Networking these days is all about who you know and who knows you. The strength of your business is in direct proportion to the strength of your network. Because of social media, networking is no longer primarily geographical. We have the ability to meet people anywhere in the world.
I know visions of that “guy” or “girl”from the local chamber group pops in your head. You know, the shameless self-promoting and TMI (too much information) type. We are going to look at networking from a different angle. Let’s throw away the traditional definition of networking and redefine it by using these seven secrets.
#1. It is Not About You
A lot of the stigma around networking comes from a belief that meeting people is about “me.” We have all been in that uncomfortable situation where we’ve met someone who talks about themselves the entire time. Whether online or offline, this person sees networking as an opportunity to ask “What is in it for me?” Great networkers ask “How can I help the people I meet?” This is a 180 degree shift in mindset. It is a “giving” mentality instead of a “taking” mentality.
Try this: Each time you meet someone in a LinkedIn Group, on Twitter, or at a local function, ask yourself “How can I help___?
People can tell if you are listening or just waiting to talk. Listen to what they have to say. Ask questions. Develop a genuine interest in the other people you meet. People who are best at building relationships are the best listeners.
Let the person know you are listening by waiting for them to finish speaking, responding appropriately, and minimizing distractions. These are all indicators that you are engaged in what the other person is saying.
Try this: Stop multi-tasking when listening. Close other browser windows when online or put your phone away if it is face to face.
#3. The Power of a Name
“If you want to win friends, make it a point to remember them. If you remember my name, you pay me a subtle compliment; you indicate that I have made an impression on you. Remember my name and you add to my feeling of importance.” ~ Dale Carnegie
Your name is one of the most important things you own. When you try out a new pen, my guess is, the first thing you do is write your name. If you are putting the focus on the other person and listening, then remembering a person’s name will be easier. Get good at using a person’s name in responses, replies, and face to face conversations. It will go a long way towards winning people.
Try this: Repeat the person’s name several times after being introduced (yes, online too!). Nice to meet you ___. What do you do for fun ___?
#4. Be Yourself
You are free to be yourself. In fact, being real is a characteristic of great networking. Don’t worry about trying to be something you are not. You don’t have to kiss babies and shake hands with everyone like a guy running for mayor. You are free to not accept friend requests or follow people back. When you act naturally, you are more approachable and it is easier to make conversation. This applies online as well. Find groups and conversations where you can be yourself.
Try this: Cast off what you think a “professional” would act like or say and don’t worry about impressing others. Be polite and focus on what makes you a good human being.
One goal of every communication is to connect. Find the common ground that you share with others. It is easy today to find people who share common interests. Online, you can use Twitter Search, LinkedIn Groups, or find Facebook fan pages of brands you like to discover others who share some of your interests. Offline, there are community groups, conferences, and professional organizations to participate in. Then join the conversation.
Try this: When you meet someone, instead of asking them what they do, ask them questions that will more likely open doors to connect. Are you local or did you move here? What do you do for fun? These are better connection questions. You will be amazed at how small the world is and how many people you connect with.
#6. Long Term Thinking
One of the biggest shifts in mindset needs to be long-term thinking. I’ve found the self-promoters and pushy networking types try to run-on about their widget and life story. They often over-share because they think they have to convert a contact right then.
The long-term thinking mindset looks to have a good conversation that establishes rapport. This gives you something to build on. Contacts should appreciate over time. You never know how valuable people can be down the road to your cause.
Try this: Don’t view networking as an event or task. Make it a part of your daily life.
#7. Have Fun
Don’t take this thing to seriously. Have fun meeting new friends. It is ok to talk about things other than business. I even recommend it. Spend most of your time on everything but, and you will have more fun and it will be more productive.
Try this: Smile when you meet people. Smile when you write emails, posts, and updates. You will be surprised how it affects the tone of your conversation.
Above all, effective networking is a process. Practice these seven secrets and you will get more enjoyment and benefit from meeting and interacting with new people. And remember, by helping other people get what they want, you will get what you want.