Increase Your Networking MOJO
Networking is the key to success in business, says Keith Ferrazzi, business coach and author of Never Eat Alone, a book about the power of relationship building and networking. It helps you find jobs, recruit talent, win new customers and discover investors who’ll support your ideas.
Networking can be uncomfortable for many people. They sometimes view it as insincere at best, manipulative at worst. They avoid networking for a variety of reasons including lack of confidence, fear of rejection and a sense of unworthiness.
It is possible for shy people to master the skill of networking. In fact, I believe shy folks become the best networkers. They just have to realize, that successful networking is all about building, sincere relationships based on mutual generosity, not duplicity, and that they can’t achieve their career goals on their own.
If you’re struggling to meet new people, here’s some common-sense advice for increasing your networking skills.
The Wisdom of Dale Carnegie in Five Bullet Points
Dale Carnegie literally wrote the book on networking in 1936. How to Win Friends and Influence People demystified the process of making friends out of strangers and inspired legions of business coaches to carry on Carnegie’s message. Peter Handal, the chairman, CEO and president of Dale Carnegie & Associates, shares some of Carnegie’s rules for meeting new people.
- Smile: “This is such a simple, basic rule, yet people just don’t think about it,” says Handal. They’re so focused on needing to network at a conference that they don’t realize they’re walking around with a scowl on their face. Scowling, serious, expressions are forbidding, says Handal. People are more likely to warm up to someone who says good morning with a broad smile than they are to someone with a dour countenance.
- Ask a question: Joining a group engaged in conversation can be awkward. The best way to do so is to pose a question to the group after getting the gist of the conversation, says Handal. “You build your credibility by asking a question, and for a shy person, that’s a much easier way to engage than by barging in with an opinion,” he says.
- Listen: One of the most profound points Carnegie made in How to Win Friends was that people love to talk about themselves. If you can get people to discuss their experiences and opinions—and listen with sincere interest—you can have a great conversation with someone without having to say much at all.
- Business cards: Always have them handy, says Handal. “They’re an effective way for you to leave your name behind so that people remember who you are.”
- Say the person’s name: “People like to hear their own name,” says Handal, pointing to another one of Carnegie’s basic principles—that a person’s name is the sweetest sound to that person. So when you meet someone, use his name in conversation. Doing so makes the other person feel more comfortable, like you really know him and he knows you.
Many shy professionals think they have to act like an extrovert in networking situations. While you do have to make an effort to be more outgoing than normal, you shouldn’t be artificial.
“You don’t have to be the schmoozer,” says Never Eat Alone‘s Ferrazzi. The problem with the schmoozer’s approach to networking is that he doesn’t have the right intent: He’s not interested in helping other people—only himself, says Ferrazzi.
Ask for Introductions
Shy people attending events and conferences tend to find one person with whom they spend all their time for the duration of the event.
Although settling in with one person may be more comfortable than introducing himself to lots of new people, it defeats the purpose of networking.
Ask your new friend if they know anyone else and if the friend could make some introductions on his behalf. “That’s a nice soft way for people to meet others,”.
Sometimes people have trouble networking because they don’t think they have anything significant, such as a job or a contact, to give back to someone who helped them.
Although networking works best when you do have something to offer, what you offer doesn’t have to be a job. Sincere interest in the other person—even flattery—is a form of generosity and goes a long way when you’re networking.
“Be authentic, share your passions and help other people feel good about themselves or be successful—that’s all you have to do to network,” he says.
If you’re afraid you’ll freeze up or get tongue-tied in a social setting, prepare yourself in advance. Practice your ice-breaker questions (See How To Break The Ice posting on this Blog.
Always have your personal speech, verbal business card, ready. (See Your Verbal Business Card posting on this blog)
Your delivery has to be attention grabbing to overcome interruptions and compensate for a lack of privacy,” she says.
Sharing information—whether a website, article, report or phone number—with new contacts builds your credibility. So if you promised to e-mail a report to someone you met on the plane, make sure you do that.
“When you do what you’ve said you were going to do, it gives the other person the impression that you keep your word,” she says. If you don’t, you’re just another schmoozer.
Get Over Your Fear of Rejection
In the course of networking, you’ll encounter people who can’t or don’t want to help you . That’s life. Don’t take it personally and don’t dwell on it. It’s all part of the process.
When you overcome your fear of rejection, it’ll be easier to strike up conversations with strangers.
The person sitting next to you at a banquet or on an airplane may be feeling as uncomfortable as you are and will appreciate you breaking the ice. They just might be a fabulous contact for you or know the right person for you to talk to. You just won’t know until you try.