful business connections:

1. Carry yourself well and look professional. If people don't know you at ALL, they are going to completely judge you by the way you look. It's unfortunate, but it's true. So, make sure you dress appropriately and your hair is well groomed. And be sure to look people straight in the eye and firmly shake their hand when meeting them.Also, make a special effort to have a clear, professional speaking voice-particularly if your first encounter is over the phone. Practice what you're going to say in your head or out loud, so you don't stumble on your words.

2. Know your outcomes. What do you want from this person and what's your objective? You should ALWAYS ask yourself this question before you make contact with anyone. In a business situation, you want to be really clear as to what your outcomes are. For most business people, the outcomes are to let prospects know who you are, why they should be interested in you, and what your goal is.

3. Always smile. When you see someone smile, it tells you that they're approachable. People like people who seem approachable because they feel more comfortable with them and will trust them more. So make sure you show those pearly whites and practice being sincere with your smile. And if you're contacting someone over the phone, it's important to still smile because people can tell by your voice if you're not.

4. Be honest. People can tell when someone is giving them baloney, so be sincere when you make contact with someone. You're taking up their most precious commodity - time. And if you're in sales and have to read from a script, memorize it so you can talk naturally. This will make you seem more genuine and credible.

5. Offer something they need. It's so important to not bother people with things that they don't have time for or need. If you're not sure that they'll be interested in what you have to say, make your introduction short and sweet. Then see if they're interested in hearing the rest of what you're articulating. To position your introduction to impress them, do some research to find out what would interest them. You can conduct your research by going on the Internet, reading about them in magazines, going to the library, talking with their employees or meeting their business associates.

6. Go out of your way. If someone is legitimately busy and they can't talk with you, go out of your way to find out what's convenient for them. Also, if the person you're trying to contact tells you they feel more comfortable meeting you in person rather than having a telephone discussion, go meet them if it's really important to you.

7. Be bold and daring... but in a tactful way. Make the call or make an in-person introduction to the person you want to meet. Don't sit around and contemplate if you should do it because it will never happen. It's natural to get intimidated, but be bold and daring by pushing your fear away and taking action. However, always conduct yourself in a tactful way, so you don't harass people. Otherwise, people won't like you and won't want to listen to what you have to say.

Don't be intimidated at the thought of contacting successful people. Remember: They are still people, and they're no different from you. So get out there and make contact. The worst that could happen is that they say, "No, I'm not interested". The best thing that could happen is that they are interested! Start taking steps toward making successful connections today!

Published with permission from: is a resource for graphic designers, art directors, illustrators, photographers, printers, and others involved in the business of graphic design. The site was originally launched in 1998 as a "portal" and was a finalist in the SXSW web design competition. Since then, the web site has gone through many transformations, but has always served the design community.

Kate Smalley , Connecticut Secretary
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