A big part of growing your solo business and finding the expert support you need to succeed comes from networking with other knowledgeable business people. However, networking isn’t just about attending events and spruiking yourself. Presentation and persuasion expert, Michelle Bowden, explains seven helpful tips to get better at networking, no matter where it happens.
Whether you realise it or not, we network all the time (often without realising it) with friends, family and colleagues or associates.
You’re networking at the dog park when you ask that cute Labradoodle’s owner what they do for a living; when you walk out of the gym chatting to someone who just exercised in the same spin class as you; or when you meet a friend of coffee and their neighbour drops in and joins you. You just never know where that next important connection is going to happen in life.
In these situations, our natural personality takes over and we are either interested to meeting people, or we are too busy and preoccupied to care.
My research into persuasion has found that we should all be more mindful when we are out and about and possibly meeting (networking) with others, if we want to strengthen our relationships and become a more successful person.
How do you get good at networking?
There are many subtleties to effective networking. Let’s look at seven actions that are essential for effective networking that you can finesse today:
Step 1: Plan
Do your research! If attending a networking event, acquire the list of delegates and find out who is going to be at the event. Work out who will be the best person to meet so that you maximise your return on attending. What do they need in their businesses? Are you the right person to help them?
The more time you put into planning before the event, the more value you will gain from attending.
Step 2: Believe in yourself
You need to believe to your core that you have what this person needs. If you don’t have what this person needs, give a shorter answer, and either let them talk about themself instead, or help them find someone else to talk to who is better suited to their needs.
Step 3: Pay attention
Give direct, connected eye contact when meeting people. Smile warmly. Find humour where you can. Listen carefully and if you don’t have what the person needs, be quick and responsive at recommending someone else of high quality who does.
Step 4: Don’t become a crazy card person!
My friend Kirsty Spraggon, speaker and TV host, introduced me to this concept. You know that person who runs around the networking event thrusting their business card at people who don’t want one? She calls them the crazy card person!
Instead, take your time, work the room, build meaningful relationships, and only swap details if it’s in everyone’s interest.
Step 5: Be careful not to sound rehearsed
The key to sounding natural is to rehearse your key messages about your life, your products and your services until you don’t sound rehearsed anymore! Practice repeatedly until you sound natural and authentic.
Step 6: Don’t brag
No one likes a braggart. It’s important to learn how to sell your personal credibility without boasting.
Step 7: Follow up
You don’t go to a networking event to stay static. You attend so you can meet people who can promote you and/or your product, or who could buy your product or service. So, remember this and use the event wisely.
Contact every single person you spoke to at the event and be sure to tell them how much you enjoyed meeting them, and urge them to go to the next stage (whatever that might be). For example, “Hi Sally, it was so great to meet you at the event. Here’s the article I mentioned.” Or “Hi James, I was wondering if you could share the details of your sister, the one you mentioned is the graphic artist. I may have some work for her.”
Networking is an essential ability if you want to be good at creating positive first impressions. Which of the seven actions mentioned here are you already doing and which ones do you need to focus on more?
Why not make a plan today to ensure you get the very best outcomes from your next networking event?
This is an edited extract from How to Persuade: The skills you need to get what you want (Wiley $29.95, 1 Aug 2022) by Michelle Bowden.
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