You are going to think I have lost my mind but I have a confession…networking is one of my favorite things to do. Many of you probably struggle with knowing that you HAVE to do it. It doesn’t come easy to most people and can even cause anxiety.
But it doesn’t have to be that way and I’m going to teach you what the secret is!
If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m an extrovert who has made it a life-long lesson to learn how people work. I study behaviors and conversations and am going to share with you what I have learned in my personal research. It is an absolute necessity to get in front of people and show them your product when you are building a business. At its core, networking is nothing more than the Golden Rule at work.
Just to give you a little understanding, when an extrovert walks into a room of people, we get excited. It fuels us to make conversation and it doesn’t always depend on who we are talking to. It’s our very nature to want to make a connection. This can still happen when you are the introvert in the safe-corner.
My first experience of networking was in preschool when I met a girl named Molly. She was my first friend outside of my normal sphere of influence at the babysitter’s. Sure I had those friends, but I had met her myself and we were taking swim lessons together. Simply because of this commonality, I had made a connection.
Networking is easier when you are at an event where you share the same interests whether it is your business, kids, jobs, or hobbies. Things we find the most interesting are fun to talk about so this won’t be hard to keep the conversation going.
Similar to kids going to a playground to become life-long friends simply because they were at the same park, crafters can go to markets or trade shows. As you get more comfortable, branch into other interests that may benefit your business. Maybe a marketing or social media event.
You can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar. Be nice – say hello, please, thank you or I’m sorry if needed. I had an angry customer call and was ready to give me an entire speech about what I had done wrong and before she could finish I told her how frustrating that must be and she had every right to be mad. She didn’t deflate completely but I could tell her speech was not as long as intended.
You may have to walk across the room to make someone feel included. If you can relate, say that. If you are like me, I find the funniest, sweetest people hiding behind the outgoing ones. I usually like to talk to them the most. Ask them a question, offer to get them a beverage or ask them to tell you about their business. This leads me to #3…
Listen – Don’t Just Hear People
The most important part of this secret lesson is to listen. Listen to people & hear what they say – don’t just talk to them about stuff, talk to people about themselves. Don’t talk about yourself unless they ask a question or it helps with the flow but don’t stay too long on you. When you are networking, it’s not about you. That’s what your friends are for, share your deep with them not when you are networking.
I recently had a conversation with a young lady that didn’t ask me a single question about myself the entire time. I do know, however, what kind of business she has, what she is planning to do with it and how it could work with my business in the future. Now, when I contact her I can reference some of the things she shared with me. This not only helps her remember the conversation but she will know that I was listening.
Don’t be creepy but people can tell by your eye contact if you are distracted and if you are truly listening or not. There are few things more rude than trying to talk to someone while they are looking around the room, checking their phone or glancing at their smart watch. After the conversation, you should be able to recite their name and what you discussed. When you have made that connection, you can be just as excited or empathize with what the other person is talking about. Realizing you are not alone can be very powerful.
Remember! Seriously…it’s a thing
I am now going to share with you the biggest secret and also the hardest part of being an extrovert. Others may deny this but…we don’t always remember the conversation. Introverts, this can be your superpower for sure! Extroverts are constantly meeting new people and having different conversations. Most of the one’s I know are notorious for asking questions but not listening to the answers.
Trust me, just the other day I asked a co-worker about her children and their ages, occupations and then realized afterward that I had already been told most of the information. This is an annoying trait that I am aware of myself. Hopefully I can help others be aware if they have the same issue. Some may not even know they do it until now. If you need to write things down once you leave a conversation, it helps keep the connection next time.
Being on the computer does not take away the need to network. It restricts you in some ways and frees you in others. There are so many communities and social media platforms to be involved with. The concept is the same, you will just have to tweak the process.
Ultimately it comes down to wanting to feel connected, heard and seen. We want to know that what we are here for matters…whatever that is. If people feel like you did that during the conversation, you will be remembered for the connection. Funny thing is, they will actually start networking FOR you! When I worked for a chiropractor years ago, I knew a woman with a side gig of online creative design. (Learned that by chatting with her while she waited. Networking presents itself everywhere!) Once I decided to become a Virtual Assistant I reached out to her. She didn’t know anyone at the time but eventually she was at a Social Media breakfast where she met a man who would become one of my best clients.
Networking should be looked at as an opportunity to build in your niche rather than to get clients. If that comes as a result, that is a happy coincidence. Every connection you make could be an open door of opportunity. It can also be just making new friends at the park! Have fun with it either way.