Hands up those of you who have to attend networking events in the normal course of your business? I have to and do attend hundreds over the year. Even if you don’t attend specific networking functions there are always times in your career where networking has a role.
Having done so for quite some time and being of an observing nature it amazes me how many people turn up simply wanting to get something out of it themselves. The number of people I have listened to who have not deemed it necessary to reciprocate in any way dismays me. They are so busy pitching their position or what they want they aren’t the slightest bit bothered or interested in the person they are talking to.
The way to get the most out of situations like this is to give and to give willingly.
Giving willingly is a conscious decision
All too often we become consumed by our own needs, whether they be business or personal. In this ‘everything instantly’ age we see opportunities as something we are entitled to rather than nurtured. Networking and connecting with people is regarded as a strategy to increase sales rather than a process of building relationships. It is as if we are permanently switched on in transmit mode and the receive button is nowhere to be seen. Unconsciously people are seeking a quick fix, an immediate result rather than being open to potential possibilities. We need to switch on to giving willingly and allowing a relationship to develop.
How do I behave at networking meetings?
I pay close attention to what the other person is saying. I ask questions to find out more, I ask what they are working on that is important to them and at the end I always ask if there is anything I can do to help. I give my time, undivided attention and listening skills to them intently and I do so willingly.
I am not thinking ‘what can they do for me’ or ‘what am I going to get out of this’. Looking for payback is a sure-fire way of walking away unsuccessful and potentially frustrated that networking is not working.
By connecting and being willing to give what you can (as well as following up on anything you promise) means you are remembered and who knows what might transpire in the future. I have found unexpected dividends coming from connecting in this way.
Giving willingly is coming from a place of service
The next time you have a networking opportunity, consciously examine your reactions. All too often we see these occasions as something we had “better” do; an irksome necessity in business life; a business card collecting and thrusting at others exchange!
Steps to giving willingly and reaping rewards
Shift your thinking from receiving to giving willingly
Think, “What can I do to help these contacts?”
LISTEN first, ask a leading question such as, “What is your biggest challenge with your business right now?” and then do not interrupt.
Explore their answers, asking further questions to help you build a picture of their situation
Give possible solutions freely. There is a balance, after all you are in business, but generosity is almost always rewarded.
Offer a follow up opportunity; time is precious and people at networking events feel obliged to connect with as many others as possible so don’t monopolise their time.
Follow up on your promise to give more help or time
Giving willingly is not always natural to us but nurturing relationships and connections will pay off far better in the long run than bludgeoning people with your latest product or service solution.