Have you ever been to a networking event where you were introduced to a new person and despite your best efforts, you still couldn't get the conversation to go anywhere? Those are rather awkward times. I've been there myself and wondered what I was doing wrong? There had to be a better way to connect with people and begin to create a positive networking rapport with them, I just needed to find it.
This was the beginning of my reflective and active exploration into networking tips and techniques that actually work to build rapport between people. I wanted to know how to better understand the people that I interact with. I had a burning desire to understand what drives people to move towards an opportunity or to run for the hills away from it.
As I travel by train a lot, I read every day for at least an hour. I listen to audio education programs and I contemplate what I learn, especially how I can apply it to my daily life and be of service to those I work with. The train and my car (audio only) provide the perfect mobile university for me to self-educate on the topics that of greatest interest to me.
I read and listened to anything I could find from people who had been there and done that so I could learn from the best. I read books and articles on networking, human behaviour, coaching, management, leadership, culture, selling psychology and NLP. A colleague gave me Brian Tracy's book Eat That Frog so I could learn more about time management. This was a very fortunate event, as Brian Tracy is an International Expert on many subjects including sales psychology, customer relationships, branding and public speaking. Undertaking this self-education has been invaluable to me as I love to learn and I love to apply what I learn.
One of the best things I have learned is how to reframe how a client or customer 'sees' you or 'associates' to you. It is as simple as changing your title from Sales to Consultant. That was a gem for me. I am passionate about the benefits of using reframing to help other people see you differently, as I am sure you can tell.
Last year, I was fortunate to have a professional Coach who taught me about coaching people through their fears, resistance and how to influence them to want to make changes rather than being pushed into a metaphorical corner. I learned how to encourage the people I was coaching how to feel safe with me, how to get them to open up to me and discuss topics that were affecting their personal and professional life.
I also learned how to ask open-ended questions and to listen closely to what was being said and more importantly, to listen to what was not being said. Sometimes what people do not say is the one thing they want to discuss.
I find this quite exciting.
Below are my 5 effective ways to Network like a Superstar:
- When you enter the Networking event, take a moment to observe the room. Watch people (not like a stalker please!). Watch them and get a feel for the dynamics of the people interacting in the room. Be confident and approachable as you find your networking feet.
- Go up to someone who looks friendly and introduce yourself, shake hands as touch will create a positive rapport between two people. People will do business with you because you are a nice person. Being a nice and genuine person will help you connect.
- Ask them open ended questions about who they are, what they do, what else do they do in life. Ask them why they are so interested/passionate about their topic? And ask them to tell you more. Give them time to answer. Sometimes people need a moment to collect their thoughts, so don't jump in to answer your own question. Use the Stand and Listen technique. Stand and wait for the answer, then pay attention. Let them get specific and listen for interesting information that you can use to repeat back to them to help them to continue to talk to you. Sometimes a conversation needs a little extra encouragement to keep it going. After a little while the conversation will deepen as they realise that you are also a nice person and truly interested in who they are and what they are about.
- Give them good eye contact (but please, don't stare them down - awkward much!). Glance away from time to time but don't start staring off into space either as this says that you find them dead boring and want to leave for a better conversationalist. If you want other to listen to your elevator pitch, you need to give them time to give you theirs. I'm just saying...
- Also, if you decide that you want to network with them outside of the event, make sure that you are giving them good body language!
- Write down interesting facts they have shared with you on the back of their business cards. That way you will become even more interesting and memorable to them when they realise that you have remembered something special about them from the event.
People are flattered when you take the time to remember something special about them. They are more inclined to open up to you, to confide in you and trust you. Trust is what we want to foster and the chances of a positive business relationship increase.
The more you actively listen, the more they will think you are a Superstar conversationalist and networker. I
Networking is about sharing information AND receiving it. You must be a good receiver as well as a giver. If you are out of balance, you won't have many networking connections. So take a moment to reflect on your style and how it has been working for or against you.
Networking is all about practicing good public relations. The benefits are enormously valuable to your reputation, so make sure you SHINE in a humble way.