Questions About Networking

You have questions, we have answers! Well, at least I have answers.

Here are some questions I was recently asked by a group of small business owners. Certainly, you can relate to this if you’re a sales agent of any kind – financial advisor, realtor, network marketer, pharmaceutical rep, job searcher.

How do you network effectively without sounding overly promotional?
First, it’s important for small business owners (or sales agents and job searchers for that matter) to understand what networking is – a proactive approach to meeting people to learn and help them. (Not pitching or promoting your business.) Networking is always about the other person first. When you learn about those you meet, you can determine if there’s a connection and they’ll hopefully ask you about you. If they don’t ask or you feel awkward speaking about yourself, there may not be a good connection. Ultimately, networking is a WE thing not a ME thing — as in ‘how can we help one another?’ Taking this approach will never make you sound overly promotional, but will make you come across as collaborative – a good thing!

What should you do when you’re tempted to mention your business to everyone you meet?
Bite your tongue! Nobody cares about your business unless they like you and find you interesting. Instead, come up with great questions about those you meet. Remember, it’s all about them until they make it about you. Ask questions like – So what brings you to this event? What type of work do you do? Do you like what you do? What are some of the top priorities within your business? What are you looking to accomplish here? How do you currently market your business? Who is an ideal client for you? If you’re speaking to a true networker, they will ask the same questions of you – How about yourself? Often, you must be genuinely interested to become interesting. Interesting, huh?

Are there some things you should never talk about at a cocktail party (for example: HR issues, money problems, etc.,)?
Try to avoid complaining in general – the economy, financial issues, conflicts with other people, radical opinions about politics, gun control, compliance, personal relationships, the guacamole dip. Complainers attract more complainers. Instead, focus on one another’s businesses, goals and connections you can potentially make for one another. A great guideline to follow – focus on the relationship and the business (connections, referrals, etc.) will be there! And avoid the guacamole dip.

What are some things you should always say?
Always introduce yourself and lead with some of the questions mentioned above. You might open with something light and humorous. ‘Do you need to wear a blue suit to be a part of this group? My name is…’ OK, it’s not Second City stuff, but you get the idea. You should also be prepared with a “non-pitchy” non-scripted (but prepared) elevator pitch that focuses on your profession, expertise, marketplace, and call to action. If there is a good connection between you and one or all of the other blue suits, you’ll want to offer a next step for an opportunity to learn more about one another in an effort to refer business, do business, or whatever. Of course, it’s a completely different approach if you’re talking to an empty suit.

What are the best rules of engagement when you want to promote yourself and your business without sounding like a jerk?
It’s very easy to promote your business, request an introduction, or ask a favor if you’re willing to do the same thing for them. Again, you must lead with your left – ask questions about them, learn about them, engage, connect, focus on the relationship and the business will be there. Remember – WE thing. If your approach is genuine, you’re good but humble about what you do and always focus on collaboration, you won’t sound like a jerk – unless you want to!

Keep in mind that you won’t connect with everyone. Even I don’t connect with everyone if you can believe that! People have different agendas, perspectives, outlooks, perceptions, experiences, opinions, communication styles, personalities, likes, dislikes, priorities, levels of sensitivity, senses of humor, confidence and esteem levels, attention spans, backgrounds, interests, and moods. It helps if you know where you stand with all of this so you can be more open to learning about other people. As they say in the Hokey Pokey song – that’s what it’s all about!

If you have questions, comments, emotional outbursts, whatever, send them!

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