Recently we carried out an interview soon to be released in one of the later episodes of the Circuit Podcast on Networking. We all like to think that we network but are we networking in the correct way? Please find below some of the take aways from the interviewee - The 10 Disciplines of Networking Long Game Mentality What are your expectations of Networking? Are you assuming you’ll start Networking and business will then begin to just flow in? Possible but not probable. Growing a Network, especially one that is willing to refer to you, takes a lot of time. And it’s also not a “one size fits all” type of thing either. There will be some that you will “click” with immediately and before you know it, they have referred you someone. And vice versa. Someone will “click” with you and you’ll be sending them referrals. On the opposite side, it may take awhile for some people. And others, the “click” will never happen. It’s all okay. You just keep helping those you can, and those who can help you, will! Let me take a minute for introverts and extroverts. Any introverts reading this, recognize that it might take you a little extra time. THAT’S OKAY! Truth is, you can all be incredible Networkers! You are more apt to listen than talk. Listening will win it for you. Check out Devora Zack’s book “Networking for People who Hate Networking” (Get it here). She gives a great example of how talking only about 20% of the time has won her a great referrer. And now for you extroverts. Chances are it’s no problem for you to get out there, in front of people and start a conversation. But be careful you are not doing all the talking. (I’m an offender of this so I understand the struggle. We have a lot to say and can’t wait to do it!) Be curious of the other person and find out how you can best help them. You may be asking yourself “If this is a long game, when do I get my first referral?” Well, that’s a great question! Like I said at the beginning, you may start getting them immediately but that’s not probable. It could take weeks, months or years. Each relationship you will have will be different based on the person. Some will be able to refer more than others. That’s OK! Keep each relationship good. And even if you are not RECEIVING referrals, be sure and try to give them. Relationships Come First What is your priority when Networking? It should be the relationship you are about to begin. And it should be about THEM. The relationship may be the ONLY thing that comes from Networking. There may never be a referral given or a dollar exchanged. That’s why Networking must be looked at from a Long Game perspective. So you will focus on building a relationship with each person you Network with. Let me say what you should NOT be focusing on while Networking. Sales. This is not a sales opportunity. And often times, this is why many, especially introverts, do not like to Network. Coming into an event and stuffing a card into everyone’s hand, telling them they should do business with you and not spending even a few minutes to get to know those people will find your card in the trash or on the floor quickly. Then you have wasted a card, your time and their time. You weren’t Networking or even selling. They now have little to no interest in getting to know you. You were MAYBE marketing but only for a second because your card is now no longer in someone’s hand but thrown somewhere else. You were acting in a selfish manner so you could check the box that you Networked that week. If you are not seeing results in Networking, check your actions while do it. If any of what is written above applies to you, stop! Learn to ask questions and be interested in what they have to say and what is their business. They may then at least keep your card ;-) Now I’ve just sat and railed on sales. Clearly I am not against it. There is a time and place for sales and as entrepreneurs, we all need to. That is the engine that drives. If you are Networking properly, and building value in just what you say, you may be asked to sell. Someone may want exactly what you have, or know someone who does! Remember, you are not Networking so you can sell to your Network. You are Networking so those people get to know you and you get to know them. You are in it for the 10 people they will refer you to as opposed to getting one sale from that person. You want their Network...and they want yours. To illustrate the importance of relationships, here is a quick story about an American Founding Father: Ben Franklin was having a very hard time with a fellow member of the Pennsylvania legislature. Many of Franklin’s initiatives were constantly being challenged by his guy. To win his favor, Franklin knew he has to develop a...relationship with him. To do this, Franklin identified a common ground...reading. Franklin knew this man was an avid reader, as was he. He asked to borrow a very rare book from the man’s library. Flattered, the gentleman obliged. A week later, Franklin returned the book with a thank you note. From that time on, Franklin had a much easier time passing his initiatives AND he and the gentlemen became and remained good friends. Franklin asked for a favor of this man on common ground, instantly creating a relationship. This is known as The Franklin Effect. Authenticity Your authentic self is exactly who you should be. Albeit the best version of yourself and nothing less. Anything less is unacceptable. You owe it to yourself and to the people you will be meeting and your network. Being authentic means different things to different people. Some would call it the ability to show humility. While you’re Networking, you will meet people that have many different experiences than you. Become a student and be curious about those people. There is so much to learn from others while not having to