4 Tips to help make networking more comfortable for you
By Marie Glinski
Do you remember the classic nursery rhyme “Where is Thumbkin?” If so, then you understand why you don’t want to be a Thumbkin, a Pointer or any of the other finger people in that family when it comes to networking. Why? Because 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 finally get the pleasantries out of the way, the fun is in building new relationships. To be honest, it might be a little intimidating the first couple times you introduce yourself to a stranger. But relax! Chances are they are there for the same reason as you: to build their network!
Be resilient, confident, and ready to take on the world. Don’t be shy and run away only to never meet again. There is an objective to meeting and being engaged with people in your community. It’s called relationships. They are essential in everything we do, not just in business, but personally as well. I believe one of the many secrets of being a successful and happy person is building and nurturing relationships. The Thumbkin family missed that piece of critical information.
What’s the point?
When I was in the world of sales and sales management, one of my favorite things to do was going on sales calls with my employees. I wanted to meet their very best and preferred customers. Doing so served as a reality check on all the good you can do for the real, down-to-earth people who took a chance on their dream and started a business. I loved hearing the stories of how their journey unfolded. Every once in a while, our sales team was a part of their story, and that was pretty cool.
During my 20 years in the corporate world, I often noticed that not everyone is as comfortable as I am making sales calls and meeting new people. Some of my employees were even horrified at the thought of joining civic organizations and lead groups. It took me a while to wrap my head around this because these employees (who knew they were in sales when I hired them) now trembled like deer in the headlights when I suggested going on sales calls with them.
To be honest, I still don’t entirely 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 okay getting out there and meeting new people. Not to mention, I CLEARLY explained the expectations during the interview process.
Reap what you sow
Regardless of what you sell or what service you offer, you must understand that you are in the people business. People 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 sale, email blasts and Facebook posts! Trust me, relationships that you develop and nurture will drive more sales and referrals your way than an email blast or nagging people on social media.
Go about it the right way
Below are four go-to networking tips that will help you become more comfortable and confident in approaching and meeting new people at your next networking event or social gathering.
- SAFETY NET QUESTIONS These are three or four questions you keep tucked in your back pocket that you can ask when the dreaded but inevitable awkward silence takes over the conversation. Be sure the questions are open ended or chances are your unwanted guest of awkward silence will show its face again.
- LIMIT ALCOHOL Not sure I need to spend much time on this one, but let’s be honest. Too much alcohol has never resulted in anyone becoming the most impressive person at an event. So, if you are going to indulge, go for it. Just be smart about how much you consume because someone is always watching. You don’t want to be “that person.”
- DITCH THE SALES PITCH You can’t build an excellent reputation in your field if you are trying to sell to people who may not need your product or service. That’s just annoying. Once, I was telling my friend about a house I would love to buy. Some guy I never met apparently overheard us and immediately jumped into our conversation, offering to sell me that house, give me his card and try to schedule a time to look at the home. I watched the dollar signs in his eyes fade out as I told him I have five realtor friends to choose from if I decide to move forward with the purchase.
- FOLLOW UP When you do meet someone that you connect with professionally, ask for a follow-up 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 home to watch Animal Planet or read a book.
Now you have a few of my many best-networking practices, which I have witnessed bring success to many people. They are elementary, but too often neglected when most needed.
Don’t be a Thumbkin and run away. Stay for the relationship!