BNI conducted a survey for the book Masters of Networking that asked business professionals to give their opinion on the most important character traits of a ‘master networker’. The survey included about 2,000 professionals from several different countries, who ranked various traits deemed useful for ‘developing and maintaining good relationships’.
Here are the top ten, ranked in order of their importance as judged by the survey respondents.
- Timely follow-up on referrals. Following up with what you say you’re going to do, when you say you’re going to do it, builds your credibility and trust with your network partners.
- Positive attitude. When you’re positive, people tend to be more attracted to you and will be more likely to refer family, friends and colleagues to you. It also helps your determination and motivation.
- Enthusiasm. Enthusiastic and motivated people tend to make things happen for them and for the people they know.
- Trustworthiness. When someone gives you a referral they’re taking a risk. They’re putting their personal and professional reputation on the line. Trust has to be earned, over time, and plays a huge part in building your credibility.
- Listening skills. Listening for the needs, problems and aspirations of others is vital for identifying the type of referral that would really be valuable to them. Asking questions and listening to the answers is a key skill.
- 24/7 networking. Networking becomes second nature to master networkers. In every conversation they are alive to the possibility of givers gain. Their focus is more on helping others than selling themselves.
- Gratitude. Saying thank you is so easy and yet is very powerful in developing business relationships. You often read that it’s a good idea to send a written thank you note or card but it’s very rarely done.
- Helpfulness. If you gain a reputation of going out of your way to help others, you are more likely to be given referrals.
- Sincerity. Some of these master networker traits may not feel natural at first. However, if we try hard enough we can get to enjoy them and that’s very important because, otherwise, we can come across as insincere. “He’s just out to sell me something. He’s not really interested in me”. Develop the skill of giving your complete attention to the person in front of you.
- Professional approach. Top networkers tend to be well organized in terms of their contact management systems. For example, they will tend to carry their referral partners’ business cards along with their own. They also develop a great attitude to building their network, setting up appointments to meet new contacts without any specific expectation that a sale or referral will result.