What is it about networking? Who really enjoys it…and who would rather stick pins in their eyes than go to a networking event?
Networking has become a line on the to do list of every small business owner, and a significant expense on the P&L…a ‘must do’, a chore, with very real pressure to deliver a return on investment.
The joy of meeting new people and getting to know about them and their business, has been all but sucked out of us by the (IMHO) over-regimented BNIs, and the over-fed 4 Networkers. We go every week, some every day, to meet mostly the same people…but what do we really get out of it…what do we expect to?
The best networkers I know have never joined a formal networking group, they don’t seem to try very hard, and yet they have an impressively large circle of contacts – not just names on a business card, but real contacts who they could call on if they needed to.
In the quest to uncover their secret I’ve modeled what they do, and found that they have a 7 step ‘system’ for success:
1. They have an answer to my favourite business question, ‘What am I trying to achieve…and why?’
2. They are strategic. Based on the answer to the question above they carefully choose events to attend, and accept invites to events, dinners, lunches from new contacts, widening their circle further. Then before each event or meeting, they ask the question again.
3. They are authentic. They don’t try too hard. They are just themselves, both comfortable and confident in a social setting, and even when they might not feel either, they always act as if they are! They relax and enjoy themselves, and as a result others relax around them.
4. They build rapport, understanding that to be interesting you have to be interested. They remember people’s names, mirror their body language, match their breathing, their tone of voice, and ask questions that tell them about the person as well as their business. They also recognise when they have no rapport and extricate themselves politely from the conversation.
5. They have clarity. They know their stuff and are very clear and natural in the delivery of their message. It’s not rehearsed or delivered from a memorised script…it’s just a conversation.
6. They are enthusiastic…not in a gushy puppy dog way…but no-one is left in any doubt that they love their work, their business, their purpose in life.
7. They have good follow-up. They have a process for remembering the people who go with the business cards. They make notes about them…the personal as well as the business. And they get in touch with them very soon after…an e mail to those who do not appear to offer an immediate opportunity, and a call to those with whom they might do business…cementing the relationship. This is the step that makes all the difference.
Why not try this system out…it’s proven, it works for others, it’s more fun, and it might just work for you? I hope so.
Networking does not have to be hard work, but if you want to grow your business, you need to grow your network with purpose.
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