NETWORKING GUIDE 101
Recently I was asked to put something together about networking. Since I have been around the block in the networking arena – I tried to remember what it was like when I first started. My first thought were my fears of networking and believe it or not even veteran networker’s get knots in their stomachs from time to time when walking into a crowded room of unfamiliar faces. So, here are some basic questions and answers.
What do I do when I first enter an event?
- Attend with the right mindset. Your goal is to meet people and build relationships, not make a sale. Go with the idea of ‘how can I help others’ or with a goal like “I would like to meet at least one person that I would want to follow up with and have a one on one.”
- Look around and observe the people in the room. You may want to approach the person standing alone. For psychological reasons, you may feel more comfortable approaching someone of the same physical stature as yourself and a gender that you are more comfortable with.
- Rather than being a wall flower and waiting for someone to approach you try to make the first move, this will allow you to choose who you would like to speak with.
- If approaching a group of people notice how the group is positioned. If they are in a closed circle then wait for another opportunity. If the people talking are more open and standing side by side this will make for a better opportunity to approach.
- When approaching a group try to listen to what they are speaking about and ask if it is ok to join them and introduce yourself.
What questions do I ask?
One thing to keep in mind is that people like to talk about themselves. Ask open ended questions like:
- What products or service does your company offer?
- How did you get started in the industry?
- What made you choose your profession?
- What kind of contacts are good for you? or
- How can I know if someone I am talking to is a good prospect for you?
- How are you finding business in this economy? or
- What are your biggest challenges?
- Where else do you normally network?
Open ended questions help you to avoid the awkwardness of silence that comes from the yes or no questions.
Again, remember why you are there. It’s NOT to sell. It’s about building relationships and genuinely looking to help connect people to people. Really listen to what they are saying and find out what they need because you may be able to offer some other kind of information like the name of a book or an interesting article or something that is new to the market or industry, or any other useful or valuable information.
One thing to always keep in mind – because you help someone does not mean they can always help you back or that they owe you. This way you won’t set yourself up for disappointment or be quick to discard that contact. You never know who they may meet that could use your services or help you down the road. Worst case scenario is you made another friend or contact. That’s not such a bad deal.
How do I politely end the conversation?
You know when the conversation is finished and it’s time to move on and believe me so does the other person. You can either run away or try one of the few exit strategies below:
- Thank you for your time (first name), maybe we can arrange a time for us to both meet again and talk at greater length. (Only do this if you really want to arrange another meeting.)
- I know your time is valuable (first name), so I will let you get back to networking.
- Introduce them to someone else that you think may be of interest to them or someone that would be interested in what they do.
- Suggest to them that you are going to get a drink or bite to eat and actually do it! Don’t say that then turn around to start a conversation with someone else.
- Don’t try to sell fellow networkers or others at networking events. You are not there to make a sale.
- Don’t go around handing out your business cards to everyone there. KEEP YOUR BUSINESS CARDS TO YOURSELF. It’s the worst thing you could do at any networking event. Most people will just throw them away. Why would they want your card when you haven’t even bothered to get to know who they are? BIG BOO BOO!
- Try to only collect the cards of those you will follow up with. Although it can’t be avoided when someone hands you their card during an introduction.
- Don’t scan the room when you are speaking with someone unless you explain to them that you are waiting for someone that you are supposed to be meeting there. There is nothing more insulting than speaking with someone who is busy looking around the room for someone else to speak with.
- Don’t only hang out with the people you know because you already know them instead introduce them to others so they can make new contacts as well.
- Don’t keep talking about yourself – ask questions.
- Don’t go to an event just to make an appearance. Plan on staying for awhile. To say that you are too busy to stay is implying that everyone else there has nothing better to do.
- Don’t only go to 2 or 3 events a year. You will never build relationships that way. Being PRESENT & VISIBLE is important because it creates awareness. The greater your visibility, the more widely known you will become. Without visibility you cannot get to the next level of credibility.
- You will also want to dress to impress. No, not like that…….. > Although, I am sure a lot of you males would like that 😉 – but would you really be paying attention to what she is saying???
- How you dress says a lot about you –
There you go – dress business or business casual
There is a time and a place for networking – it’s called ANY time and ANY place
- Be genuine
- Always smile 🙂
- Follow up with the cards you collect
- When you receive someone else’s card you may want to jot down what you both discussed to jog your memory
- Look people in the eye when you speak to them
- Be prepared – practice a 45 – 60 second presentation about what you do
- Focus in on what the other person is saying or you may miss some important points
- Try to hear what their problems are – you may be a hero if you can offer advice or an introduction that can solve it
- Never criticize others
- If attending a networking meeting or seminar rather than a meet and greet event be sure to arrive early and stay late – they are the best opportunities for networking
- Show sincere appreciation for other’s accomplishments
- Always be positive. Be the one who brightens a room and all conversations that you engage in
- “Praise loudly, blame softly”
It’s not always what you know or who you know but more about “how well you know them.”
Productive networking takes time – it’s like a garden – you plant the seed, then you have to constantly water it and take care of it before you see you results.
If you neglect it – it dies and fades away.
The common denominator of networking is people. People are humans and humans need time to build rapport & trust.
Opportunities will present themselves, you need to be there and listen.
Opportunities come when you least expect them.
Always be Happy & Enthusiastic.