By Ken Williams and Ron Sukenick
Author’s of the recent Amazon best seller – 21 Days to Success through Networking –
“The Life and Times of Gnik Rowten”
In the midst of increasing world tension, political stalemates, and government inaction, people across the country (as well as around the world) are affected by the current state of the world. The sluggish economy has affected millions of incomes, and people are realizing that they need to make some changes to get the results they want.
Networking groups have seen a surge in participation in the past few years, and networking is no longer an activity that is associated only with people who are in middle of a job search. Nor are networking groups limited to entrepreneurs and sales people. People of all ages, career levels, and industries are recognizing the value of building, growing, and deepening their network.
So, the desire to get ahead hasn’t changed. But, how people achieve their goals–how people springboard their careers–has changed. The value of relationships is becoming more apparent, and it’s time to take notice. Fortunately, it’s not too late for anyone to build on his or her existing network, expand it, and strengthen it.
In fact, with some concerted effort and focus, some dedicated thought and attention, anyone can become a master networker in a matter of a few weeks.
1. Focus on what you give rather than what you get. For many people, networking is awkward and hit-or-miss. They go to an event or a chamber meeting looking for potential clients or customers. Their “elevator speech” is designed to sift out chaff, and they hope that a nugget of a potential sale is somewhere in the room. Constantly searching for someone who can benefit them, they become irritated with anyone who gets in their way.
What if you approached interactions with people the opposite way. Instead of hoping for something you can get from them, search for something you can give. Listen to their elevator speech. Examine your own network. Who do you know who can meet the needs of the people you meet? Make those connections.
As you spend time helping others, you will feel energized. Your mood will lighten. Not to mention that people will appreciate you for helping them. And when they appreciate you, it’s easier for them to help you in the future.
But keep in mind, you’re not looking for an even exchange. You’re looking to give without any expectation of receiving anything in return. Give because you want to. Eventually, you will receive.
2. Ask the right questions. Questions are powerful. Imagine getting ready to leave for the day, and your significant other asks, “You’re not wearing that today, are you?” Instantly, the pink plaid shorts and the pumpkin-orange sweater don’t seem like such a great idea.
When you interact with people, ask thoughtful questions that affirm their value in the relationship rather than questions that manipulate or seek information for personal gain.
“Do you know anyone who’s looking to buy life insurance?” is sure to be a conversation stopper. (And don’t be the guy that says, “If you think of anyone, here’s my card.”) Instead, consider questions that show you value having a connection with the individual. “Tell me how you got involved in your industry?” “What is something that energizes you?” “Tell me what someone not familiar with your industry should know about it.”
Questions will open people up to sharing insights with you–and you may learn the nugget that you were looking for.
3. Listen to their story–their whole story–first. You’ve heard it, right? The conventional wisdom that we have two ears and one mouth, and we should spend twice as much time listening as we do talking.
And it’s true. When you talk, you learn what you know. But, when you listen to others talk, you learn what they know. What they know may not surprise or interest you, but it might. And even more importantly, when you listen, you affirm the value of the other person in the relationship. You show that you are fascinated with the person. You’re interested in the individual—not just the possibility that she represents a possible sale.
Let the other person talk. Learn about them. Ask good questions, and a friendship will develop.
Dale Carnegie taught that the best way to make friends was to be interested in other people. “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” He also said, “Talk to someone about themselves, and they’ll listen for hours.”
Because traditional networking is awkward for many people, and because finding the “right” connection can be random, shift your focus in your networking efforts.
Rather than judge an interaction to be a success if you gain a “key contact” or you make a sale, consider it to be successful if you have an enjoyable interaction. If you feel joy, and if the other person feels joy, then you have had a great networking experience.
You’ll probably be remembered by the person you met, because you were interested in them. Stay in touch, and you will have added to your personal network of contacts.