go through those same experiences, good and bad. Others might call authenticity being vulnerable. Being vulnerable might mean to some they are willing to share honest thoughts, ideas and feelings with those they might not know too well. Some will find this very scary. And it’s understandable. However, it will catapult and fast-forward a relationship better than anything else. Or it won’t. And they’ll know that person was either accepting of them or not. Either way, they’ll be able to move on knowing they gave a relationship an honest chance to start and they’ve done as much as they can do. Peter Guber said, in a Harvard Business review interview, “authenticity is key“. That’s a guy who knows a thing or two about a thing or two. Smile Smiling is the quickest, easiest and least expensive way (BY FAR) to improve your appearance. Like it or not, we are judged by the way we look, especially when we walk into a room, especially a room full of people we don’t know. Is it fair? No. Does it happen? Yup. Sure does. We’ve all been guilty at one time or another of doing it. And not that one should base a lot of priority on being judged, I’m just offering that we improve ourselves to put our best self out there. An authentic smile is a couple things: It’s inviting. When people see you smiling, even if it’s not at them, they are more inclined to feel welcomed to join a conversation. And that’s what we are looking for while we are networking, agreed? It’s also encouraging. Have you ever walked up to someone new, even after being introduced, and the person doesn’t smile until after he/she meets you, or sometimes not at all? I cannot stand that! Don’t be that person. Be the person someone wants to get to know even before meeting. And finally, smiling is a no shit way to improve your mood. It is scientifically proven that even if you are in a bad mood and you force an authentic smile, your happiness goes up and your stress level goes down. Anyone ever stressed walking into a Networking event? Mini-Commercial You owe it to yourself to have a thoughtful, well-prepared mini-commercial. This is the introduction to who you are, what you do and why you do it. You can consider at the Cliffs note of an entire company description along with services, etc. There are three elements to consider when crafting your mini-commercial. First, it needs to be short. By short, I mean 15-20 seconds. Any shorter and you may not get your message across. Any longer, you may start to lose your audience's attention. You will need to spend some time on this to say as much as possible but with as few words as possible. Second, it needs to be informative, meaning a description of what you do, or what your company does, for your clients and customers. This will be an overarching statement and not specific. Do not get hung up on specifics in your mini commercial. If they give you a follow-up question you can address it then. But, as mentioned before, spend time (read “well-prepared”) on the wording of your commercial. Then practice, practice, practice. You’ll want it to be consistent but not robotic. I will give you an example of my mini-commercial below. Third, it will need to have in your power phrase. This means your “why” you do what you do. Not to beat you over the head with this but I cannot stress enough having it well-prepared. Do not “wing it”. Rarely does that work out. Also, saying your power statement or phrase over and over again reinforces it in your mind and can come in handy if you ever start to waiver in delivering your product or service! It will pay dividends as your business progresses. Here is my mini-commercial: My name is Craig McKim with Craig McKim Business Development & Coaching. It is my mission to bring so much networking knowledge and skills to small business owners and solopreneurs, that they can then go out to give and receive more referral business than they have ever dreamed of. Be Valuable Or at least offer to be useful! Do this one right! Many are afraid to offer to help for fear they will be taken up on it. Don’t be that person. Remember, you’re not the Godfather and chances are you’re not going to be asked to whack somebody. LOL Nor will you be asked for an organ or to help move a couch. I have had this very conversation with people and nothing makes me feel less like helping them than a statement like that. More times than not, the people you are networking with will simply ask you to “keep them in mind” or “would you mind telling your friends about me?” Both are easily deliverable. And remember, you’ll be asking the same thing. You, as a networker, can create a culture of usefulness, simply by OFFERING. Not every person you ask will take you up on it. Quite honestly, a vast majority will not. But they will have heard you say it and will leave you with a good thought. Sometimes in networking, that’s all we can ask. Because, remember, we are in it for the relationship first, and sometimes only. Follow Up I don’t want to spend a lot of time on this but I want to be sure it’s understood that this is IT! I cannot stress enough how important follow up is to networking. So many opportunities have been lost because of the lack of follow up. I’m sure you can think of a missed opportunity to connect with someone, as can I. I’m not saying this is sales follow up in the Brian Buffini 10 day touch, or anything like that (which clearly works great for sales. That is a different conversation all together). That is sales where you are trying to sell something to someone. This is different in that you are working on growing a relationship organically. You never know where a relationship will start and help more progress when you first meet. As it grows, you may stay in touch every other day, every other week, every few months, or once a year. You’ll