January 2015 Featured Article

Becoming a Better Networker

networking_people_connection_1600_clr_1809An associate of mine has a client named John, who frequently asks high-profile marketers and speakers to do interviews for his weekly podcast.

John recently asked Larry Benet, considered to be the most connected person in the world, if he would agree to be interviewed for his podcast. Struck by the offer, Larry Benet not only agreed to do it, but also invited John to an exclusive and very expensive networking event in Las Vegas, as his guest.

John excitedly agreed, and attended the “closed door” event. And what happened there was truly astonishing.

John noticed Warren Buffet standing across the room, arguably the richest American alive, and decided to strike up a conversation. This led to John treating him to lunch afterwards, where they got along swimmingly. A few days later, Mr. Buffet personally wrote John to invite him to an exclusive shareholders meeting of Berkshire Hathaway, as his special guest.

Even though John is not a shareholder, Mr. Warren liked him so much he didn't care, and made sure he received credentials to attend one of the most insightful and private meetings in America.

What This Story Means To You

This is a classic example of the power of networking.

While many online marketers today focus on lead generation, funnels, and all sorts of high-tech methods of increasing business (all of which are essential), they tend to forget about the most important factor of all – human interaction.

Think about it for a second: if you were about to strike a business partnership with someone, would you go with the person you know and like? Or the qualified stranger?

Most people would choose the former.

And this rings true even more today, with the internet being so impersonal. In fact, many people are actually afraid of networking. They're so used to interacting with others from behind screens, that face-to-face meetings become stressful.

But, other's fears give you an opportunity to shine where they are not. It's also why taking the extra effort as an expert business owner to really puts you ahead of the crowd…

You just have to make sure you do it right.

What Not To Do

Often, when I meet new, up-and-coming entrepreneurs, bursting with energy and promise, they commit one of the gravest sins of all: going on and on about themselves.

Or, worse, they try to sell me on something within a few moments of striking up a conversation.

Both of these things will turn off anyone immediately. They are selfish practices, and really come across as rude and self-serving.

But there is something to be learned from them. They give a glimpse into the most important part of networking: letting people talk about their favorite thing, and developing relationships which can benefit both parties.

The Art of Listening

The most important thing you can do when meeting anyone is making an effort to learn about them. It may sound cynical, but everyone's favorite topic is their self.

Start with a standard greeting, and make sure you learn their name right away. Thankfully, people tend to wear name-tags at networking events, but even if they are not, you need to have their name down as soon as possible.

I recommend repeating it a few times right away when talking to them so you don't forget it.

Then as the conversation progresses, really take the time to ask them about their lives. Not just their business. Learn about their family, where they come from, what they like to do in their spare time.

You want to establish a personal relationship with people, so that they not only regard you as a networking contact, but a friend.

This really is the key difference between good networking and bad – taking the time to listen, and treating people as more than just dollar signs. Listening means truly listening, and not just waiting for an opportunity to speak.

Not listening will cost you valuable business down the road.

Disarm Them With a Smile

be-genuineBody language says more than words ever could.

When you smile, look someone in the eyes, and genuinely engage yourself in what they are saying, you will be shocked by how positively they respond to you. Smiling really is one of the easiest things to do, and it can dramatically improve many aspects of your business, just by doing it more often.

In fact, it is proven that smiling makes you seem more successful. People are drawn to it, and will start reacting to you differently. Not to mention, it will make you feel better, too.

Another interesting side-effect is that you will seem like you have something that others don't have, or know something others don’t know. It gives off an air of confidence, causing people to want to know what your “secret” is.

Talk about a valuable position to be in when promoting a business!

Now That You've Gotten To Know Them…

You can start taking the conversation in a business direction.

It could go a few ways from here, and it completely depends on the circumstances of the event. You could:

  1. Connect your new-found knowledge about them to your business and generate a lead or a potential marketing partner, if not a client. Just like in marketing, it's about meeting their needs, wants, hopes, dreams, fears and frustrations with your product or service.
  2. Compliment them on something that really matters to them. Then ask them to get in touch with you if they know or meet anyone who happens to fit your business. And when complimenting, be thoughtful!
  3. Find out if they know anyone else at that event that they think you should meet. This can lead to an immediate Domino effect like I illustrated in the story at the beginning of this article.

It's truly amazing what can come out of networking properly. If you really take the time to get to know someone, and genuinely show that you care, you will plant a seed that you'll reap benefits from for years to come.

The most obvious of which is potentially gaining clients. However, you could also meet future business partners, affiliate marketers, or personal advocates. You might even meet a powerful marketer who is willing to promote your business as a JV (joint venture) partner.

The possibilities are endless, and effective networking will open all of these doors for you.

Where to Go From Here

This really just scratches the surface on specific networking techniques, but it's more than enough to get started.

Now, you should start researching events that you can attend that might be relevant to your business – meet-up groups for people who are in the same business, marketing conventions, perhaps BBB (Better Business Bureau) mixers.

Really, anywhere you go, even if it is just a party at a friend's home, you should start implementing these methods.

You will start to see dramatic changes in your interactions and your confidence speaking with others, as well an increase in business. Really, everything in your life will improve for the better when you have better relations with people.

So, what's stopping you? Get out there and meet some people!