By MaryEllen Tribby
It’s a self-marketing tactic I’ve really come to hate…
I’m talking about “networking.” Sure, I’ve been hearing all about networking for years. I’ve even used the word myself!
But when you get down to it, networking is cold, sterile… and it seems self-serving: one person trying to form a web of contacts whose sole purpose is to do something for him.
That’s not how I want to do business.
Lately, I’ve been rethinking what “networking” means. For instance, when I meet people at a so-called “networking” event, what is my end-game?
You know what? My ultimate goal is not to network with them… It’s not to find out what they can do for me… It’s not to add them to my address book until I need something from them…
It’s to connect with them!
When I meet people, I want to really understand why they do what they do, to really “get” their true purpose. I want to find out if their purpose and mission is synergistic with Working Moms Only… and, if it is, how we can work together or for one another to best serve our prospective communities. I think of it as “what can we do for each other and each other’s communities?” instead of “what can you do for me?”
When I focus on these goals, deals follow. And when a deal is made between two people (notice I did not say two businesses) who have connected – as opposed to “networked” – money usually follows.
Making a connection does require a bit more “work” than simply shoving your business card at a potential client. But the extra money you can make and the new opportunities you can open up to your communities are well worth the extra effort.
Yet, all too often, people are scared to put themselves out there. Unfortunately, insecurity and discomfort can be perceived as arrogance or even disinterest. Sometimes, fear and uncertainty come across as a “what’s in it for me” attitude. That can offend the very people you’re trying to connect with… And before you know it, a potential million-dollar deal could fly out the window.
Don’t let this happen to you!
Conquering the World of Connecting
Recently I spoke at an event. I had just met Lisa Nicholas of The Secret and we were enjoying a lovely conversation over lunch. Suddenly a woman I had met a few months prior at another event sat down at the table and interrupted our conversation.
She said – and I quote – “MaryEllen, you are certainly a hard woman get a hold of. I emailed you last week and I have not heard back from you.”
There was no “Hi, how are you?” Nice to see you again.” Or even “How are your children?” It was just the typical “WIIFM” approach.
My first thought was – do you really think this kind of behavior is conducive to me wanting to do business with you? But what I said was, “Yes, Sue, I received the email on Thursday. I left for LA (this event) on Monday. I was planning on returning your email later in the week.”
This is a wonderful example of why many people do not end up with business from networking events. They have not mastered event etiquette. Nor have they discovered the best way to make lasting connections.
The biggest mistake I see people making is assuming that their highest priority is the highest priority of the person they are trying to do business with.
By adopting this attitude, the only thing they will leave the event with is a lot of useless business cards!
To make real, lasting connections that lead to potential deals, you should put yourself out there with a mission centric philosophy. When you live your company’s mission, people will flock to you.
My Top 7 Secrets to Creating Money-Making Connections
1. Cultivate your connection the way you would any relationship: You need to project an image of warmth, approachability, understanding, knowledge, and empathy. Be genuine. You should take an interest in everyone you meet, remember their names, and listen carefully to them. Try to understand their needs and determine how you could assist each other. Building trust is a vital component of relationship building. Be relaxed and stay interested.
2. Understand that “small talk” is the road to “big time”: Being able to talk to anyone about anything is a valuable skill in its own right, but it’s absolutely essential for making connections. Being able to initiate a conversation makes it more likely that you will meet people who may turn out to be invaluable contacts. Small talk can be difficult at times, so keep a few key phrases up your sleeve such as “Where are you from?” “How did you get started?” and “Do you have children?” to start a conversation off on the right foot.
3. Develop active listening skills: Connecting is not about selling yourself, your products or services, or your business. It is about listening to the other person and showing them that you are truly interested in them. Allow others to open up and talk freely. Give them your undivided attention even if it is only for a few moments. Take an interest in what’s said and acknowledge this by nodding or agreeing. Use positive body language such as facing the person you are speaking to. And be sure to make eye contact! This means you are not reading a text message or looking over the other person’s shoulder to see who else is around.
4. Be a giver: When you focus on helping others, the “getting” will follow. (And it will often come in unexpected ways!) Remember that no one likes a person with a “taker” mentality. When you are generous, people will notice and respect you. And people generally prefer to do business with people that they respect, trust, and like. Do simple things like acting as a host at every event you attend. One way to do this is by connecting others. This can be as simple as introducing two people to each other or as elaborate as giving a testimonial about a person and their services to the entire group. These acts allow you to focus on others while building equity among your peers.
5. Don’t be Debbie Downer: Put on a happy face at the door and smile. This is your time to shine. People will look forward to seeing you and meeting you if you are energetic, positive, and outgoing. Again, people enjoy doing business with people they like, so be a person that others will like. If you’re nervous before an event, or if you have stresses at work or at home, take a few seconds before you walk into an event to remind yourself of everything you are grateful for. Let your blessings fill you with happiness and confidence and carry those good feelings with you as you meet people. Be sure not to inconvenience others with your problems – they have enough of their own! Instead, strive to make people forget their troubles while in your presence.
6. Don’t sell: Remember what I said earlier about listening rather than trying to sell yourself or your business? Connecting is not about trying to push your agenda. It’s about building relationships with people. Once you’ve made a connection, those people will likely be happy to tell others about who you are and what you do. Word of mouth and social proof are a thousand times more valuable than you talking about how great you are. At every opportunity, teach others about what you do and who you are as a person. Provide valuable, useful information. Always emphasize your mission and purpose. Doing these things is much more powerful than giving a new contact your elevator speech or sales pitch.
7. Follow up with originality: Many people think that the same old email follow-up is okay. Well, it’s not. After the event, send a hand-written thank you card… a poem you wrote about the person you connected with… or a balloon bouquet. Mention something from your discussion in whatever communication you make. If you have truly made a connection, your follow-up will be easy and effortless.
By having a game plan, connecting with others can become second nature. People will see you as you are, not as a self-interested business focused on making sales.
Become the kind of person that others want to work with, and events can help explode your business.