If you are a business owner, a business development officer, an employee looking to advance your status, someone who thrives on meeting people, someone who hates meeting people, an outgoing person, or an introvert, this post on networking is for you.
Being outgoing and in sales does not guarantee that you are an effective networker. Being an introvert and rarely going out during the daytime does not imply you cannot be a successful networker.
Whatever preconceived notions or misperceptions you have about effective networking, wipe the slate clean, and be open, receptive, and willing to change.
As a professional networker, I meet hundreds of people a week and fortunately (or unfortunately) I see just about everything imaginable. These are some of the biggest spurs in my side.
The hit-and-run networker
This is the individual bouncing from person to person handing out his/her business card before they have even begun a conversation. I consider this person a lazy networker. They are too much in a hurry to stop and get to know anyone. They are simply after numbers. They are looking to meet as many people as possible. They’re looking for sales opportunities rather than connections. They are so busy looking for the next person to hand their business card to that they don’t even look you in the eye.
This is also the person who shakes your hand and looks at other people walking by or looking for their next mark. They don’t make eye contact with you at all and don’t even remember your name. They are so busy trying to meet as many people as possible that they have no concept of what being a good listener is or how to build long lasting relationships.
This person makes me feel like I am not valued or not good enough for them and certainly not worthy of their time.
If you find yourself falling into some of these bad habits, use these tools to improve your networking strategy:
At the event:
Create a plan before you attend any meetings and make it your goal to really connect with three to six people a day (depending on how long the event runs)
Take time to find out what is going on in that person’s business. I use this question, “What is the biggest challenge in your business right now?” They will open up and share their frustrations with you and somewhere you will discover how you can solve their challenges. Remember, the person asking the right questions is in control.
Be sincere and be a superb listener. If you find yourself doing all the talking, then stop and start asking questions.
Ask them for their card and jot down something memorable about that person.
The follow up:
Follow up after the event on a more intimate level. Do not send just an automated email. (This is much easier if you make notes‚ see No. 4 above). Consider a phone call or a personalized card.
Use the 3/1 Rule when following up. Mention them three times before you mention yourself or your business once. This is not easy to do, so I recommend practicing this before you send them anything.
The follow up is not about you. It is about how you can solve their challenges.
When in doubt about what to talk about, use the Who, What, Where, and How methodology. Don’t ask why. “Why” merely conjures up a defensive attitude so stay clear of asking “Why” in a networking setting.
Most networkers do not follow up at all, so if you implement a number of these strategies, you will be way ahead of the pack.
And my favorite way to follow up? I like to snail mail my love notes to people. They never forget a personalized message that mentions something important in their life or business.
Have you ever walked into a meeting, event, or a room full of people and everyone is huddled up like they’re in the middle of the fourth quarter and it’s a tied game? You feel awkward or embarrassed because you don’t know anyone, and no one is inviting you to participate in the conversation.
This can be one of the most difficult situations for anyone but especially difficult for introverts. If you find yourself in the huddle, make an effort to open the group up so it’s a semi-circle and not a closed circle. Invite people into the conversation that you see standing alone or seem like they want to be included in the conversation.
If you find yourself on the outside of the huddle, don’t be afraid to catch someone’s eye and introduce yourself to one of the people in the huddle. They should welcome you into the conversation and introduce you to the other people in the group.
What you can do to be a more successful networker
Depending on your personality type—outgoing or introverted—find your comfort zone with the above solutions. Most successful networking introverts do so through being a “Give Getter.” They focus on the other person and how to help them. They take the emphasis away from their shyness and have learned how to focus on helping people—not selling them.
The same goes for the outgoing person who has never met a stranger. The outgoing person sometimes forgets not everyone is comfortable networking. Reach out to them in a more personal one-on-one setting and spend time listening to their challenges. People do not want to be sold. They want to be heard.
MJ Jensen is the Chief Idea Officer of the award winning IdeaMagic, a visionary marketing & CRM automation company headquartered in Tucson, Arizona. IdeaMagic helps smart businesses find solutions to increase leads, close more sales, and build stronger relationships with their prospects, clients, and customers. IdeaMagic has helped small businesses excite, ignite, and attract new business to their business for over 20 years.
MJ’s enthusiasm, knowledge, and experience catapult savvy businesses into a new stratosphere