A stopover is a great time to sharpen and hone your networking skills. There is not a better time to start building long-term business relationships in a new country. The stopover offers a chance to meet new people in a new environment whilst maintaining a professional relationship level.
However it is important to uphold your professionalism to make optimum use of the networking opportunities.
Here are some valuable tips on networking and business development in a foreign country during your stopover.
Ten common mistakes people make when networking during a stopover include;
1. Not Planning Prior to the Trip
Work out what you want to achieve from the stop over. Is it just to relax, have fun and unwind? Is it to get more speaking engagements, meet new people or build long-term relationships? Your approach will differ in all these situations. Have a plan prior to the stopover and try to reach set goals. An example might be to obtain three new key contacts or to reaffirm an existing relationship. Attending Meet Up Groups are another way to meet new people in a foreign country. Just go to www.meetup.com and search for relevant events and groups. Overseas consulates, business groups and Chambers of Commerce from your country of origin also hold lots of local events and these can be another source of networking with new contacts in a foreign country.
2. Running Out of Business Cards
There is nothing more embarrassing or unprofessional than someone asking you for a business card and you can’t produce one. Always carry too many rather than too few. Being prepared gives you more confidence and entrusts confidence when developing new relationships. Remember your business card is an effective tool to very easily convey contact information and its exchange may initiate of a long-term valuable relationship. On your card provide international numbers and addresses. If it is important, have your business card translated into the local language. Maybe keep English one side and the other the local language. Also, maybe translate your name into the local language as well.
3. Sticking to People You Know
Make a goal to meet five new people during a stopover. Don’t try and meet everyone of the 100 or so people on your database in that country. Making a lasting impression with a few rather than a shallow interaction with many is far more beneficial.
4. Meeting People You Know First
Most people have a great fear of meeting people they don’t know especially in an international context. See this as a challenge rather than a handicap and avoid going for the easy option of meeting people you know well first. Certainly, acknowledge these people by a phone call, but contact new people. Also ask those people you do meet for three referrals and names of other people you should meet during your stopover. This will maximise your chances of meeting new people.
5. Talking Too Much
Avoid talking too much about yourself. This is probably the biggest turn-off for prospective clients or alliance partners.
6. Not Listening
Business is all about providing solutions to people’s problems. How can you understand their problems if you don’t ask questions and listen. Use active listening skills to build rapport and gain a true understanding of their issues and concerns. This is really important when working internationally where English may not be the first language of people you meet.
7. Hard Sell
Stop overs are your opportunity to develop relationships. Avoid the hard-sell and get to know the person you are speaking with. Once the relationship has been established the business will come. Initial hard selling may have the opposite effect and drive the person away.
8. Lack of Clarity
Many people have a lack of clarity in what they do. Research shows that 95 per cent of business people are often asked, particularly at a first meeting “what do you do?”
Many early career speakers have difficulty articulating what they do, particularly in conveying the benefits of their position to a prospective client. Having a ‘personal branding statement’ (PBS) really helps in this situation. It helps to clarify how you or your business or speech can solve their problems and takes all the stress out of answering this question!
9. Over Indulgence
As with all aspects of travel when a visitor in someone’s country behave appropriately and in moderation. This includes limiting consumption of alcohol to an acceptable level and being mindful when introducing yourself to people. Remember you are a professional representing your country and profession regardless of the situation or time of year. Respect those around you and your personal and professional responsibilities.
Respect local customs and cultures.
10. Not Following Up
Many people simply fail to follow-up on the prospects or business leads they meet at during stop overs. Put in place a system to follow-up, otherwise many of your business development efforts will be wasted. This can be as simple as an email or phone call to acknowledge your interaction and does not have to be business related. A relationship which might not seem to be initially good for your business may lead to you being referred on, one of the strongest marketing tools used to generate more business.
Edited extract from new book on “Insider Secrets of International Speaking” due for release December 2015 by McGraw Hill Education.