by Mark Smallwood of Business Squad
Achieving success through networking effectively is really very simple and yet I have observed that it is one of those issues that can make otherwise confident men and women go weak at the knees!
Whether you are attending a ‘business breakfast’ or it’s an important ‘sales event’ for your business or you are trying to ‘develop contacts’ to progress your career, it can sometimes seem easier to hide behind your coffee cup than to work the room.
Yet we have all seen people who make it look easy… so what is their secret.
Well, first they never, ever use language like, “I really ought to do it more; I need to get better at it; I feel like I should or my boss says it’s important”.
If you hear yourself using that type of language, it is worth asking yourself how you used to respond when your parents said, “You ought to tidy your room/You need to finish your homework/You should wash the dishes”.
Chances are you demonstrated your independence by ignoring them or in other words, you have lots of practice at not acting positively when you hear this type of language.
So instead of thinking of reasons to avoid networking, you may find that it will pay you to start thinking about the tremendous positive difference being great at this skill will bring to you.
Second, be honest with yourself as to what it is you don’t like about networking in the first place.
For most people, it is usually a combination of the following:
- - It makes me feel uncomfortable
- - I don’t like pushy people so I don’t want to come across that way myself
- - I talk to lots of people but they are all trying to sell to me or,
- - It has never worked for me.
Whatever your reasons, there is a fundamental truth it may help you to acknowledge…
Unless you really want to do something; there is very little likelihood you will put in the effort to become great at it.
Third, if for you it is about feeling uncomfortable, it is definitely time to grow your comfort zone.
I have a friend who feels entirely happy crossing a crevice or sleeping on a mountain ledge right next to a vertical drop – both things that make what’s left of my hair stand on end!
By all of my measures he is brave and has nerves of steel and yet he finds walking into a room full of people, that it could be tremendously beneficial for him to know, deeply challenging.
When I asked him why he is great at climbing but less so at networking, he told me, “I know what I want to achieve when I am climbing a mountain. I have a clear goal and I break it down into manageable chunks. I then develop a plan that will ensure I succeed at each step of the way and then I practice… a lot… after all, if I get it wrong I can die.”
I pointed out that becoming a successful networker is somewhat less risky than becoming a great mountaineer!
He looked at me and uttered those magic words…”I’ve never thought about it like that before.”
Now, I am guessing here but I am willing to bet that the first bit of climbing he did wasn’t on Mount Everest.
I am sure that he started out small but as he continued to build his skill and his confidence, he gradually took on more and more challenging climbs.
So what can this approach teach us about being highly successful networkers and how can we use it to benefit ourselves.
- Be clear about ‘WHY’ you are going to an event and ‘WHAT’ you want out of it
- CREATE A POSITIVE PICTURE of yourself leaving, feeling great and having met some really interesting people
- DEVELOP A PLAN for arriving, enjoying talking to strangers and moving on from people with whom you do not ‘click’START small and work your way up as your confidence and ability grows
- CREATE lots of opportunities to PRACTICE.
I am sure that following these simple steps will help you get better.
A final thought, it pays to be selective about where you choose to network; after all, if you only cast your net into small ponds, you are not likely to catch any big fish.