Playing it safe and avoiding any risk has never worked for me. There is no greater time to buck traditions and move outside your comfort zone than now. Your comfort zone is that psychological place you retreat to so you can feel comfortable in an otherwise uncomfortable situation you may be faced with.
For me, safe is boring. Where there is lack of challenge, there is usually very little opportunity. We need challenges to help us grow – to help us maintain the energy to keep going. If you want to be successful at business networking you must put yourself out there. By that I mean to do things that are important to networking success even when it feels uncomfortable. Raise your own bar. Be brave.
You begin by learning the subtle necessities of business networking. Next put what you have learned to use. Dare to do something different the next time to attend a networking meeting or event.
If you dread approaching others and engaging them in conversation at events, Neil Munz-Jones, author of “The Reluctant Networker” has a way around that. “The best way to find people to talk to at an event is to be a guest speaker,” he says. “Find a subject on which you are an expert and offer to speak. Organizers are always looking for speakers and it is a great way to raise your profile. For some of you that puts you waaaay out of your comfort zone. (Review the image above!) That’s where the networking magic happens!
No time to be shy when networking. Face your fear and NEVER take counsel from your fears. Be what I call a “glad-hander” – someone who is not afraid to walk up to a total stranger and begin a conversation. Look for and approach the person standing alone. (Note: If you ARE the person standing alone… “Snap out of it!” That will get you nowhere!) If you notice something special about the person you are approaching, begin with a compliment. Smile. (By the way, a smile or a simple “hello” is a brilliant icebreaker.)
Introduce yourself and begin asking about “their” business, not talking about yours. The one asking the questions is in control of the conversation. Ask lots of questions. Search for what you have in common with them. See if you can discover a way to be helpful to them in their business. Remember: Small talk is how we learn about our common interests, experiences and connections.
Effective networkers spend as much time helping others as being helped. Always be on the lookout for ways you can help your contacts such as interesting articles, people for them to meet and more. It feels good to help others and you never know when they will return the favor.
“If you want to make a positive memorable impression, treat people like people not like prospects!” ~ Susan RoAne
Be a “giver” and/or a connector. When you focus on “giving” and being helpful to others, the “getting” will come later… and it will usually come in unexpected ways. Be generous with your giving. Networking is about building relationships with people who will be happy to tell others about who you are and what you do.
The simple act of introducing several people to each other or giving a testimonial about someone and their services to someone that you are unable to help will cause people to remember you. Explain who this person is, what they do, and something about them personally that the other person might be interested in. All of these acts allow you to focus on the “other” and grows your social capital in the group.
Be a committed listener – someone who truly pays attention to what’s going on in the conversation. Focus. Don’t let anything distract you. Spend more time listening than talking.
“It’s imperative that you understand when your time is up,” says Mark Jeffries, author of “What’s Up With Your Handshake?” “You win in the social world if you ‘release people first,’ so if you see a slow crossing of the arms, an increase in the amount of time they’re looking over your shoulder, or a sudden obsession with the word ‘anyway,’ they are giving you not-so-subtle hints that they’d like to move on. Say what you have to say and then graciously release them. It adds to your influence and it helps you sell without selling!”
Next… it’s time to expand your comfort zone. Not doing so will cripple your networking success. To help you expand your comfort zone, you must learn to expand the comfort level of your mind. Putting your fame of mind within the correct context to help you grow as a person is key to expanding your comfort level. To do this you must look within yourself and identify your fears and learn to deal with them. Feel the fear and do it anyway! You must get out of your comfort zone to achieve great things in business networking.
“You must set aside your fears and any social reluctance in order to connect with other people. It takes boldness to reach out and introduce yourself to people of greater power and influence than yourself – people who might be able to help you accomplish your career and business goals. Heck, I think it takes a certain amount of boldness to talk to strangers. And that is just what you need to do.” ~ Kathy McAfee
Now, it’s time to get to work. Like my friend, Jerry, once said, “Don’t back off in the curves!” Green lights and straight ahead!
Copyright © 2012 – Larry James. From the chapter, “Be Coachable!” in Larry’s latest book, Ten Commitments of Networking: Creative Ways to Maximize Your Personal Connections! Larry James is a Professional Speaker, Author and Coach. He presents networking seminars nationally and “Networking” coaching by telephone or one-on-one. Something NEW about Networking is posted on this Networking BLOG every 4th day! Visit Larry’s Networking Website at: “Networking HQ!”
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