Bring up “networking” with most businesspeople and entrepreneurs and they’re likely to think of a stuffy event in a hotel ballroom where people in name tags awkwardly talk about their jobs, while hoisting watered down cocktails and cheap beer.
Networking is just smarmy glad handing and collecting business cards. Right?
If that’s what you think networking is, keep reading.
Networking is the art of always connecting with new people with the intent of working and creating something great together.
Many of us have a flawed view of how you should network. And, who can blame you? No one taught you how to do it in school. That’s a problem. Having the wrong mindset and skills to be a great networker can do long-term damage to your business prospects and personal relationships.
Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about the best ways to connect and network, along with other entrepreneurs and salespeople I’ve met along the way. I want to share all of that with you today.
The Charismatic Network Knows How Their Strengths Can Make Others Successful
Before you get new business cards printed and start hustling, it’s crucial that you understand the one ‘make or break’ factor of great networkers. You can take away the charm, the smart suit, and the polished resumé…but if you still have this, you’re gonna be golden.
The superb connector knows that the soul of networking is that it starts and ends with knowing how you can make others lives and businesses better (and, taking the time to find out what ‘better’ means for them).
This isn’t just what your job description is or what your company does. This is about your contribution to others. People who are natural connectors and have large networks of successful, creative professionals know that networking is about what you can offer others.
Great networkers know the answer to this question (so should you!): “How Do My Talents Help Others Reach Their Goals?”.
No one cares what your job is. They care how you can help them become richer, happier, sexier, and smarter.
When answering this question, appeal to their most primal needs: more money, more sex, more food, more free time, etc.
So, if you’re a personal trainer and you work with young, busy professionals, you don’t help them get in shape – you help them look great naked in a short period of time.
How do you describe your job in a captivating way?
Take my day job, for example: I’m a Technical SEO Analyst, which is a fancy term for “I make sure search engines can understand your website”. My job is pretty specialized and 98% of people don’t immediately understand what I do.
If I give someone my detailed job description, they’re gonna space out and forget me real quick. As they should. Save for professional stunt driver and being Richard Branson, most jobs sound boring on the surface.
Instead, I’ll say something like “I help optimize your website so you get better rankings, more traffic, and make more money online”. That gets their attention, for damn sure.
Certainly be ready to ‘”talk shop” and get into the gritty details of your work at the drop of a hat. People need to know that you’re competent at your job and can deliver the results that you promised.
A great networker knows that people need to be “wow’d” by your value before they buy. How do you intrigue them with more than your talents?
The Charismatic Networker Knows How To Captivate
There might be a thousand other people who do exactly what you do in your city alone. Hell, some of them can even do your job better than you. And, these people are out there vying for the same attention that you are.
So, how do you stand out? How do you become magnetic, memorable, and inspire trust in the people you network with?
There are two real secrets to captivating while you network: 1) Focus your attention on them and 2) Using storytelling to highlight your value.
Putting Them First (For a Good Reason!)
I don’t think I’m being radical in saying that we all love the sound of our own names and, when we have a chance, we love to talk about ourselves. Give your connections a chance to brag, rant, and divulge about their business. Your questions, conversations, and results should center around what their needs are.
When in doubt, just remember the conversational wisdom of Ernest Hemingway:
“When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.”
Ask them about their business and their life – and be genuine about it. Hang on to their words.
Ask them the same questions you’re dying for someone to ask you.
Why do they love doing what they do? Discover what their business goals are. What values are behind the work that they do? What keeps them up at night? What are their goals and what’s keeping them from achieving them?
These conversations help you understand what you can do for them. If you ask curious questions and listen well, they’ll tell you exactly what they need from some they want to work with.
To get really deep and detailed with this type of conversation, check out “The Secrets of Question Based Selling” by Thomas Freese. He outlines some very powerful tools you can use to amp up your questioning abilities. This book is a powerhouse.
And, that’s where you come in…
He Who Has The Best Story Wins
When it comes to showing why you’re a valuable person to work with, one of the most effective ways to do this is through storytelling.
Storytelling is the art of conveying information in an engaging way that is emotionally relevant to your audience.
In networking, storytelling is a tremendous way to connect the work you do with the deeper needs of the people you’re working with. The nature of a good story is complex, nuanced, and doesn’t just rely on dull facts for its powers.
Chances are, the people you’re connecting with already understand the basics of your job. They don’t need more facts about what you do – they need to be moved by what you do!
