Networking Part 2: Your Networking Process

In Networking Part 1 we talked about having a networking process, setting goals, and tracking your results. In this post we will address some of the finer points of your networking process and add in some tips to help you become more than an acquaintance- a connector.

1. Be Engaging.

Generally when you first enter a networking group your primary thoughts are about where to sit. Though you will be inclined to sit by those you know, try sitting by strangers. You are there to meet and get to know new people. What better beginning than to sit by them? If your business serves middle aged women, see if there are any there you can connect with.

The next step will be to start up a conversation. The most common reasons people do not start exchanges is due to fear. But what is the significance if a stranger rejects you? You have everything to gain and relatively little to lose. This approach may well put you out of your comfort zone. So grow that comfort zone! Each time you are the first to introduce yourself or say hello it will get easier and your aptitude will develop. As you continue to practice your confidence will radiate and appeal to those around you. Furthermore, by taking the active role of being the first to advance and start a discussion you are making yourself an approachable, friendly person. This is the exact reputation you want!

Come prepared with questions and conversation topics so you have something to talk about. Try to find a Common Point of Interest, or CPI. Finding what you have in common connects you to others. Whether it be a hobby, a goal, a favorite food- whatever! Not only will finding a CPI create comfort in those talking with you, but it helps you both remember each other better. People will be more apt to seek you out when they know you share something in common. The sooner you find a CPI, the better. A great way is to ask interesting open-ended questions. Questions that start with, “What is the weirdest…”,  “When is the last time….”, and “What is your most favorite…” are some examples.

2. Don’t profile people.

The first rule in business is to know your target market. But don’t forget that your prospective customer has a spouse, brothers, sisters, co-workers, neighbors and friends. How do you know that the elderly gentleman sitting next to you (because you chose to increase your comfort zone- good for you!) doesn’t have 8 daughters and daughter-in-laws, and over 20 granddaughters who may all adore your product? By not profiling people you open yourself up to meeting more people than you could ever imagine.

Furthermore, do not make judgments or assume anything. The person that you hit it off with at the last party may have no recollection of you. Just because you are in a networking group meeting does not mean that everyone attending is currently employed. Because you have not noticed some people before does not mean that they have not been coming for the last year and just recently dyed their hair.

Instead of putting your foot in your mouth, give your comrade a chance to fill in the missing information. A simple question such as, “What have you been working on for the last week?” or “Have I seen you here before?” will give them ample room for response. If you are not sure that an individual will remember you, let them off the hook by reintroducing yourself and mentioning when you last met or your CPI. The more comfortable people are around you the more approachable you will be. The more approachable you are the more you will connect with others and your network will grow.

3. Get business cards instead of giving them.

Don’t be the guy throwing out business cards like they were chinese stars! If you’re interested in further conversation with someone, ask for their card. If they want yours, they’ll ask. Don’t be so eager. Instead, focus on getting to know the guy behind the suit standing in front of you. What are his likes? What is his business? What direction does he want to take it in? As you persist in asking your open-ended questions you show your companion that you are interested in them. Use your attention to them to look for ways you can assist in their networking plight and become a connector. Most people can tell when a person in genuinely interested in them and they seek out those people. Nobody enjoys talking to an individual who appears indifferent. Let your discussion continue by follow-up questions. By taking the light off yourself and really listening to others you will build relationships that will be much more fruitful than throwing your cards every which way.

On the flip side, when someone tries to chat with you using one of the common questions like, “How are you?” be prepared with an answer that will surprise them. “Stupendous!” “On top of the world.” Answering sincerely how you are feeling will make you available to others, bring a smile to their face, and invite them to inquire further why you answered as you did. Answering, “fine” is conversational suicide. It tells the questioner that you are not open for talk of any kind even more harshly than standing in the corner and folding your arms. People do not like to be a bother and will move on to others more approachable. You want associates to remember you in a positive light? Give them a rocking heart-felt answer and let them share in the happiness you bring to the group.

4. Become a connector.

Networking isn’t all about you. It’s about who you know. If you take the focus off you and put it on helping others, you’ll find yourself getting better results from it. The more contacts believe you provide them, the more they will naturally want to engage and work with you. Your reputation as a powerful resource for others will grow and others will be magnetized to you and your suggestions. The more that they turn to your ideas and look to you for referrals, the more you will be continually visible to them.

When you receive a name, follow up with that person quickly. If they are someone you have just started an acquaintance with your interest will be reinforced. If it is a name of a friend of your associate, honor that individual by being timely. You will show them your respect for them and their friends. Avoid making your follow-up a sales pitch. Continue to find out more about them and develop the relationship. This is where focusing on being of service is so vital. If a person feels they are being sold to they may feel that the relationship is false. However, offering valuable leads, ideas, introductions, resource links and other connections tells them that you care and they are important to you. Becoming a major connecting link in others’ networks will expand your own network exponentially.


So What do YOU Think?