Could You Improve Your Networking Skills?
In this time of difficult market conditions more than ever businesses are turning to networking as a source of business development. Armed with business cards, company information and some well-scripted patter, individuals set off to networking events, conferences and all manner of gatherings with high hopes and ready to ply their wares, only to become disillusioned when reality doesn’t turn out to be the immediate upturn in sales they had expected.
Before planning your next foray consider a different approach.
1. What you can do for others?
Start by mentally preparing yourself to look hard for ways of helping the people you meet – to many this may sound wrong-headed, “surely my primary objective is to find new business, not help other people?” Think again: In order that others might help you, help them first – understand what issues they are currently struggling with, listen carefully and by using your own experience and knowledge or by providing contacts, help them to achieve their objectives. In this way, you will start to build a relationship, which in the fullness of time, you will be able to draw upon, but at this stage it’s not what you can do for me, it’s what I can do for you.
2. Be Genuine
By networking you are embarking on relationships, not one-off interactions. Be yourself – people will know if you portray yourself as someone other than who you really are, not only is this difficult to maintain, it will cause others to shy away from you. Be open and honest. Don’t be afraid to show yourself as vulnerable – this can actually help to build sustainable relationships, having some level of dependence builds trust, which is essential for any productive relationship.
Being genuine includes being genuinely interested in others and actively looking for ways to help them.
3. Be distinctive
You want to be remembered, so communicate clearly and as an individual. Your message/offering should be simple to understand, specific and memorable – consider what makes you different and the pressures or needs your offering can ease. Think not “I sell world-class software”, but rather think about what are the problems you are solving for your prospective clients and put this into language, which paints a picture of how much better life could be for them. Listen first and tailor your message to the recipient.
Don’t start networking when you need it to start working for you, start before you need it. Networking is not a quick fix to a short-term gap in sales, it is a long term habit, which should become daily habit. As per point 1, you must first pay forward and plant seeds that will come up in time, but don’t expect instant results.
5. Network everywhere
Networking should not be confined to specific networking events; make it part of your normal everyday life – on the train, waiting for your next appointment, at the school gates – wherever you find yourself. By being genuinely interested in other people and engaging with them at every opportunity you will become increasingly relaxed in your interactions and your network will naturally expand, providing a whole problem-solving web.
By adopting this mindset not only are you likely to find networking more effective, you will also find it considerably less stressful.