Do you remember that classic nursery rhyme, Where is Thumbkin? If you do, well then you understand why you don’t want to be a Thumbkin or a Pointer or any of the other little finger people in that family when it comes to networking. Why do you ask? They all ran away immediately after building up enough courage to do the entire meet and greet dance. I mean really! They literally ran away after they introduced themselves. Who does that? The challenging part in networking is just getting out there and introducing yourself. Once you do finally get the pleasantries out of the way, the fun in building new relationships begins, if you are willing to put the time in to grow and nurture it.
I will be honest, it might be a little intimidating the first couple times you introduce yourself to a complete stranger, but relax, chances are they are there for the same reason. They are building their network just like you! And you are a Phat Maverick- resilient and confident, ready to take on the world. So don’t get all shy and run away only to never meet again. There is an objective and purpose to meeting new people and to being engaged with people in your community. It’s called relationships. It’s important in everything we do, not just in business but personally as well- we need relationships. I believe one of many secrets to all successful and happy people is building and nurturing relationships. The Thumbkin family apparently missed that piece of critical information.
When I was in the world of sales and sales management one of my favorite things to do was to go on sales calls with my employees. I wanted to meet their very best and favorite customers. It was such a great reality check of all the good you can do for real down to earth people who took a chance on their dream and started a business. I loved hearing the countless stories of how their journey unfolded; or how their parents started the business and passed it onto them. Every once in awhile our sales team was a part of their story, and that was pretty cool.
After being out there in the world for nearly 20 years meeting and greeting new people as though it was second nature, I realized that not everyone was as comfortable as I was going out on sales calls and meeting new people. Some were even horrified to join civic organizations and lead groups. It took me awhile to wrap my head around this because these people knew they were in sales when I hired them and now they trembled like a deer in headlights when I suggested going on sales calls with them. Gotta be honest- still don’t totally get it. It’s not that I don’t understand the different personalities and the different comfort zones people have in interacting but if you apply for a sales job you need to be ok getting out there and meeting new people. Not to mention I CLEARLY explained the expectations during the interview process. Regardless of what you sell or what service you offer, you must understand that you are in THE PEOPLE BUSINESS. People will typically make decisions based on an emotional connection. If you can connect, build relationships and nurture those relationships chances are they will choose to do business with you.
The world has become quite a busy place, and somewhere somehow the notion of building relationships has been lost. It’s become all about the quick meet and the quick sell. Email blasts and Facebook posts! Trust me, the relationships you develop and nurture will drive more sales and more referrals than an email blast or nagging people on Social Media.
I want to share a few of my “go to” networking tips with you and hopefully, it will help you become more comfortable and confident in approaching and meeting new people at your next networking event or social gathering.
- TIP #1 SAFETY NET QUESTIONS These are 3 or 4 questions that you can ask when the infamous uncomfortable silence unwelcomely takes over the conversation. Be sure the questions are open ended or chances are your unwanted guest of silence will show his awkward face again.
- TIP #2 LIMIT ALCOHOL Not sure I need to spend a lot of time on this one but let’s be honest too much alcohol has never created the most impressive person at an event. So if you are going to indulge, go for it. Just be smart on how much you consume because someone is always watching. And, you don’t be “that person.”
- TIP #3 DITCH THE SALES PITCH You can not build a great reputation in your field if you are trying to sell to people that may or may not have a need for your product or service; it is so annoying. I was at a baseball game the other day, and I was telling my friend that I found a beautiful house I would love to buy. Of course, the house was about 90% out of my price range, but that was the fun of the want. But some guy I had never met before apparently over heard me and immediately jumped into our conversation and proceeded to tell me how he could sell me that house and here was his card and let’s go ahead and schedule a time to look at the house. I had to interrupt him and tell him I already had five other realtor friends I would have to choose from if I decided to move forward. When I looked into his eyes, I saw the dollar signs that consumed his thoughts fade away ever so slowly.
- TIP #4 FOLLOW UP When you do meet someone that you connect with professionally ask for a follow-up lunch or meeting where you can discuss how you can build a win-win partnership. If you are not willing to follow up, then you would be more productive skipping the event and staying at home to watch Animal Planet or a nice PBS special.