Networking techniques ‘how to’
Of late, in my sales presentation consulting and in my Memorable Spoken Messages (formerly ‘Effective Spoken Messages’) programmes, participants have been asking how to improve their networking skill in their work.
Here are 5 field-tested networking techniques you can use:
1. Be a ‘puppy with a happy tail’. Let me explain. (This technique comes from an old friend of mine, Mel Kaufman). Imagine you are in a room of people networking. A puppy with a happy tail (ie. a tail that is wagging quickly back and forth) approaches a person. The person gives the puppy a swift kick. Now, consider how the puppy would react. Would it sulk off depressed and exit the room? No. After it yelped a bit, it would just go to another person with its happy tail.
The point here is this. When you enter and interact at networking functions be like ‘the puppy with the happy tail. (That is, look welcoming and upbeat and expectant of a good time, through your voice, face and body.) When you encounter a clump of people who don’t invite you into their group – don’t get depressed – rather just go to another person(s) with your ‘happy tail.’
2. Come prepared with three to five questions, written down on a system card/a note page in your phone, that you might ask a person. Writing them down is good because in the moment of an interchange/encounter you might forget them. Here are sample questions you can use:
a. What do your customers like about you most?
b. In your view, what is the first job of a leader?
c. What behaviour or attitude have you used in your career that’s paid off for you and because it’s paid off, you continue to use it today?
Now these are my questions that I get great feedback from. It’s important that you ask your questions that can prompt thoughtful responses. One way to develop questions is to think about a challenge you have in your work and ask a person you meet (as appropriate) how they would handle it.
3. Know how to close an interaction. After a few minutes or so of an interaction, the conversation can come to a close or a dead spot. Take the lead at this point and say something like, “Well I’m sure you want to meet other people tonight and so do I . . . it’s been good talking with you . . . enjoy the rest of the evening.” Then leave the person and walk to another person/group.
4. ‘Work the room’. Time permitting, aim to have an interaction with as many people as you can. (That’s why knowing how to close an interaction is important).
5. Aim to establish one new relationship from the event. Establishing one new relationship is a worthy goal. (As compared with establishing several lukewarm ones). Follow-up with a person after the event with an email or hand-written card relating something they said to you at the event.
The “how to apply’ for this post: Test out the above techniques at your networking events and reflect on their effectiveness.