By Will Kintish, Business Networking Skills And LinkedIn Authority
Formal networking clubs like BNI and many similar started up at the turn of this century. Before that, networking didn’t need formal arenas we just ’did ‘it’.
In the last 10 years or so I feel the word has created negative connotations an nuances simply because most professions don’t seem to understand what it is. Well, here goes… it’s simply communicating. You don’t go networking one day and not the next; we do it all the time. It’s just building relationships, either new ones or reinforcing existing ones. People are afraid to attend any form of gathering because of the 3 basic fears we have when meeting new people.
3. The unknown.
Before I help to destroy those fears let me suggest every meaningful relationship we have ever built is created through 3 key steps
1. Getting to know the person
2. Creating some rapport, commonality or affinity. In other words you get people to like you.
3. Building trust through reliability
Let's look at this through the example of networking as an accountant. Accountants are not known for being outgoing or extrovert so they assume they will be ineffective networking. Nothing could be further from the truth.
What do effective networkers do?
- They turn up! (Know)
- They approach people and groups rather than waiting against the wall (Know)
- They are polite, courteous and respectful (Like)
- They ask good questions mixing small talk with business talk (Know and like)
- They listen carefully and show genuine interest (Like)
- If they spot an opportunity** they ask permission to follow up (Know and trust)
- They make the promised call to further the relationship ( Trust)
- They attend a meeting after the event to build on the first meeting ( Know, like, trust)
The misunderstandings, misconceptions and errors professionals can make.
1. They think it’s selling. It’s not; the only thing we sell at any event is ourselves. When people like you and they have need for accounting services (or whatever you're offering) you are well in the frame.
2. I repeat - don’t think sell, think help. In the eyes of your clients, you get paid for one thing - namely helping solve a problem they can’t. If they could do their own accounts and tax they wouldn’t need you.
3. ** BIG change of mind set. Don’t ever think this is a selling opportunity but ‘This person hasn’t got an accountant, or, this person isn’t happy with their accountant so I ought to meet up after the event.'
4. People don’t show enough interest in the other person. Just ask good searching questions; if they like you they tell you everything you need to know. Never discuss the relationship with their existing accountant until you feel comfortable they are happy to share their business details.
5. You don’t follow up because of fear of rejection. Don’t take it personally if they say no to a meeting. They are not rejecting you, just the offer of your help.
Overcoming your fears
I have presented to 58000+ people since I left accountancy (I keep a record!) and I know most people have a number of fears all collected under this heading. But when I ask “Aren’t most people ’nice’ at events?” everyone says yes they are. There is a tiny minority of bad-mannered and impolite people - just avoid them. Walk in thinking you’re a polite and a fine person and the vast majority are too.
You think you will fail when you don’t know the answer or people talk industry jargon and you don’t understand. Or if you’re quite new or young you’ll just feel out of your depths. Don’t worry TED is here to help you!
When you don’t know, don’t be clever and try and bluff or pretend. Ask TED
T ell me what you mean by...
E xplain to me...
D escribe how...
The issue here is when you’re in your office giving advice you’re in total control; here, it’s not so easy... so just ask TED!
Walking into that room, often knowing no-one, is daunting. I hate walking into a room full of strangers so always avoid it. I simply plan my diary to get there early.
Every room you have ever been in and will go into for the rest of your life is always formatted in the same way. There can never be more than 6 types of groups three of which are generally welcoming, three of them, when you see their body language, aren’t quite so. Look out for the person standing alone, couples and trios standing in open-format. They want you to approach. Groups of 2, 3 and 4+ facing inwards are saying, ‘Just at this moment don’t come in please, we’re comfortable’. Look next time and this helps you overcome the fear of the unknown.
The author of this article is Will Kintish, leading UK authority on effective and confident networking both offline and online. He is an ex-practising Chartered Accountant of 30+ years standing. If you’d like Will to speak at your conference or training workshops, call him on 0161 773 3727. Visit www.kintish.co.uk and www.linkedintraining.co.uk for further free and valuable information on all aspects of networking.