Effective Networking has always had a role in business but in the past it was only in some industries and only some people who had to do it. For those that just suck at it, it was fairly easy to avoid.
That was then. Now effective networking is almost impossible to avoid. Traditional marketing media like newspapers and radio are losing ground fast and business, even small business, are having to find alternative ways of getting their message out. Social media means we are all more in the spotlight than ever.
If you own a business, people want to be able to deal with you. People can go on twitter and have a direct conversation with celebrities and leaders from around the world, so of course they expect to be able to talk to you.
If you are going to build your business you must be accessible to your clients and network effectively, even if it is only online.
The old adage of “it’s not what you know, but who you know” is more relevant now than ever before.
Why most people suck at Effective Networking?
Most people I talk to are reluctant to say the least to get involved in a networking group or put themselves out into the spotlight. Whilst us Aussies are happy having a beer with mates around the BBQ we do like to pull down anyone who we think is trying to promote themselves or get above their position in life. If that sounds like you then here’s some good news.
Whilst networking has become more important it has also become much easier. Today we aren’t looking for people promoting themselves or their product. We just want people to be them self, be genuine and take an interest in us, rather than trying to sell us their stuff.
Effective Networking in 2 simple steps.
Be interested in other people and have a repertoire of open ended questions like; So tell me what you enjoy doing on the weekends, or so who do you do most of your work for? Or what kind of clients do you serve? Get the idea? There are thousands of questions to choose from that open the door for someone else to tell you all about themselves.
There is one thing I know for sure and that is you know about yourself. If I ask you questions about you, you will be able to answer them better than probably anyone else in the world. After all we are the most important person in the world to our self, right?
Is even easier than step one. It’s to talk about me. WHAT!! talk about me, I hate talking about myself you say. And this is exactly where the problem lies. The reason many people hate to talk about themselves is they feel they have to be creating a fiction story in their head as fast as the words are coming out their mouths and that’s hard. They are doing that because the truth just may not be good enough in their own opinion. You’ve lived your life so it probably doesn’t seem that interesting to you, but it probably is to others, at least for a while.
That my friends, is effective networking. Asking questions, finding out about other people and sharing about yourself. No B.S. no selling, no talk about collecting X number of referrals or business cards, just people getting to know people. I know you can do that.
You don’t need to be anything more than you already are. No need to try and impress. No need to make excuses for yourself. Just be 100% yourself and be happy and proud of that.
I used to think I had to be more like this or that person to be successful. Then I got to looking at successful people and realised just how different they were. Take Wesley Snipes and Tom Cruise as examples. There is really nothing about them even a little bit similar yet both are hugely popular.
You are not too old or young. You aren’t too big or too small. You don’t talk to fast or too slow. You are just fine. There is nothing you need to be a great networker accept some experience perhaps.
First impressions. You only get one chance to make a good first impression. If you’re attending a networking event or meeting, try and avoid arriving late and looking tired or dishevelled. Be prepared physically and mentally so you look good and feel good. It will boost your confidence levels and all combines to make a much better first impression. Being early means everyone else is walking into your room rather than the other way around.
Don’t get a reputation as a NO Show. If you are not reliable at a network meeting, people will naturally assume you may not be reliable in your business and so be reluctant to refer to you.
Trust is the currency being traded at a networking event. If I am going to refer business to you I am staking my social and business reputation on you being what I say you are and doing the right thing. If I don’t really trust you I am never going to send my clients or friends to you.
Focus on what you can do for the other person. How you can help them get business. Who you might be able to connect them with. Who their target market are. What niche they serve etc. If you focus on helping others you will get helped in return down the track. You are building social capital for the future. Offering help in some way gives you a genuine reason to ask for a phone number or email address to follow up later.
Focus on having a meaningful conversation with a few people rather than trying to work the room and only have brief meaningless conversations about the traffic or the weather with a lot of people.
It’s not how many people you know that matters, it who you know and how well you know each other. “People don’t care what you know until they know you care”.
Make sure you follow up. If you say you’ll send someone an email then do it. Do it anyway. Just send an email telling them how much you enjoyed meeting them and learning about their business.
Be early, be reliable and be prepared.
Be yourself and relax, your great as you are.
Be interested in other people.
Be helpful and build trust.
Follow up afterwards.
Happy Networking folks. Be sure to network with me in some way too.