The Real Secret to Networking

Article by Frank TraditiWhen you think of networking what comes to mind? Going to mixers? Attending business meetings? Meeting new people? Collecting business cards? Eating and drinking? Seeing friends? All of the above?

Maybe you’ve never had to network before. Perhaps you consider networking to be a necessary evil in the course of doing business. Or it could be you really don’t enjoy networking or find it uncomfortable. This is perfectly normal.

Avoiding networking completely, though, will prevent you from finding many new prospects and referrals, and handicap you in filling your practice with new clients. Developing yourself as a masterful networker can be a powerful weapon toward marketing your services and building your business.

Far too much of networking fails because novice networkers have never learned the Networking Golden Rule: networking is about giving, not getting.

Whenever you are talking with people and there’s the potential to network on behalf of your business, start by thinking of ways you can help the people you’re talking to. In your conversations, uncover one simple thing that could make their life easier. The payback for this approach can be substantial.

It’s amazing what can happen when you employ the art of giving in order to receive. Here are some of the benefits of approaching networking this way:

  • It’s much more comfortable for most people to go into networking with the notion of helping someone else.
  • You never know who you may be helping and who they know. Helping people can allow your network to expand quickly.
  • People, in general, don’t like to be in debt. When you offer to help them, they will usually feel inclined to help you.
  • People will see you as someone “in the know” and want to be associated with you.

How do you become this sort of masterful networker? Here’s a simple, failsafe formula that works every time. Whenever you attend an event wher you can meet new people, use this five-step formula to start building a world-class network.

The 5-Step Fearless Networking Formula

Step 1. The Search

  • Just start meeting people; walk up and say hello
  • Start with a familiar face; they can lead you to new contacts
  • At breakfast, lunch or dinner, plan to meet everyone at the table
  • Go early and stay late to take advantage of every opportunity
  • Introduce yourself to people standing alone — they want to meet people too
  • Volunteer to check people in at the event – you’ll get to meet everyone!

Step 2. The Discovery

  • Open with a question, e.g.
    “We haven’t met yet; I’m Frank. What’s your line of work?”
    “I’m new to this organization; can you tell me more about it?”
  • Listen intently. You’ll begin to hear clues about how you can help them
  • Ask about a challenge or problem they are dealing with (they will tell you)
  • Introduce a “conversation piece” by asking for an opinion, e.g. “What do you think about X” or mentioning something you read that might interest them

Step 3. The Offering

  • After you’ve discovered a challenge, issue, or opportunity they have, offer to help
  • Give a suggestion, resource, tip, tool, lead, advice, or anything that will advance their cause
  • Possible items to give are: referrals, websites, books to read, upcoming events, or networking contacts
  • This is your chance to take the relationship to a higher level

Step 4. The Promotion

  • Now it’s your turn: give your 30-second commercial
  • Tell them what you do, how you help people, and what you are looking for
  • Make it simple enough for them to repeat to anyone they meet
  • This is your chance to build the rapport that leads to referrals and new contacts in their network

Step 5. The Close

  • Exchange business cards or contact information
  • Jot a short note about your conversation and what you’ll follow up about on the back of their card
  • Shake hands and thank them for their time
  • When you get back to your office, follow up!

Before you go to your next networking event, make a commitment to this goal: “I will help five people I meet.” That will help you put into action the Networking Golden Rule: networking is about giving, not getting.

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