Updated: Feb 9, 2021
Business is a simple concept until you let humans near it and you do not have to look past networking to see what I mean. Networking is a simple concept and has proven to be a source of valuable business for so many people over the millennia but more recently its fundamental concepts have being modified by misguided people who do not understand how it works. It is a large subject but the fundamentals remain the same. In this article I shall share 7 tips that can make the difference between success and failure.
Networking is not selling and that sentence is so important to remember I shall repeat it, TIP 1 - NETWORKING IS NOT SELLING. That is why for example the concept of speed networking is so flawed. If you are not familiar, it works in the following way. You get a couple of minutes to meet someone usually for the first time where they bombard you with how brilliant they are and all of the services their company offers. Typically I would hear things such as 'basically we supply tailored IT/ HR/ Technology (put your own words in) solutions to SME/Corporate etc sectors'. So immediately you say to yourself great, I must give you an order now (I don't think so). What really happens is you switch off and hear nothing they have to say. Because speed networking is so fast there is no opportunity to build rapport and so everybody switches off because they are so busy remembering their own pitch. The exercise is a complete waste of time. In fact when these events take place in a real face to face situation they are even worse because attendees are even more distracted by people they have identified coming down the line towards them so they completely ignore you.
This format originated from the speed dating concept and what happens when you see someone that takes your fancy coming down the line towards you, you are distracted and probably hear very little of what is being said by the person in front of you. It is not fair but it is human nature. I want to use the analogy of dating just once more to hammer home the point. You are in a club or pub (remember those days) and a person you have not met before comes over and introduces themselves. They then jump into their favourite topic, themselves and start telling you how brilliant they are. Their academic and sports achievements, their interest in hobbies or music and this continues, what is your reaction? Need I say more. TIP 2 - Networking is not about you.
Speed networking is just one of the many challenges traditional networking faces. And by the way traditional networking works very well online once you adapt the basic principals.
I have given two examples of what networking is not so lets talk about what it is. As mentioned in the last paragraph everyones favourite topic is themselves. It is a weakness we all have so now that we understand this why not encourage people to talk about themselves with open questions. TIP 3 - Be interested and present and listen to what people are saying to you. Networking is about building rapport and trust and you can only do that by engaging with people and the small talk is a very important part of the process. You can ask questions such as - how has Covid impacted your business. People will usually be open with you and respect the fact that you have asked. It is during conversations like this that you may hear them say something that is a real problem for them. Don't jump in with solutions but ask more open questions to fully understand the challenge they have. If it involves a product or service you have don't jump in with a sales pitch but suggest that you may have a solution and can discuss that at another meeting if they are interested. You may feel that you are missing the opportunity but in fact you are laying the ground for a more focussed conversation that has a better chance of succeeding. This works particularly well at face to face events because there is no doubt that you will be interrupted by someone in mid flow and the opportunity is now lost altogether. How do I know, because I made that mistake myself in the past. TIP 4 - Don't jump in with solutions.
In the virtual world the same applies and ask the person if they have the time to talk about this further. They may have another call scheduled and similar to the face to face events you do not want the flow to be interrupted. In both cases the goal is to get another meeting which will give you a much better opportunity to get the right result using a methodology that I will cover in another article. (if you cannot wait, schedule a call and I will tell you).
You may hear in the course of the conversation a challenge that you may not be able to resolve but know someone who could. Again don't jump in but suggest when the person has talked through the issue that you know someone who maybe able to help and would be happy to make the introduction. This allows the person to refuse without being impolite or to accept and either way you are making yourself of value. TIP 5 - Make yourself valuable to the people you meet.
The most common scenario you will find yourself in is where there are no potential business opportunities and that is re-enforced as the conversation progresses. However, everyone you meet is a potential connector and let me give you a true story to illustrate what I mean. There is a company I know that have a methodology of building sales and part of it is about involving everyone they know in their circle. For example in their office they put up posters of with the photo and name of a particular high positioned person in a company they they would like an introduction to. This is done in the hope that a staff member, supplier or someone visiting their office might know them and help make the connection. Just before the Covid lockdown they had identified someone of particular interest but after a month had not been successful. A new recruit to their admin on her first day was seen staring at the poster and the MD seeing her asked what she was doing. She said that she was wondering why her brother in laws face was on the poster. Tip 6 - Everyone is a potential connector.
Let me finish by saying that everyone you meet is a business opportunity but only if you approach it with the 360 degree attitude. Let me explain, you may meet someone who has a need for your product or service, you may meet someone who knows someone who has a need for your product or service, you may meet someone who has a product or service that is of value to you and finally you may meet someone who has a product or service that maybe of value to someone you know. Tip 7 - Opportunities are all around you.
Finally, I have only covered a couple of areas of this valuable business tool. If you or your team would like to know more why not have a chat without obligation.