Networking is a fast, furious affair these days. Depending on where you are, there could be hundreds of people to meet and if you’re at a trade show, plenty of distractions in the form of artfully decorated stalls, coffee machines and live demos. All of this means that you need to be really effective when you network with someone new, holding their full attention and making a real connection with them. Here’s an arsenal of game-changing strategies you can use to be a fabulous networker:
Have you been networking solely within your industry? That’s going to limit your network and knowledge to people who are very similar to you. Never hesitate to talk with someone on the outside, for all people are of some value. One of my friends works as a technical head for a cell phone manufacturer. At an event, he met the HR manager of a company that makes air-conditioners. He had a long conversation with her, even though it seemed like the relation would be of no use. A few months later, she called him up because her company was considering smart ACs and they wanted to explore a collaboration.
A thirty-second pitch is ideal, if you can fit in all your key points. People have short attention spans, especially when talking to a new person – check out this article. If your pitch is deadly effective, then people will definitely lean in for the finer details.
The vast majority of networkers make the mistake of not following up at all. Those who do, end up doing so with spammy emails and pushy text messages that can be an instant turn-off, and destroy business relations that could’ve been great otherwise.
To build more meaningful relationships and strengthen the quality of your network, there is no better alternative than face-to-face meetings. F2F interaction allows you to grow, innovate, and leads to a lot more information being exchanged than over text messages or phone calls. It’s also easier to talk about sensitive topics in person rather than over the phone.
We all have a network already, don’t we? It’s perfectly okay to leverage an existing contact’s network. Ask any influential friends or colleagues to introduce you to someone in their network who might be of great value to you. Your mutual acquaintance acts as a reference point, which makes it easier to build a new relationship.
Bonus tip here: Weaker ties are more likely to help you move forward than stronger ties. This has been proven in several studies. According to a survey, a weak tie is almost 1.7 times likelier to help you out than a stronger one. This is because when you speak to close friends, you use informal and implicit language. When talking to acquaintances, the language used gets more explicit, and you have to state exactly what you need and why. Also, people you have weak ties with do not know you that well – they have no in-depth awareness of your pros and cons, so they’re more likely to offer references.
Not constantly, of course, but smile as often as you can. Who runs away from a happy and genuine smile? Believe it or not, a 2010 study at UC Berkeley actually discovered that baseball players who smiled in their pictures lived seven years longer than those who didn’t! A big smile also has several other benefits, such as releasing endorphins that lower stress, boosting the immune system and making you look more attractive to others.
Phones don’t make you look important or busy. If you keep glancing down at a screen while talking to someone, it makes you seem disrespectful and unwilling to listen. Be fully present in your real life conversations, the virtual world can wait. Did you know that 84% of people think it’s impolite to send a text or email during a meeting? Check out this article for more on how smartphones can ruin your productivity and time.
Your product and/or company may not be of interest to everyone you speak to. However, if they like you as a person, there’s a high chance they’ll recommend you to others in their network. So don’t appear to be a spammy salesperson, because no one likes those. Trying to sell? There are ways to do it without being pushy.
Human relationships are not just about extracting the information you need and moving on, are they? Be generous and helpful to the person you’re networking with, and you will surely get more from them. Introduce them to potential clients, someone who can help them, etc. Always expecting immediate returns isn’t a good idea – some people may get back to you after months!
These are the two most important things that contribute to building a great first impression. A firm handshake is a symbol of confidence. Looking people in the eye amplifies that confidence, and also helps the opposite person understand that your interest in him/her is genuine. What’s more, a good handshake even diminishes the impact of any negative impressions you might have made, as this study from MIT’s Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience discovered!
Listening is a key conversational skill that many people have difficulty in mastering. It’s more than just nodding your head while waiting for your turn to speak. You have to truly pay attention in order to build a deeper, more valuable relationship. Did you know that listening means more than just through verbal language? Studies have indicated that 93% of communication happens through facial expressions, gestures and body language, and just 7% happens with spoken words. So, be fully present and watch the other person when you have a conversation.
Making quality contacts just got a little simpler, didn’t it? Check out the rest of our blog for tons of fantastic networking and relationship-building advice!
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