do whatever works for both parties. And you’ll do this because it’s not the person you want, though you’ll need them, it’s their network. Do you want that person to tell 10 people about you and those 10 people to tell 10 people. Again you’re in it for the network not the individual. But remember, your network does not have to be constantly growing. Though it should be always getting stronger. So it’s not always about meeting more and more people to grow your network, it can be reinforcing the network you already have. Instead of going to networking events twice a week for a month, for two hours each, spend those same hours reconnecting with your present network. Which leads me to... Reconnect So you’ve lost touch? Big deal! There is nothing saying that you can’t call somebody up, or email them, or text them and say “Oh my goodness! I can’t believe it’s been six months since we’ve talked. Let’s get a coffee soon!” As working professionals, this happens all the time. You haven’t stayed in touch but neither have they. Think about that. I used to hold this belief that just because I hadn’t reached out to a friend, colleague or coworker that they wouldn’t want to hear from me (and sometimes I was right! LOL But a vast majority of the time, I was not). But, as the networker, more than likely it will fell on me, as it will on you, to stay in touch. There’s a good chance that even though it’s been three, six, 12 months, your credibility is probably still intact. And if it isn’t, just by identifying that you’ve lost touch can bring it back in an instant. And often times, in my experience, those who you are contacting may not have even noticed. Not that they didn’t noticed they hadn’t heard from you but hadn’t noticed how long it had been. Isn’t that always the question, “How long has it been?” And then you both laugh about it and talk about how life and work and kids got in the way. Spend some real time doing this. We will talk about this momentarily but while reconnecting remembered to be interested and not interesting. Ask them what they’ve been up to and be prepared to tell them what you’ve been up to. But also be prepared for them to do most of the talking. That’s what you want. And ask follow-up questions. The best part of reconnecting is this is not new networking! This is the easiest type of networking, you know them and they already know you! Be Interested, Then Interesting Let me start this off by saying how much I struggle with this. I have a lot to say and like to hear myself talk. So if we’ve met and I did a good job listening, just know that I was working incredibly hard at that moment. LOL I use a little self-deprecation here but the truth is, as humans, we all like to talk about what we know best, and for many of us, we talk about ourselves (that's what we think we know best). So, many of us trip up here. But if I can do it, you most definitely can. Now, I understand, when networking we want people to know about our business, and they will. But first thing is first, get to know them. Listen first, then respond. Don’t wait for them to stop talking so you can start. Isn’t the point of networking getting to know other people? What better way than to get them talking and asking follow-up questions (But don’t go the creepy route. If someone asks you a question about you or your business, don’t play coy or mysterious, just answer the question. If you’re trying to be clever, you’re not there to network. I only bring this up because I’ve run into it a time or two and it bugs the shit out of me). This is almost like a date. Think about when you want someone to like you. You ask them questions so you can find common ground. And some of you are so good at it, you got someone to say yes to second date! The idea is to get them talking about themselves so you can listen and learn about them. And when you learn about them you can know how to help them. Or, you can just ask “what’s the best way to help you?” Groundbreaking thoughts I have over here. I know ;-) If you are networking with someone who is doing it right, like you, your turn will come to tell them all about yourself and your business. Consistent, Positive Contact Being consistent can build credibility. The reason I was able to build a genuine and a legitimate level of credibility in my network was consistent, positive contact. I also consistently delivered in my service and on my promises. Not to say I don’t fall short here and there but my network will know me for all the times I did exactly what I said I would do! Consistency is key. And it has to be done. Can’t call this one in. And please hear me when I say this: consistent, not constant. They are very different. Based on each individual relationship you have with each person in your network, that’s how you’ll engage with them. One person might be every other day, another might be every other month. Do what works best for the both of you. Get yourself a CRM and make sure, after each contact you remind yourself to do it again. If you are consistently top of mind, you have a way better chance that you will get the call with that referral or with that request. It’s a great place to be! And there you have it! The 10 Disciplines of Networking! My hope for you is to put just a few of these into practice. And, like anything, the more you do it, the easier it becomes. And down the road, it will become second nature. You will start to find networking events less daunting. You’ll find conversations are easier to start and will have more flow. And you’ll find that the more you help your network, the more successful you will become. Stay active and engaged with them. Your network holds the key to everything you’ve ever wanted in your life. Treat it as such! Now get out there!

Posted by Shaun (BBA Team) at 2021-02-15 14:27:19 UTC