Are you shy? I bet you are, because 93 percent of adults, when asked, will say that they're shy. It's not surprising, therefore, that most of us feel uncomfortable at networking events. "Oh my gosh," we say, "I'll have to talk to strangers." What did our mother tell us never to do? Talk to strangers. And this is the message that has been ingrained in us since we were small children. On top of that, we're not sure what to say. In fact, we'd rather not be there at all.
But although networking has inspired all sorts of analysis and dread, in the end, it's really just about building relationships and being genuine. You want to be able to network to sell a product, promote your company, find a job, find new clients, learn the latest from others, or gain more visibility in the business community. Networking opportunities exist everywhere-business meetings, professional associations, alumni groups, sports groups, community groups, weddings, parties, and any place people come together.
But don't forget about your internal network. Build relationships with everyone-no matter what their title. Don't forget the guy in the mailroom, the office assistant, or the custodian. If you're the last person to hear that you're about to have a new manager or that your company is being acquired, you don't have your own office grapevine.
The trick to maintaining a successful internal network is to keep in touch with individual network members: don't call someone only when you want something. Sure it's tough to keep those connections warm, because we're all busy. We get so involved in our jobs that we don't make time for networking. But remember Woody Allen's old adage: "Eighty percent of success in life is showing up." Showing up counts. The more often you show up, the more visible you become, and the more people will get to know you and recognize you.
Another way to make contacts is through networking groups, where it's possible-and encouraged-to network like crazy. Your goal should be to attend at least one event per week where you'll have an opportunity to meet potential clients. In fact, this is a non-negotiable part of my business development strategy. You can attend a breakfast, lunch, or evening event-or all three. I have four goals when attending an event: meet interesting people, learn something, get a new client, and have fun. If I achieve at least three of these goals-and I make a point to do so-I am thrilled!
Decide which groups you'd like to join and show up regularly. A good rule of thumb is to err on the side of joining fewer groups and attending most of the time rather than joining many groups and showing up once in awhile. You need to give people the opportunity to get to know you, like you, and trust you. And even more important is becoming active in a group. For example, when you volunteer, people learn how you work-they'll learn that you are dependable and contribute innovative ideas-and you'll begin to develop strong, trusting relationships.
Not sure which events to attend? Find out what meetings your clients attend and go there. Do some research on various professional associations. Check with your local Chamber of Commerce on the events they sponsor. Read your weekly business journal to find interesting opportunities. Attend an event to learn something new from an interesting speaker. The more you learn, the more valuable you are to your clients.
Here are some networking tips for group meetings:
• Decide which events to attend
• Put monthly attendance on your calendar
• Set a goal for each event
• Travel solo-if you came with someone, split up-so that you can both meet new people.
• Plan your personal introduction
• Prepare insightful questions
• Don't spend time talking to people you already know
• Look for friendly conversations
• Move graciously from group to group
• Look for a person standing alone
• Ask, "How can I help you?"
• Have a system for organizing your contacts-where you met them, what you agreed to send or do, when to follow-up
• Send a note
Tools for Effective Networking
• Wear your name badge on the right
• Read and use the person's name
• Have a "ton" of business cards-keep them everywhere-in your pocket, your wallet, your briefcase, and in your car.
• Use a firm handshake
A realistic goal at a networking event is to meet one or two really good people and find out about them. Don't be the person who is the life of the party and is running around handing out business cards to as many people as he can. When Mr. Life-of-the-Party asks for your card in return and wants you to refer him to your clients, why would you? You don't know anything about him. This person is not genuine, and you can spot him a mile away.
Above all, relax and have a good time. Your shyness won't matter anymore, because you'll truly be enjoying yourself.
Joanne Black is a professional sales speaker and America's leading authority on referral selling. She is the author of No More Cold Calling™: The Breakthrough System That Will Leave Your Competition in the Dust from Warner Business Books. For more information, visit www.NoMoreColdCalling.com. Phone: 415-461-8763
Today's News: I would describe my good chum from Texas, Paul McCord, as non-confrontational and affable - not someone to go out of his way to pick a fight, and certainly not someone to criticise unless he feels so strongly about something, that he cannot help himself. So you can imagine my surprise when I read his blog post yesterday. He absolutely pans a new book -
He says: "If you love old school manipulative selling techniques (you know the ones, those that have given salespeople a reputation on par with thieves, ambulance chasers, and snakes), you'll love The One Minute Closer: Time-Tested, No-Fail Strategies for Clinching Every Sale (Business Plus: 2008), by James W Pickens and Joseph L Matheny.
Seldom do I post a review of a book that I don't find to be at least somewhat helpful, but The One Minute Closer is so bad, so destructive to the selling profession, and such a waste of money, that I believe I would be doing a disservice not letting readers know why they should avoid wasting their money and their time on this dreadful piece of trash." You can catch the entire post here - I am off to buy the book and discover just how bad it is.
Today is probably the day - think "Choices" - more tomorrow
Tomorrow: "Major Account Management Is An Art, Not A Formula" - I'll explain why tomorrow.
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