The Art of Networking
1. the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions
2. the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business
Have you ever gone to a cocktail party and left early because you didn’t know anyone? Ever notice how three to four people will walk into an event/party and not talk to anyone else except the people they came with? Do you have a hard time keeping a conversation going when customers walk into your store?
At a furniture market where there are thousands of people and potential new clients, do you only walk away with a few contacts?
After the recent April High Point Market, I thought about this because I saw it happening everywhere I went. It seems many people are not good at networking or feel awkward talking to people they don’t know. Most of us were never taught how to talk and network with people we haven’t met yet.
We are great at talking to our circle of friends, yet when someone new comes in our realm, we tend to clam up or be judgmental and even critical of them. Most of us would like more real friends. All of us need more business leads. So why do we hesitate when we are around people we don’t know?
Let me share with you a technique I learned from Dale Carnegie training that helped me be a better networker and have the ability to talk to anyone in any situation.
Dale Carnegie wrote, “Become genuinely interested in other people. Be a good listener and encourage others to talk about themselves.” Yet most of us would rather talk about ourselves. We want to share all our knowledge about products, places and the latest thing we saw or posted on social media. Realize most people don’t care about you, they care about themselves.
To make it easy to connect with others, just reverse that thinking. Instead of talking about yourself ask them about themselves. The word ask is spelled A S K. It stands for Always Seek Knowledge. There is a reason God gave us two ears and one mouth. He wants us to use them in that proportion. Talk less. Listen more.
How do you get the other person talking about themselves with ease and without coming across as an interrogation officer? Ask questions about the other person. Get them talking about themselves.
Our minds remember and think about things in pictures and stories. Not words and facts. When I say the Rhinoceros, what do you think of? In your mind do you see the letters R H I N O C E R O S? Or do you see a big, beautiful gray animal with horns? Of course, you see the animal. So, let’s remember how to talk/network in pictures not words.
Here is a technique that is taught in the Dale Carnegie class on effective communications. It is very applicable to networking and meeting new people and customers. The process is called stacking. Putting one image on top of another like a stack of pancakes or chaise lounges at the beach or pool. Use this networking stack as a guide for you to remember how to keep the conversation going, get information and exit gracefully.
Let us build our networking stack. Imagine in your mind the following images or pictures. Stack them on top of the other. On the bottom of the stack is a:
- Welcome mat with your name is BIG, BOLD letters
- On the side of the mat is a coin slot
- A coin with a smiley face on both sides is falling through the slot
- It lands on a briefcase with a THUD
- The handle of the briefcase is a roll of admission tickets to a movie of a raffle
- You pick up the briefcase and throw it through a roadblock barrier
- You are standing behind the barrier
- In one hand, you hold a trophy
- In the other hand, you hold a HELP WANTED sign
- On top of your head is an exit sign
- Surrounding the exit sign is a chain-link fence
Got that image in your mind. Not what does all these mean and how does it relate to networking? Let’s now use the picture to ask questions.
Welcome mat with your name on it – Start with an introduction and a handshake. “Pleased to meet you, I’m Norman Hamilton. What’s your name?”
Coin with smiley face – Smile. Make a positive observation. “Isn’t this a big turnout tonight? Isn’t it a great day to go shopping? Isn’t market fantastic, what have you seen you like so far?”
Briefcase – Learn about their job or organization. “Do you work/live in the area? What organization do you represent? What is your role there?”
Admission Ticket – Find out why they came. “What brings out to this event/Store? Are you looking or buying? Do you have something in mind or can I answer any questions for you?”
Roadblock – Uncover the issues or changes they or their company or family is experiencing. “What are some of the challenges affecting you from making a decision? What changes are affecting your company? What are some of the challenges you face in your job?”
You with Trophy – Share your credibility statement, your role at the store or what you do. “My role here at the store is to help people find what they want within their budget. I am knowledgeable in all areas of the outdoor room, and it would be an honor to work with you. I am director of business development for Dale Carnegie Training, the leader in helping individuals and companies maximize their potential.”
You with Help Wanted Sign – Find out how you can be of assistance to them. “Is there anything I can do to help you today? How can I help you with your challenges? What can I do to help?”
Exit sign with chain-linked fence – End the initial meeting on a positive note. Simply say, “It was a pleasure to meet you (their name), take as long as you like looking, and I will check back with you with some ideas based on what you told me. It was great to meet you (their name) if you are on LinkedIn I will connect with you tomorrow. It was good to talk with you (their name), let's connect on LinkedIn and get together soon to share ideas.”
That’s it. You just networked, got information, met a new client and left a positive impression. Remember when networking or meeting new people, set a goal to spend 80% of your time listening and 20% of your time talking. Leave them wanting to talk with you more.
Effective communication starts with you understanding most people are more interested in themselves than you. Ask questions that get them talking about their wants and needs. Offer them suggestions, services or products that meet those desires. You will walk away leaving a positive impression and more importantly with the knowledge to know if you want/can and how to help them. Feel free to reach out to me with any questions or comments, or if you would like a Peak Performance Profile for yourself or your company, I will be glad to help. See you soon and remember to always strive to BGR8.