by Ken Ingram
Have you ever noticed that some people can walk into any room full of people and within the blink of an eye they are engaged in easy conversation with everyone they meet? It can almost feel like their own private event, or they are the special invited guest. At first glance, you think that it is because they are experts at socializing, but, it maybe just that they have likely pinpointed a few familiar faces in the room and gravitated like a magnet towards them. The reason they gravitate towards their familiar comfort zones is to avoid the awkwardness of speaking to someone they do not know (yet). If they act that way, they may have forgotten the reason they decided to attend the event in the first place. What is interesting about this behaviour is that most of us fall into this trap because, let’s face it, none of us learned in school what has essentially become one of the most important life skills for building our business.
People who walk into a room and begin to quickly connect with people make it look natural and easy, but they might not be as brilliant as you think. When they tend to gravitate towards the people, they already know, then they are missing out on the possibility to build their business opportunities network. The good news is that if you are not comfortable in a networking situation you can learn. My goal with this article is to change your perspective so that you will never look at networking the same way again. Try thinking of it as a process of constant gardening, let me explain.
Building a Network is about the opportunity to increase your visibility and promote your business to a captive audience. It is a great way to meet your weekly business development objectives. Think of networking as socializing with your peers, because they are like-minded and have the same business focus, and same goal – to get business.
Let’s look at the concept of constantly gardening for growth. First, you must prepare the soil to create the right conditions for the growth to take place. I equate this to attending the right types of networking opportunities where at the event you can find enough of the right people who may have an interest in what you do and vice versa. Granted, you never know where your next sale or opportunity will come from, but remember, if you stay in the office do not get out to network you may not grow as fast. So, select your outings wisely. Then there is the seed and I call this planting the right ideas in the mind that will stimulate interest and curiosity in your product or service. Nicolas, a colleague of mine, once told me that we are all part of the idea delivery system and that the sharing of ideas is key to building interest in you and your business.
If the first rule in sales is that people buy products and services from people they like, trust, and respect then you will need to create the conditions for them to believe in you. One of the great things about networking is the opportunity to connect with up to 50 potential clients within a two-hour time frame, so this should give you enough time to practice the ideas in this article.
You have prepared your soil, planted the seeds and now you need to follow-up, with some tender loving care. It is now time to do the follow-ups needed to set up a meeting that will enable the relationship growth process. Note whenever developing a relationship always remember that it should be inter-dependent and by that, I mean you must look for ways to assist the other person as well. Keep in mind that they were also attending the same networking event for the same reason as you. Give them a chance to explain their business and maybe introduce them to other people.
As with any process, some weeding will need to take place because some of the people you meet, will not be a good match for you and your business. While constant contact and follow-up are important I would encourage you to exercise good judgement. Remember as well if you are out of sight you are also out of mind. If you fail to nurture your network, it will dry up quickly. Be mindful as well that some weeds will grow, and you will need to work to ensure you are developing the right mix of clients. The 80/20 rule applies in that 80% of your revenues could be generated by 20% of your clients whom you met through networking or through the contacts that you met networking. This 20% group people you met through networking could result in 80% of your reliable long-lasting business that you can count on.
Just like seeds that are planted too close to the surface, they will not develop into a strong healthy plant if rushed into life. Relationships are similar in that because growth develops over a few months or even a few years, so learn to be patient, but very active.
One of the best ways to learn how to network is to get out there and do it. After all, what is the worst that could happen? “Networking” is a word that has been known to send shivers down the spine of most people. If done with the same passion you have for your business, you might just find that it can be one of the easiest ways to connect with enough of the right people.
As you move forward consider asking yourself the following questions
1. What do you like about networking?
2. What are the benefits of networking?
3. What are the tools you need to effectively network?
In the end just remember that every business and social event represents an opportunity to meet people, connect and expand your business reach. Perhaps you are one of those upcoming budding brilliant networkers, but if you’re not, take heart. You can learn! Good networkers are the ones most likely to get ahead within their company, industry and community. These are the people who get ahead, not because they are necessarily doing the best work but because they are builders and the most visible network constructors to success. Do you have the audacity to be the master of your destiny?