This month in the On Point world, we’re talking all about the power of networking and how to use networking effectively to build a strong business. Last week, we talked about where to network, so now, let’s chat about how. 

I have always found that the best networkers intuitively understand these principles: 

  1. Genuine interest: Great networkers are authentically attentive. They are not feigning interest in what you have to say, waiting for their turn to tell you about themselves. They actually want to know about you and your business. If showing up this way does not come naturally for you, it could be that you are “inside your head” a bit too much, worrying about how you are being perceived or anxiously hoping you can make a sale out of this conversation. If you will let that go and actively listen to the other person, you will end up forgetting all about yourself and the chances of making a great connection will be much higher.
  2. Service, not selling: Obviously, the reason for business networking is to build relationships that will grow your bottom line. However, if you approach business networking with the WIIFM (What’s in it for me) attitude, you are less apt to make good connections that lead to good business. Whether it’s in person or online, adopt a posture of service, asking yourself, “How can I be of service to this person?” while they are sharing. This will not only take you far, but it feels really, really good.
  3. Ask great questions! This is scary for a lot of people, because they get nervous that they might not know the questions to ask. No one likes looking stupid, and if the other person in the conversation is spouting off a bunch of industry-specific technical jargon (yeah… don’t do that), you might find yourself nodding mutely and seeking an escape route from the conversation. I find that when I say things like, “I am not familiar with your industry. What does XYZ mean, exactly?” people (most often) check themselves and course correct to laymen’s language. I’m not worried about looking dumb because, frankly, I am not an expert in their business. I just want to understand and find points of connection. I have found that, if I am employing points #1 and #2, it is easy to ask good questions that help us connect.

Get the Jump 

Now that we’ve covered how to have great networking conversations, let me share an insider pro tip: get the jump in the conversation. When I am networking, it is rare that I stand around waiting for someone to take control of the conversation and put me in the hotseat. I go first, not with my own elevator pitch and story, but with asking questions. While they are talking, I am genuinely interested in what they’re saying and thinking about follow up questions to draw them out further. I am also thinking about ways I might be of service, whether it’s introducing them to someone, opening a business door for them, or providing value or a service to them. At some point, the conversation will turn to me, and I can customize my elevator pitch and story to be meaningful to them and make a connection. 

Asking for a Date 

Some people think business networking is akin to a first date. It isn’t. It’s asking for permission, and earning the invitation, to have a first date. Therefore, a good networking connection ends with a commitment. The commitment is to follow up by phone or email, to connect on LinkedIn, to provide an e-introduction to someone, or something similar. If there is no connection in the conversation, then, fair enough. No follow up. But if you are having a fantastic dialogue and then you walk away without a “next steps” action item, you have missed the point of networking. Get the agreement to follow up, and then – follow up! 

 

As always, I am here if you want to talk about any obstacles you’re experiencing in your business networking experience, or to give you feedback on your networking ideas. Shoot me a line! [email protected]  

 

Until next time, Stay on Point!