Networking is a key skill in business, especially in Durban. It is not what you know but whom you know. A few years ago, I was at a networking event chatting to a very nervous person who was literally looking at the door plotting the quickest escape route, I have a radar for picking up these people and because I am also a natural encourager I have this huge need to go make them feel better. It then dawned on me that not everyone enjoyed networking like me and it came as such a surprise. I also realised that I have a unique gift to connect with people, from a waiter serving at the event to the Mr. and Mrs. Hotshot. I have a knack for making them feel comfortable so I naturally draw people and get them to chat, which gives me loads of information, which I have a knack for translating into profitable connections for myself and others.
In some circles, I am known as Mrs. Connect, not only because I owned a Magazine called by that name but also because people know me as the “go to gal”. My husband always jokes that going on date night is like going out with Oprah, we stop and chat to tons of people as we go through our evening.
In today’s business climate, because of social media, we are constantly being bombarded with thousands of choices and often the thing that tips the scales when making our choice of whom to engage with, is the “I know the guy, He is a good guy”. It is very much “not what you know but whom you know”.
Actually, if I had a Dollar for every introduction I have made I would be sitting pretty right now, and if I got a cut in all the deals that I was instrumental in connecting Richard Branson and I would probably be neighbours. I am often accused by my friends, that I spend too much time promoting others and never promote myself. I am the one, who stands halfway up the ladder and pulls people up and over me. It is just the way I am wired and I never get upset or offended when people don’t acknowledge the connection, because I get a huge thrill out of making the connection. What it has given me is the reputation that I am the lady to connect with to get connected.
The problem with doing something that is naturally part of your strength makeup is that it is hard to pin point what it is that you actually do so that you can help others do it. But because I believe it is a vital tool to have in your business tool belt I have taken note of what I do differently to others and why it works.
Here are 4 keys to a great networking experience, I have many more, but these are a good start.
Now just a note, all of these keys are very effective for making great connections and placing you in the position to be a rocking net-worker, but if you are insincere and only doing them so that you can get the business, you are missing the whole point. I am not saying don’t aim to make business connections but be genuine in your approach. People can sniff a hunter a mile away.
Key #1 It’s not about you!
80% of your conversation should be about them. People love to talk about themselves; your job is to find out as much as possible about that person. Who they know, what they do, what they love. I even ask them what their dreams are (I am a coach after all). You should be asking as many questions as possible. It is not important that you remember every detail, I have a memory like a sieve but when the right time comes and I am chatting to someone else and they have a need for what that person has….. Bingo!
Key #2 Look, Listen, Connect!
The key to a great connection is being super observant, watch the crowd. I am an avid people watcher and can quickly get a sense of a room, I can quickly see who the “popular kids” are as well as who the people in the room are that will make lasting connections. Don’t rush into it, hang back and look around, take in the room, try get a sense of the people around the room and hot tip, don’t make a beeline for the popular kids. When you make your connections, and don’t wait for others to introduce you, listen. You mission is to find out as much as possible about that person and remember it is not to serve you later, but to serve them. As you do that reward will naturally come your way.
Key #3 Don’t Judge!
I made the comment that I can ‘suss’ out a room pretty quickly, but I never make any judgements until I have actually made the connection with the person. Some of my most profitable connections have come from, at face value, the most unlikely people. Give every person a chance. Most of us are naturally drawn to people like us, (I like the me I see in you), that is why most of us find people who look just like us. What is the fun in that? Sometimes certain people repel us too. I often make a point of connection with someone when I have that reaction to them and am often surprised and rewarded by having the most incredible conversations.
Key #4 Don’t Sell!
There are two types of networkers. The hunters and the farmers. The hunters are the ones who arrive and scan the room looking for their prey, they want to make a sale, they want your business and they don’t beat around the bush. You have hardly introduced yourself and they are shoving their sales pitch down your throat and if they sense you are not interested they quickly lose interest and move on. They are normally the ones who only come once or twice to a group and then say that network group doesn’t work.
Making true connections takes time, I don’t give out referrals willy nilly. I care enough about the person I am referring business to; to make sure I am not setting them up for a bad experience.
Farmers on the other hand have a little more patience, they are willing to till the soil, these are people who join the membership of a network and become contributors (not just financially). They take the time to build the relationships and know that as they build the relationships the business is a natural progression of that relationship. The harvest if you will.
So in conclusion, get out there! Change the way you do networking if he is not working for you, use the 4 keys and you will get to make the most incredible connections, some of them will translate into business immediately, some of them in a while, some of them will never equate to business but you would have made an incredible connection to another human being and you can only be richer for it.
How do you network? Share your favourite tip for networking in the comments.