Networking is easy.
For some of us, that means it’s easy to do it incorrectly.
I attended a networking event a couple of weeks ago. Since I hadn’t been to an event for a while, and not wanting to do it wrong, I grabbed a couple of articles for a refresher course on successful networking.
Let me distill what I learned into five simple tips.
1. Repeat after me, “It’s not about you.”
“It’s not about you!” It really isn’t.
Put another way, the person you’re talking to doesn’t need to know what you do, how long you’ve done it, for whom you’ve done it, how well you’ve done it, or how well you can do it for them if they pay you enough money to do it.
Focus on the person with whom you’re talking. Ask them questions. Find out about them.
Everyone likes to be asked about their story. Let them tell you theirs.
The time will come for you to share to yours but you’ll be remembered more for the questions you ask than you will for your resume.
2. Look for people to help, not to get help from.
Failing to see your networking from this perspective is a huge mistake.
One put it this way: “The best networkers look at networking as ‘How can I help you?’ as opposed to ‘How can you help me?.’”
A popular phrase I hear tossed about these days is “adding value to others.”
Think about it. Do you want people to remember you? Helping someone is the absolute best way to be remembered.
As our favorite motivator, Zig Ziglar used to say, “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.”
That’s adding value.
The moment you walk through the door at your next event, put your antennae up. Look for someone to whom you can add value. It doesn’t take a lot of effort but it’s the surest way they’ll remember you long after you have gone home.
3. Keep your business-card-machine-gun holstered.
We’ve all been there, right? The obnoxious sales rep walks into the room and business cards start flying through the air like bullets.
Looking back, how many of them did you keep? With how many of those sharpshooters have you done business?
Yeah, that’s what I thought.
At a BlogWorld Expo a couple of years ago, Chris Brogan puts it this way:
“Don’t be a ‘business card ninja,’ firing cards at people the moment you meet them. It’s like a poke in Facebook, only less interesting. Shake someone’s hand, get to know them. If you feel like you want to get to know them, then ask if they want to exchange business cards.”
One of my heroes, Peter Shankman, offers a great perspective.
“That card doesn’t represent who you are, it just tells me how to contact you. Only you represent who you are, and only you can tell me, through your words and actions, why you’re important. Once you’ve done that, I’ll gladly take a card from you, and will probably use it! If you just hand me one and I don’t know anything about you? Not so much.”
In other words, let’s talk.
Eventually, we’ll get around to exchanging cards. Especially if I ask for yours first. Until then, let’s chat.
Let me ask you about yourself, who you are, what you do, why you do it, what challenges are you facing, how I can help you. Then, when I get your card I’ll have some important data other than just your email and phone number.
4. Listen more than you talk.
I know, this seems so counterintuitive. We’re going to a networking event to share with people who we are, to let them find out about us. That requires talking.
Indeed, it does but here’s the thing: networking events aren’t about talking, they’re about listening.
Here’s why: listening is how you learn.
If you’re going to look for people to help, as I mentioned above, listening is the way you find them.
When we listen we learn. We learn about them. We learn about their business, their passions, their concerns, their challenges, their frustrations.
And in all that learning there are any number ways presented that you can help that person and add value to them.
When that happens, a connection has been made. And that might lead to a business relationship, or at the very least, a friendship.
Listening will help you after the conversation is over too. After you’ve exchanged business cards, jot down a couple of words on their card that will remind you about what you learned.
It will give you a point of contact down the road. A couple of days later, for example, when you follow up with them. It might even open the door to doing business together. And that would never have happened if all you had done was talk.
5. Remember, networking is more than an event.
I’ve heard people say networking events are a waste of time. I am inclined to agree, IF, events are the only time and place you do any networking.
Again, Peter Shankman hits the bullseye:
“Networking is something you should be doing always…Traditional networking doesn’t mean ‘going to a networking event once a month.’ It means you should treat every new person you met as a potential contact.”
Put another way, networking doesn’t begin when you get to the event, it starts the moment you leave your house.
Waiting while they make your latte at Starbucks? Networking opportunity.
Standing in line at the bank? Networking possibility.
Picking up your dry-cleaning? Networking event.
Since reading that a couple of weeks ago, I’ve tried to let it dominate my thought patterns as I’ve traveled around my city. Everywhere I’ve gone, with everyone I’ve met, I’ve been aware that it’s a possible networking opportunity.
Have I gained business? Not yet. But it’s sure made life more enjoyable.
Why not try these tips for yourself? After all, you want people to remember you, not just recall you.