I’m a big believer that if you love your network, your network will love you. In today’s relentlessly competitive world, the ability to make new connections lies at the heart of business success. Now I know that for many people the mere mention of the word ‘networking’ can make them break out in a cold sweat. Perhaps you’d rather be strapped into the dentist’s chair than attend a networking event with a room full of strangers? Don’t worry you’re not alone – the great news is that there are practical steps you can take to boost your confidence, grow your network and build your personal brand.
5 ways to learn to love networking:
- Be Interested:
First things first, you need to be curious and focus your attention on the other person so you can understand what truly makes them tick. Follow Steve Covey’s advice in his seminal book ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People and “Seek first to understand, then to be understood”. A great way to do this is to ask ‘clever’ questions to understand the other person’s particular challenges or areas of interest. You then need to draw on your emotional intelligence to listen with empathy to their response. Remember to “read” beyond the words and take into account their body language and tone of voice – after all only 7% of their message will come from what they say.
- Be Interesting:
One of the main reasons people shy away from networking opportunities is because they worry about how to make small talk. You need to have something to say, so prepare and practice your elevator pitch ahead of time to help capture their attention and get your message across clearly and succinctly. Your aim is to differentiate yourself from others, claiming maximum airspace in a concise and compelling way.
- Be Generous:
Generally, there are three types of people – takers, matchers and givers. A taker will always position themselves at the centre of the agenda, a matcher will adopt a ‘you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’ approach and a giver will be prepared to go the extra mile on your behalf. In life what goes around, tends to come around so whenever possible try to invest your time with the other person – you don’t have to give something away for free but try to be appropriately giving and you will reap the rewards of improved relationships and greater business success.
- Make Authentic Connections:
People often mistakenly believe you have to ‘fake it until you make it’ or become a ‘people pleaser’ in order to make new people like them. Avoid this rookie mistake and have the confidence to communicate the ‘real’ you instead. By being authentic, you are more likely to appear credible and trustworthy and this will increase your chances of making a genuine connection with the other person – after all, in business people buy people. So, find the overlap that you both want. It could be a pertinent article that you think may be of interest to them, which gives either one of you reason to pick up the phone and call.
- Keep in touch:
Finally, it may sound obvious but remember to keep in touch. At the end of a networking event, it can be all too tempting to take the other person’s business card and leave it at that. So whenever possible make sure you follow up on your conversation and start the process of building a relationship. This could mean picking up the phone, connecting on LinkedIn or sending an email – however, don’t bombard them; your aim is to show them how you can help them, not to be an irritation!
I hope that by being interested and interesting, giving your time and making genuine connections, you will learn to love networking and reap the rewards of increased confidence and business success.