Annette Simmons, an accomplished storytelling coach and the author of “The Story Factor: Inspiration, Influence, and Persuasion Through the Art of Storytelling”, made this point incredibly well:
“Giving people facts as a method of influence is a waste of time. When you give a story first and then add facts, you stand a better chance of influencing others”.
If you’ve asked good questions and listened to them well, you know what they truly value and need in their business. This helps you focus the nuances of your storytelling and stand out.
To tell a great business story, you’ll need three elements to make your story sing:
- The Backstory: This is the backbone of the story, the facts that support the deeper meaning. This should draw upon your own history of being able to solve similar problems. Having a solid backstory shows that you actually have the chops needed to get results. Highlight what you’ve done for people in the past, without going into the tedious details.
- The Ultimate Need: Your story must illustrate how you can help them fulfill an underlying need. This may be something practical like “We need to increase employee retention” or touch upon something more personal such as “I want to create a culture for my employees that shows how much I value creative freedom.” Ultimately, you need to answer the question, “What can you do for me?”.
- Emotional Intrigue: Use your body as an instrument to help convey the story you’re trying to tell. Make sure your facial expressions, the cadence of your voice, and your gestures match the tone of the discussion. An inspiring message desires warm body language and an enthusiastic delivery. A more serious story demands deliberate, thoughtful gesturing and a more raw, evocative delivery.
Up to this point, you’ve spent time understanding the needs of the people you’re connecting with and showing them how you’re well-suited to help them succeed. From here, it’s crucial that you nurture this relationship and move things forward.
The Charismatic Networker Knows How To Build Relationships
This is the reason for all of the work you’ve put into this up until now. The point of networking isn’t just to meet and connect with new people; the real purpose for networking is to build on-going relationships that bring you both value.
There’s obviously a lot of nuances to building business relationships that could be discussed at length. For the sake of practicality and getting results, I’ve identified three behaviors of great networkers that will lead to stronger relationships:
- Don’t Keep Score: Yes, business can be cut-throat at times but it’s not a zero-sum game. Keeping score of what you’ve given to them versus what they’ve done for you is a great way to inspire jealousy and envy in yourself and others. Make your focus more on getting what both of you want, not just being self-centered.
- Stay In Touch: When there’s distractions coming from every angle, how do you maintain a memorable relationship with the people you’ve connected with? Keep in touch: send friendly emails, have lunch, drink copious amounts of whiskey and go fishing together. And, don’t make it one-dimensional and all about business – that can get exhausting and feel transactional. Build an actual relationship. Some people might call this “being their friend”.
- Share Like Crazy: This is a biggie – probably the most impactful networking ‘tactic’ out there. It was something I, more or less, did naturally from an early age but Tim Sanders, in his tremendous book “Love is the Killer App”, put it into words so lucidly (paraphrased): Share your knowledge, Share your network, and Share your compassion. Give others what you know, who you know, and your warm, genuine attitude.
The last bulletpoint is a point of contention for a lot of people I’ve met. They fail to see the big picture of networking and creating relationships if they aren’t going to see a direct, immediate benefit. It’s an unfortunate by-product of the smarmy, glad-handing school of networking that we’re all familiar with.
If you’re not able to do business together, connect them with someone in your network who can help them. Everyone wins. Your connections get to do business together and you end up looking like a rockstar.
No, you may not have made any money off of it but the favor almost always comes back to you.
Robert Cialdini, the author of the perennial book on persuasion, “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion”, highlights ‘reciprocity’ as one of the key factors of wielding influence and sway. Humans aim to repay debts and do favors for those who have helped them in the past. By extending your connections to others in a genuine way, they’re more likely to give you a leg up in the future.
This may come in the form of them returning the favor by connecting you with their contacts who need what to work with someone like you. And, as we all now, personal referrals are some of the best types of marketing.
The Way Of The Charismatic Networker
One of the best ways to ensure a successful business and professional career is by having a strong network. They are great sources of new customers, clients, knowledge, and – just as important – real friendship.
Your network will look to you as a source of expertise and the ability to get results. In return, they’ll share their business and network with you. It’s a beautiful thing and the fuel that makes shit happen in the world.
Unfortunately, many of us have a view of networking as being back-slapping nepotism that looks more like how politicians and car salesmen do business. This makes us inauthentic, scummy, and not the kind of person people like doing business with.
There is another way, though.
Almost all successful people got that way from calling on their network of relationships to help them achieve their business and personal goals. These networkers all share three key traits: the ability to create value for others, the ability to captivate with their words and presence, and the ability to nurture these relationships for the long haul.
By continually practicing these traits, you will see your network expand dramatically, along with your personal effectiveness and their desire to help you along the way.