Network like a Rock Star!
… with these tips even the most socially awkward can develop new business connections like a used car salesman on amphetemines.
OK... so like NOW I run a networking group. But the whole reason I GOT better with the "glad-handing" thing was because I used to be one of the socially awkward wall-flower types that would hover by the door till it was time to go.
Being shy is a handicap that will haunt you all of your life and undermine your ability to succeed in your business or career.
It also limits your ability to have FUN and enjoy LIFE. The saddest thing I ever heard was my 92 year old Aunt, on her deathbed, saying the only thing she regretted was ... "I wish I had had more self confidence, because I could have done so much more with my life."
And YES, networking is important for EVERYONE!
... Are you KIDDING?!
In this economy networking can help you keep your job. Even if you are not in a "sales" position, networking for your company should be something you are doing!
What do you think it would mean to your organization/company if you could bring them leads to new clients or business? If there are lay-offs, (everything else being equal) being seen as a team player and a RAINMAKER means you WILL be the one they keep. I used to earn a 5% commission as a SECRETARY, on top of my salary, because I would "bird-dog" leads for the sales department at networking and social events and flip them to the sales manager for follow up. Just because you don’t SELL – doesn’t mean you can’t MARKET by being a "cheerleader" for the company that supports you.
There is a philosophy that successful people live by...
"You'll never get paid more for what you do,
until you do more than what you get paid for."
Networking is a way to create
more VALUE in your PRODUCT.
Your product is... YOU.
Another reason EVERYONE should network is… according to a Compass Poll… over 50% of JOBS are secured by networking and/or referral. I know that has been true in my life…. over half the jobs I’ve had, I got because I was “recruited” or referred into the position. When XYZ Company sees what a great job you are doing promoting ABC Company (even if you just work in the mailroom), they WANT you like a dog wants a bone.
What if the worst does happen? What if you are suddenly laid off from your job? If you have not developed any contacts outside your current employer... who will you get job referrals from? A strong network of professional contacts is like money in the bank.
Of course… if you ARE a business owner, or in sales, the reasons you need to get out there and network are pretty obvious. Networking leads to referrals, referrals lead to SALES and new clients.
Referrals are 100% better than advertising or “cold calls” because they come with an implied endorsement! Hate “cold calling?” – Start networking!
OK… but what if you are a "social or networking wussy?" Your palms get wet, your knees start shaking like an elm in a strong breeze, and your tongue turns into a giant cotton ball?
There is an EASY cure... get out there and do what scares you.
Yes, you heard me. Do it over and over and over again and, very soon, it will be firmly part of your "comfort zone." It works… that is how I went from “social wussy” to public speaker.
Here are some tips that will have you glad-handing
like a starlet on the red carpet...
1) Make a list of all the things that scare the cr@p out of you. Do at least 2-3 every week.
2) Make yourself this deal... I'm going to go and do "so and so" and, if I get really shaky, I will leave. Then, if you cut out early, don't beat yourself up. It gets easier and you will have a sense of accomplishment that you tried (I used to play a game where I’d stay 10 more minutes).
3) If you drink, have a cocktail to relax you, but not too many. I alternate a cocktail with a soda, iced tea or water, to insure I don't get bombed. Another trick… Before you go in, take 10 slow, deep breaths, with your eyes closed, and think of your favorite place.
4) Keep in mind that NOBODY cares about you. Really. 90% of the people in the room have their own issues and are wondering if they are too fat, too ugly, if they wore the right clothes, etc. They are NOT watching as you walk through the door and, frankly, won't notice if you leave early. In fact, chances are you don't even KNOW them, until you introduce yourself. After that, you probably have a new friend.
5) Get there early and ask the organizers if you can help with checking people in (fill out name tags for them – it will help you remember people). If you have a "job" to do you will feel more comfortable and, when everyone is all checked in, then you can go "schmooze" and you will have already spoken to many of them!
6) Overdress slightly. Wearing your best outfit will make you feel more confident. If you are a man... learn to use an iron. The difference between “business casual” and slovenly is wrinkles.
7) Great opening line... "I really don't know anyone here... do you?" Either they will, and will introduce you, or they won't, and you just broke the ice and can introduce yourself to them.
8) Ask them about themselves. You don't have to be witty and conversational if you can just ask questions. People love to talk about themselves and the more you know about them the more likely it is that you can refer someone to them at a future time. Make notes on the back of their business card so you remember them later. "Dog just died," "daughter plays soccer," etc. Keep in mind that ALL the folks there are just like YOU… nice people with their own strengths, weaknesses and insecuritites just looking for a friendly face. Just because someone LOOKS “perfect” and put together… doesn’t mean they are. Often, it’s just the opposite.
9) Don't give them a monologue about what you do. Keep it brief and, if you can throw in a witty, self deprecating one-liner, you'll look cool and sophisticated PLUS they are more likely to remember you later. The less you say about what you do, the more likely they will ask YOU questions. You are not here to "sell" them on your “thing.” You are just here to start a conversation and plant the seed of a relationship.
10) Try to give them a piece of valuable information. For instance, telling them about another networking event coming up is easy and works with everyone.
11) Be a "social conduit" ...when you meet two people that you think could be good referral sources for each other.. drag them over to each other and introduce them.
12) Carry the business cards of people you have met with you so you can pass their name along to someone as a referral (or have their contact info in your cell phone).
13) FOLLOW UP! Send everyone you met a nice email saying it was great to meet them. DON'T pitch your company (your “signature” is on your email, right?), but close out by saying you hope to see them again... and by the way... did you mention there was another networking event at... ? Maybe you'll see them there.
14) GREAT way to "hook up" again with business people you want to get to know better... just phone them, or email them, and say that ... "Some of my business associates and I are going to happy hour at... was hoping you might be free to join us." Invite 10-20 people you have met recently, you are sure to have a few show up (this is how Connections Groups got started). This is a great way to get to know people better without having to foot the bill for lunch. When folks are invited to meet up for happy hour, they are expecting to get their own tab. By the way… what IS the difference between “networking” and “happy hour?” – one is tax deductible!
Follow these simple tips and you’ll be a ”Networking Rock Star” in no time flat!
You CAN do it!
... and in THIS economy, you MUST do it.
Sue Copening is the founder of
Central Florida’s largest business networking and social organization