November 1, 2011 Leave a comment
I’m tired of going to networking events and having people vomit out their elevator speech, or pass out business cards like a black jack dealer. What a waste of time! Do you want to create authentic, lasting relationships that yield genuine results?
1. Listen more than you talk. You already know this, but are you doing this effectively? The secret is to ask open-ended questions (questions that can’t be answered with a “yes” or “no”), reflect on the answers and make follow up comments or questions to clarify your understanding. Listen for “pain points” and then,
2. Find a way to offer help. Become known as a “go-to” person. Be the one that has the resources and knows the people who can help. Follow up on conversations with emails that offer information related to your conversation.
3. Don’t give someone your business card unless they ask. When it comes to business cards, it is better to receive than give. If you give someone your card, you have given them all the power. You want to get their card. Ask if it is OK for you to follow up, connect on LinkedIn, etc.
4. Don’t use an elevator speech. Prepared 30 or 60 second commercials may be fine for formal networking events where they are expected, but they fall flat in one-on-one conversation. Nobody wants to be pitched the moment they meet someone. Wait until someone asks “What do you do?” or shows some interest and then have a “bumper-sticker” version of your elevator speech, of about 12 words or fewer that leaves the listener wanting more. Perhaps have more than one “bumper-sticker” to apply to different types of people. Let’s say you sell jewelry. If you are talking to a busy-budget minded mom, you might say, “I sell affordable, classic jewelry that can be both casual and dressy.” If you are talking to a corporate executive (a guy who might need some gift ideas for wife or daughter), you might say, “I sell unique, investment-quality jewelry that says ‘I’m worth it.’”
5. Use storytelling. Everybody loves a good story, as long as it is relevant to the conversation. Stories connect with people on an emotional level and have the added bonus of being memorable. If you want people to remember you and remember your message (or product/service), tell a story. For example, again using jewelry, you could tell a story about a custom piece that you made for a customer. Why did they want it? How do they enjoy it?
6. Use self-disclosure. Now, I’m not talking about getting uncomfortably personal. But all too often I see networking newbies follow the advice of “ask questions” and take it to the extreme. They ask so many questions, that the other person never discovers anything about them. A one-sided relationship isn’t a relationship. Go ahead and ask questions, but reflect on the answers and provide some personal input. Let the other person know that you have faced similar challenges or had similar failings and you will build a common bond. People like other people who seem like themselves. You can also use a tiny bit of self-disclosure when you ask questions. See #7
7. Break the Ice by warming up your questions. Make an observational comment about something you both experience. Follow that with a transitional comment that reveals a tidbit of information about yourself and then ask an open-ended question.
Example: A networking event
1. Observation comment: “I notice you have an iPhone.”
2. Personal tidbit: “I’ve been using a Blackberry for years, but I’m considering an iPhone.”
3. Question: “What do you like about the iPhone?”
What are some ways that have worked for you to make authentic connections when networking?