Networking for Wallflowers: How to Profit from Getting into the Crowd

The two most common complaints about networking are: 1) I never meet people I can do business with and 2) I am always so uncomfortable going to networking events. These two complaints are related and can be relieved with a three step approach to networking that helps even the most frustrated networking wallflowers.

The three steps are:

  • Know the right events to attend
  • Know exactly how to start and continue to conversation
  • Know exactly when and how to end a conversation
  • 1. Know the right events to attend. Business gatherings that typically provide networking opportunities are:

    • Chambers of commerce or other organizations' networking mixers; accelerated networking events; service organization meetings. There you will find people from many industries, and people at various levels of decision-making authority.
    • Industry specific organizations' activities, where all attendees are in the same industry; or provide services to that industry.
    • Annual conference/conventions/trade shows that attract providers and vendors.

    You'll know the right events to attend when you are clear about your networking goals. The number one goal should be to meet people to whom you can provide solutions. If your product or service is perfect for a narrow niche, then you should only invest in networking events that attract people from that niche. If your product or service can benefit people in a broad range of industries, you should identify your top three and attend events that attract people from those top three.

    2. Know exactly how to start and continue to conversation. Craft a script for your networking activities. The script will set you free: once you have committed to memory what to say, you will be free to concentrate on the other person. When it's your turn to speak, you'll automatically say the right things.

    Be the first to ask a question. Ask only this question: "John, I'm wondering, what's the biggest challenge you're facing in your business today?"

    • As John answers, give him cues that encourage him to keep talking. Cues include: nodding, smiling, and saying, "really, tell me more."
    • After two or three of John's answers, you'll know if you have anything that could help John meet his challenges. Don't say anything about that yet!
    • Option A - if you don't offer a service/product that can help John, you move to the next step, which is gracefully ending the conversation.
    • Option B - if you do offer a service/product that could help John, you can continue this conversation with a few more questions.

    3. Know exactly when and how to end a conversation. Ending the conversation depends on whether you have chosen Option A or Option B.

    Option A - there's no fit between John's needs and your services.

    • Say, "John, it's been great talking to you. I don't have anything to help you; however, as I go around and meet others, if I find someone who does, I'll send them to you." And then make eye contact, smile and shake hands and move to the next person.
    Option B - you do have a service/product that could help John. Your next question should be, "how important is it that you do something about this now?" Now is the key word here. If it's not important enough to fix now, go back to Option A, end the conversation and move to the next person.
    • If it is important to fix now, you have the opening you need to ask for just one thing: that John will take a phone call from you in the next two days.
    • Come to a specific agreement on when this phone call will take place.
    • Make eye contact, smile, shake hands, and move on.

    Repeat these three steps with other people in the room. Quality is more important than quantity. You want to build rapport with two or three people, then have meaningful exploratory phone calls with them immediately.

    Get away from the wall and get into the crowd and you'll find profit in every networking investment you make.

    Susan G. Trivers is a Business Communication Consultant and Coach. In one-on-one or small group settings, she draws out the untapped skills and expertise of executives, managers, business owners and licensed professionals so they maximize their results from the 80% of their days spent commmunicating with others. Results: more business, more problems solved and greater confidence.

    Susan is the author of 21st Century Presentation Magic! Become a Capitivating and Compelling Public Speaker which demystifies the 22 most common myths of public speaking, and shows business speakers how to find the kernel of magic within each myth. You will instantly improve your public speaking skills whether your audience is one, one dozen or one hundred.

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