As the President of our local Chamber of Commerce, I meet new people all the time and learn so much about networking just from watching people who visit our group. Let me share an experience I recently had, which applies to networking both offline and online.
We had a new guest at one of our luncheons and just from listening and watching her; I would make a guess that she was new to networking…..!
I introduced myself to her and was instantly bombarded with information about her and her business, even before I had chance to ask what she did. She shoved her business card at me then proceeded to walk away, on to the next person, before I could say a word.
Needless to say, I was a little taken aback by her approach! I watched as she jumped from person to person, handing out her business card and just trying to get to every person in the room, without stopping to make any real connections.
This is a classic example of someone new to networking. But the story continues…
I saw her the very next day at another networking event. She was hanging around the entrance, practically jumping on everyone who passed by her. As I approached, I took a deep breath and extended my hand to shake hers and greet her with “Hi, great to see you again. Thanks for coming out tonight.”
What happened next astounded me….
She said, “Oh hello, have we met before?!”
I felt so shocked and was offended, I quickly had to stop staring at her, with my mouth open, and let her know that we had met the day before and reminded her who I was! I excused myself as, again, she began talking about herself and how she could help me, sounding like a pushy salesperson.
I suppose I shouldn’t be shocked really. Most people who are new to having their own business have not been trained in how to network correctly and how to make genuine connections. This is one of the most valuable skills you can learn and practice until you get it right!
Here is the advice I gave to a woman who recently asked me for help on how to network effectively. The same rules apply, whether online or offline:
- Be friendly and approachable when meeting new people
- Be authentic –always be yourself, don’t pretend to be someone you’re not
- Have a consistently positive attitude
- Focus on making real connections, not on making the sale. Don’t rush the relationship, just let it flow naturally.
- Be genuinely interested in other people and what they do – it’s not about you, it’s about them
- Ask the other person questions and find common ground
- Aim to make a few quality connections at any one time, it’s not about the numbers
- Provide value to them at every opportunity
- Continue the connection you have made by staying in touch – as they say, the fortune is in the follow up
The value of your network is in quality, not quantity. We can easily forget this when we hear about how we can get more followers on Twitter and friends on Facebook. Unless you follow the steps above to really develop a connection with the people you meet, online and offline, you will never achieve your business goals. You may well force people to run in the opposite direction whenever they see you coming or make them ignore any messages you send them online!