business-partyKeep these networking success secrets in mind as you make the rounds at holiday parties this month.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…and the most hectic. You’ve probably already accepted invitations to holiday office parties and client events. And you’re probably already considering the usual list of questions: Should you bring your spouse or partner? What should you wear? What will you talk about? Whom do you want to meet? How many cups of spiked eggnog are too many? Will you know anyone there?

These uncertainties—which cause many sales professionals to dread networking events throughout the year—seem to weigh even heavier around the holidays, when we’re already busy and tired of running around.

But the holidays are supposed to be fun. This is the time to really connect with other people. And you’re good at that. Otherwise you probably wouldn’t be in sales. Plus, the connections you make during this festive time of year can help you grow your referral network and fill your sales pipeline in 2015.

With this in mind, here’s how to get the most out of the holiday events you attend this month:

  1. Do What You Do Best—Talk
    Holiday parties are a great opportunity to meet interesting people and have a good time. Engage in three or four good conversations. Get to know people. Ask insightful questions. Learn about them personally first and professionally second. Find common interests and dig in. Don’t spend too much time talking about work. No one’s interested. Holiday networking is about building relationships, not getting new business. (Of course, since relationships are the key to referrals, building new ones definitely pays off in the long run.)
  1. Share the Love
    The holidays provide us with exceptional opportunities to meet new people in fun, social environments. If you’re nervous about attending a particular event where you won’t really know anyone, invite someone you’d like to know better to go along with you. That way, you both get to spend time together and meet new people. It’s a win/win. Just don’t spend the entire night talking to each other and ignoring opportunities to connect with new people.
  1. Dress for Success
    Right or wrong, we tend to judge people based on appearances. So take time with your presentation. The goal is to look festive, but also polished and professional. Here are a few basic pointers:
  • Ladies: Dress up, not down. No plunging necklines or super short skirts. Wear interesting jewelry. It’s a great conversation starter.
  • Gentlemen: Make sure your shirt is pressed and your shoes are polished. And don’t forget to clean up your facial hair and scrub under your nails. Believe it or not, people (especially women) notice that sort of thing. My aunt and uncle met in high school, but she refused to go out with him because he had dirt under his nails. The next time he saw her, his nails had never been cleaner. They were married for 71 years (yes, to each other).
  1. Don’t Sweat It
    Finally, relax and be yourself. Remember Woody Allen’s old adage: “80 percent of success is showing up.” No matter how you slice it, showing up counts! That’s one of the best networking tips around.

For more networking tips, check out my recent Salesforce blog post, “Want More Referrals? Network Before You Need To.”

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Follow Joanne on Google+ or Twitter @ReferralSales, or connect on LinkedIn and Facebook.