Do you ever wonder why some people seem to have a large circle of friends, business associates, contacts, while others, who may even be in the same profession or similar business as you, do not? Perhaps that person is you?
Some people are naturally outgoing and friendly. Others, are more shy and introverted. In fact, most people are uncomfortable being in a setting where they around people they don’t know. Yet, if we are going to experience a full fruitful life as an entrepreneur, business owner or professional, we need to learn how to effectively network with others and grow our circle of connections. It’s not always easy to step out of that comfort zone, to be in a room full of strangers. We can be overwhelmed by the prospect of approaching someone we don’t know. Trust me, I know. However, with a few key skills, we can easily learn how to take that fearful experience and make it a very positive one.
I am involved in quite a few networking groups and have been participating in the art of networking for well over 15 years. When I say that networking is an ‘art’, I believe strongly that it is. There are skills necessary to being a good networker-a good connector. There’s a nuance to it. An art.
Let me clarify: when I speak of networking events, I am referring to specific events, meetings, etc in which you go, as a business owner, professional or entrepreneur with the intent to meet other people and hopefully grow your database of connections and your business. Yet I am also speaking of the dozens of other opportunities to ‘network’ and meet other people that we all do in our day to day lives: parties, community events, fundraisers, church, sporting events, happy hours, PTA/PTO meetings….the list goes on and on. The opportunities to network, to grow your circle of connections, is endless! This is important because, as we begin to live life on our own terms, having time and financial freedom, the opportunities to meet others will change over time.
So with that in mind, let’s consider the art of networking. I’m sure we’ve all been approached by the overbearing, insistent, chatty-cathy that only knows how to talk about themselves, their business, and won’t back off until you either walk away or give in. That’s not what I’m talking about. That would be the example of what not to do. The key to creating a large circle of connections is to be genuinely curious. Get really good at asking questions. Find out about the other person. What part of town do they live in? Where did they grow up? How long have they lived in the area? What do they love most about what they do? If they could go on vacation anywhere in the world, where would they go? What kind of music do they like? What energizes them? What do they do in their free time? How long have they worked where they do? If they could do anything with their life, what would it be?
The questions are endless. The key is, to ask the questions and thenLISTEN. The more you can find out about someone, the more you will get to know them and the more equipped you will be to find out how you can help them. Be more intent on learning about them, than you are about telling them about you and what you do. It’s an interesting fact, that the more someone talks about themselves, the more interesting they will think that YOU are! And the more questions you ask, the better. Why? They will feel that you are truly interested in what they have to say, you care, and that makes you appealing and interesting to them.
Let’s talk about when you do need to share something about you. Keep it short, sweet and to the point. Create curiosity if you can. Don’t do a sales pitch. Let them get to know YOU. We all want to do business, and create relationships, with people we know, like and trust. Be friendly. Focus on being a friend first, a business associate (if it were to lead to that), second.
When someone asks you, ‘What do you do?’, please consider strongly what I’m about to say – do not respond with “I do(company/profession)“. This is one of my biggest pet peeves in the networking arena, as we are not our company. What is it that you do? How do you help others? What service do you provide? I find it interesting for those that might be in a home based business model, or profession like photography, real estate, mortgage, etc, that when asked that question, they state what their company or professional title is. That is not what you do. For example, a real estate agent might say, “I help people find their dream home.” Or a photographer might say, “I provide my clients with a precious memory of a special time in their life that they can keep for a lifetime.” If you are a makeup artist, you might say, “I help women feel more confident by teaching them proper makeup techniques specifically for them.”
When you create rapport with someone, that’s the beginning of what could be a fruitful and mutually beneficial relationship. As with any new relationship, there is a courting period. A time to get to know them and to then have that relationship grow. If you try to begin the relationship by asking for their hand in marriage, before they’ve even had a chance to get to know you, chances are, they will run the other way! Take your time, build the relationship and get to know each other. Sometimes things happen quickly, yet most often, as with any relationship, rapport and trust take time.
You see, the art of networking and creating a large circle of connections is to be of service and to create rapport by being more interested in them than in talking about yourself. Lead with your heart, with the intent of ‘how can I help this person’, then you will create win/win situations! Perhaps what you have to offer will be a good solution for them. Perhaps you know of someone else in your network of connections that could be of service to them. Introduce them. People will feel good doing business with you or referring their contacts to you when you do these things. The more we focus on helping to make a difference for others, the more our life – and our confidence – will blossom!