The 3 P’s of Successful Networking
Remember how you felt on the first day of school?
Your new shoes may have felt a little stiff and uncomfortable … You may have felt your heart pounding at the thought of meeting the kids — strangers — who would be your classmates …
You may have wanted to turn around and go back home where you knew it was safe.
But you didn’t.
You entered the classroom. You talked to the kids. You made friends. And, I’ll bet, going through that classroom door became easier and easier as the school year progressed. At some point, it became no big deal.
Am I right?
I’d like you to approach networking like walking into that classroom … It may feel uncomfortable at first, but it’ll become easier and easier, until it’s no big deal anymore.
To help you, I’m going to share my own Three P’s of Successful Networking …
Be Prepared, Be Purposeful, Be Present
Let’s take them one at a time …
It’s the motto of both Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts for good reason. When you’re prepared, you’re better equipped to handle whatever comes your way.
Before your first day of school, one of your parents may have coached you on how to introduce yourself to the other kids. I told my son to smile, look the other kid in the eyes, and simply say, “Hi! My name’s Dylan.”
After names were exchanged, I suggested asking questions like, “Do you have any pets?” or “Do you like to play soccer?”
Now, getting to know someone at a networking event isn’t exactly the same as meeting a new kid at school, so I wouldn’t necessarily lead with the pet question … unless you’re at a conference for the pet industry.
But if you’re prepared with some basic questions to ask, you’ll feel more at ease and be more successful in your networking.
In his book, Networking Like A Pro, Dr. Ivan Misner suggests using these five questions at networking events:
- What do you like best about what you do?
- You mentioned you were in ______ industry. What got you started in that business?
- Where else do you usually network? Are there other groups that you go to?
- What are some of your biggest challenges? (Don’t start a conversation with this one.)
- How can I help you?
Do you see how these questions build on each other to create rapport? Dr. Misner’s questions are effective because they fulfill your purpose of learning how you can help the other person. But be sure to take a few moments and talk about yourself, too. Successful networking is a two-way street.
You must recognize your purpose in networking — whether you’re networking offline at an event or online on a social networking site. If you don’t have a clear purpose, how will you know if you’re successful?
So what’s the purpose of networking?
Dr. Misner, the founder and chairman of the worldwide networking organization, Business Network International (BNI), once asked a group of people at a networking luncheon to raise their hands if they hoped to sell their product or service to someone at the event. Nearly everyone raised his or her hand.
He then asked who hoped to buy something from someone at the luncheon. Not one hand went up.
Hmmm … A room full of hopeful sellers and not one potential buyer …
Obviously, the purpose of networking is NOT to sell your product or service. At least it isn’t for the successful networker!
I suggest, instead, that the purpose of networking is to find out how you can HELP someone else. (By the way, doesn’t helping someone sound a lot easier and less scary than selling them something?)
For example, before walking into networking events, I take a moment to set my intention. It’s usually something like, “I’m going to meet two new people and find out how I can help them.”
Of course I hope I’ll meet someone who will put me in contact with my next ideal client. But I focus on what I can give, not what I hope to get.
So before you enter the door of your next networking event, or before you post something online, take a moment and think about the purpose of your actions.
Now you’re ready for the next step …
The first part of being present is simply showing up.
Online, this means setting up your profiles on the social networking sites that make sense for your business (the sites where your clients are active). Use a current photo of yourself, and keep it updated … If you ever happen to meet an online connection in person, you want them to be able to recognize you!
I suggest you write copy for your online social profiles as you would the About page of your website. Talk about the benefits of knowing and working with you, and show how you help people. You’ll stand out when you don’t just blab about yourself.
Obviously, you have to show up for in-person networking, too. This includes recognizing the not-so-obvious networking opportunities that you’ll run into.
For example, in addition to networking at events like conferences, organization lunches, and club meetings, I’ve networked at youth baseball games, school carnivals, classroom field trips, the gym, the grocery store, the doctor’s office waiting room … the list goes on and on. Successful networking really isn’t any more difficult than striking up a conversation with someone, asking some questions, and finding out how you can help.
Once you’ve shown up, the second part of being present is to participate. (Hey, I guess that’s a fourth P!)
Online or off, you have to be an active participant. You have to strike up conversations. You must show a genuine interest in other people. You need to engage, listen, and respond.
You need to commit to building relationships and make a sincere effort to help these people, who may be strangers now, but who may become valuable connections.
By the way, the help you provide may not be in the realm of a client relationship at all. This person may not need your services, but you may be able to connect them to someone else who can provide the products or services they need.
Remember, successful networking is NOT about making the immediate sale. It’s about helping people and building relationships. It’s about making connections and giving value.
The three P’s work, and networking does pay off. Last year, I made $10,341 in fees from projects that came from networking — both online and off. In six months this year, networking has made me $14,275. Networking is one of the more enjoyable ways I market myself … it’s certainly more fun than cold-calling!
If you’re prepared, purposeful, and present when you network, you’ll be successful. You made it through those scary first days of school, and you can become comfortable — and successful — at networking, too.
So take a deep breath, smile, and go help someone!
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