Christopher Barrat's 7 Steps to Joyful Networking
If you can make yourself into an effective networker then you will enhance your chances of success in whatever you do. The good news is that not only can you learn this skill, but many of the common fears and worries about networking are very easy to overcome – just follow these key steps.
Be more Bourne
Have a plan. It doesn’t have to be much – in fact, less is more when it comes to networking. Just take a few moments to map out who is in your network, and most importantly who is not that you would like to be. Then, simply be more Bourne – start to plan how you are going to hunt them down, and think laterally. It is great to impact people directly, and it can be even more effective if you can impact them indirectly – who is it that they trust? Who has influence over your target? If you can ‘influence their influencers’ then your success rate jumps enormously, just think if you met a financial adviser at a party and they said they were brilliant, would you believe them? But if your best friend (who is pretty money-savvy) told you this same person was great you would believe it for sure.
Jump in – it will be fine
When you get to events don’t stand around the edges sipping your drink and looking at your phone pretending you have important friends – that is not networking. It is like getting in a cold swimming pool – standing on the edge will not make it any better, just jump in. I like to target groups of three if I can – and look out for groups of three with a gap in the way they are standing. That is your target spot and go right up and simply ask ‘may I join you?' Then...
"Many of the common fears and worries about networking are very easy to overcome."
Why Am I Talking? That is what WAIT stands for. Networking is all about giving and building relationships – NEVER SELL. The idea is to find out about the others – be fascinated by them, and stick to the famous motto: ‘be interested before being interesting'. Often people fear they don’t know what to say – but if you focus on them and keep asking relevant questions you will learn a lot and they are bound to like you.
Clean your mind
Whatever you are thinking, you are inadvertently communicating – there’s a worrying thought. So, always think positively of the person you are talking to, even if they gave you a ‘wet fish’ of a handshake. Remember it is not just them you are networking with, it is everyone they know as well.
Be present with a present
Keep all your attention on those you are with, the more you do, the more they will like you. Not only that, with a good plan of questioning, you might well be able to deliver the most important part of networking – a gift, a helping hand for them because if you help them, they will help you. Great questions can be things like – ‘who would be a good contact for you?’ if I was looking to put you in touch with a great opportunity for you or your business what sorts of things should I be looking for?
"Following up is important, but if you pester people with demands or stupid email newsletters, it can destroy all the good work you've put in."
Have an escape plan
We all get stuck sometimes with a group or individuals at an event where, even with the cleanest of minds, the conversation has kind of reached the end. If you are with a group excuse yourself as soon as you can (remember your thoughts are leaking out, so you need to end the conversation) – I think in today's environment it is fine to say ‘lovely meeting you – I want to take the chance to network today so if I may I'm going to move on’. If you are stuck with a single, then invite them to the ‘watering hole’ – i.e. the bar or the coffee point for another drink. There are always other lonely singles at the watering hole and you can gather them into a small group of three or four and then easily make your exit.
Persist don’t pester
Following up is important, but if you pester people with demands or stupid email newsletters etc it can destroy all the good work you may have put in when you met them. The rule is keep trying to help them, and simply ‘make yourself available’ to them – don’t sell and don’t impose your agenda on them. If they know you and like you then when the time is right they will contact you. Building on this last point, I believe great networkers understand the universal four point process of:
The true purpose of networking is to build the first two points, get them to know you and to like you, and the rest will follow for sure.
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