By AnnMichelle G, Hart, Esq.
April 19, 2021
One of the things I think business people find the most challenging in their career is networking. Some find it so challenging that they avoid it like the plague. I know it’s not always pleasant, but you really need to do it.
I’m an introvert by nature, so networking is really not in my wheelhouse! Networking is a necessity if you are looking for more business. Here’s why: Most business conducted in this country is done by people recommending someone they know to friend, colleague, or family member looking for a professional with expertise. Not by advertising, not by gimmicks or giveaways, not by TV… by REFERRALS! Networking is nothing more than building a contact base of people you know who are experts in their fields, and showing them you are an expert in yours. Now, doesn’t that sound better than ‘networking?’
I created some strategies to help me get better at networking. I’ll share a couple with you. Notice I didn’t say ‘tips’, I said ‘strategies.’ I think the word ‘tip’ implies that if you do this one thing, you’ll be a whiz at networking. I am not a whiz at networking, so I can’t offer ‘tips’ to you. What I can offer are ways to get an end result when you really aren’t comfortable ‘networking.’
I already gave you one strategy: Rename the “thing” so that it’s less intimidating. I like creating databases of information; resource lists, collecting ideas that will make my job easier down the line. That’s what networking is for me: collecting people. The more people I know, the easier my job is because I’ll spend less time later looking for the right person to fill a need.
The second strategy is to decide ahead of time “how many” it will take for you to consider the event a success. For me at the beginning, if I gave out ONE business card and took home ONE business card I was ecstatic! Today, depending on the event, I try to take home 7-10 business cards and/or give out 10-12. I never rush the conversations. The more I can get to know someone, the better. However, the first lull in the conversation and I’m making an excuse to exit and move on, especially if it’s a short event. Remember, I’m collecting people. The more people I talk to, the more people I can collect.
The third strategy is to look for the person who is just as uncomfortable as I am. We have a lot in common. I can always talk to them about how easy it seems for everyone else. We wallflowers have got to stick together!
And the last strategy I’ll give you today is that if I’m in a room where I already know a good number of the people, I’ll try to play matchmaker. If Jane is an A and I meet Barbara who says she’s looking for an A, I’ll try to introduce them. It feels good making a match. Besides, it takes the pressure off me for a bit.
What strategies have you discovered or created to help you be successful at networking? Please share for the rest of us wallflowers!