Networking can be a dirty word. It can conjure up pictures of nightmare scenarios:
- Lots of people standing in a room and nobody knows each other. Awkward!
- A room full of squawking self-promoters frisbee-ing out their business cards like samurai stars.
Of course it isn’t always that bad, and many of us have had very positive networking experiences, but in reality, most people find networking challenging – yet they love meeting *interesting people!
* Definition of an interesting person: they do something you find personally interesting or you believe they can provide value for you, your business, family, friends etc.
So let’s firstly examine why people don’t network. In truth, most people don’t want bigger networks. What they do want however is more meaningful relationships that can improve their lives – personal, professional, financial, social etc.
Most professionals already have established friendship groups and professional associates. Depending on their career and life stage, they may not be recruiting new people. Many (including myself) already have enough trouble maintaining their existing friendships – even professionally!
So, to break through, you need to differentiate yourself by demonstrating how you can add value to another person’s life – either personally or professionally.
At this stage, it is worth mentioning that you simply can’t afford the luxury of feeling self-conscious if you want to be a successful networker. Assume that nearly everyone else feels self-conscious – and thinks they are the only one who feels that way.
The best way to be a gun networker is simply by showing interest in other people first, and resisting the need to talk about yourself – unless you are asked, or you have determined it is appropriate.
Your ‘elevator pitch’ is an ‘acid test’ to see if there is mutual potential in furthering the discussion. It should be designed to encourage the listener to respond with a relevant ‘matching’ elevator pitch, for example:
‘My name is Michael Field, I run a strategic marketing consultancy. We work with medium sized business-to-business, not-for-profit and member services organisations to help them grow their business. What do you do?
You may also want to resist the urge to whip out your card too soon. It can be better (and more polite perhaps) to ask for their card. Good manners suggest they will ask for yours in return.
Some people struggle to end a conversation at networking functions. But if you want to get the most out of the opportunity, sometimes you just have to move on. It doesnlt need to be awkward. You can just say, “It has been lovely meeting you. I need to catch up with Mary now and hopefully we will see you soon. It has been a pleasure meeting you. Have a great night.
Above all, follow up! Many networking efforts are wasted through failure to follow-up. It does not have to be a chore.
For the best results:
- Connect on LinkedIn
- Add them to your CRM
- Email a short thank you note acknowledging your meeting
- Send a relevant news article or link
Try this out at your next networking event and let me know how you go.