Do a quick poll of colleagues on how to network successfully and they will, most likely, describe the current prescribed view… know who’ll be there, work out who to target, enter the room confidently, smile, say name, give elevator pitch complete with evidential statistics, don’t spend too long with one group… etc. Yet, some of the most successful ‘networkers’ have never uttered an elevator pitch and don’t intend to, so what’s going on?
Many people have tried to quantify networking down to a series of steps that include crafting sure fire elevator pitches, identifying ‘targets’ in the room and how to shoe horn themselves into groups of people. It’s a job right? Get with the programme or don’t waste your time or others… What this draconian approach fails to understand is the main point about networking and the nature of the human beings doing it. Networking is just another name for getting together and talking – I guess ‘chatting’ doesn’t look so good on the time sheet.
Sharing stories, challenges and successes, both personal and professional, networking is a moving feast of information, opinion and opportunity. It also focuses in on the most basic of emotions – mutual attraction.
‘Networking attraction’ is of a holistic kind. It’s based on whether a person is actually good to be with; someone who is able to listen, is interested in you as well as being interesting, is thoughtful, well groomed and clearly cares about what you are saying. Making you feel far less of a target and far more of a valuable person.
You may not require someone’s skills that week or month, nor they yours, but you don’t know who they know, so, NEVER dismiss someone. Making referrals (often ‘demanded’ by some networking groups) is meaningless if they are not appropriate and pointless referrals will do your reputation more harm than good. Only make them when you truly believe they will be helpful to both parties.
Some of the most successful networkers are those that are universally liked. Yes, they know what they’re looking for, they offer a good service and have a thorough understanding of their skills and sector BUT they are also renowned for being good listeners, being generous with their knowledge and their time. They are discreet and impartial; they make connections, remember people’s names, refer colleagues thoughtfully and genuinely appear to enjoy being with others. They are popular, sought after and trusted. They attract business as a result.
I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou
When it comes to networking, in the long run (and networking is a long run) you will benefit more by being a good listener, than identifying what you believe are your targets; by paying attention to others, instead of memorizing a heady list of statistics and give thoughtful consideration to your fellow, rather than working the room. The adage ‘people buy people, businesses don’t buy businesses’ has never been truer.
Get comfortable and get to know your group, ditch the hard sell and start listening and you’ll reap the rewards of a great network of likeminded colleagues, associates and friends who are all looking out for you too.
Lisa Clifford teacher and inspirational speaker, has put together a thought-provoking list to reassess how you network and how you can make it more meaningful for you and successful for your business.
- Look good, feel good – if you’re out of sorts don’t go.
- Choose your state of mind – it really is up to you
- Be clear on what you would like to get out of the event
- Think about who you can help
- Think about who you know that can help
- Think about how you can help
- Be interested
- Show your heart, not your CV
- Keep focused on who you’re talking to – they are watching your eyes
- Be hospitable – offer to get them a drink when you get yours
- You are making friends, not homing in on targets
- Really listen – if focus is a struggle try ‘rapid repeat’. This technique means you repeat what they say silently in your head as they talk (don’t move your lips!). This can also help aid memory.
- Be interesting, be memorable – think about creating an emotional response when you present or talk about what you do – tell a story, share your passion
- Never discount anyone – they may know people who could make your business fly
- Be prepared – have a short presentation about you and what you do ready just in case, from a 90 second spotlight slot to a five-minute version.
- Follow up – make it personal, what extra can you give? Such as, “Saw this article and thought about what you were saying…”
- Enjoy it – if networking is a trial for you, it will show.