“It’s all about people. It’s about networking and being nice to people and not burning any bridges. Your book is going to impress, but in the end it is people that are going to hire you.” – Mike Davidson
If there is ever something that could elevate you to the next level or send you crashing down into the pit of failure, it’s networking.
People place a lot of value on networking, on who to talk to and what kind of deals can be struck. Networking is where the magic happens in business, it’s where you could walk into a crowded room with nothing but a brilliant idea, and leave with enough contacts to make that idea a reality.
Most of us agree – if you network well, you’ll do well in your business. And yet many of us don’t. We don’t make full use out of the potential that connecting with other like-minded individuals can offer us. Heck, we know we should be getting ahead of the pack here, but we don’t. Why is this?
There’s one huge mistake that a lot of people make when they go into networking events. It could be down to nerves, or ignorance, or a sheer bloody-mindedness to focus entirely on themselves rather than the people they’re talking to. The mistake that people make is that they make the occasion all about themselves.
Other people don’t want to hear about who you are and what you like. They want to hear about what they like.
If there’s only one line that you take away from this post, then I’d suggest it’s this one.
Everybody is different, therefore each of us will have our own likes and preferences, and our own dislikes and pet peeves.
Some of us will like helping small businesses whilst others will like being a part of a bigger brand. Some prefer yard sales whilst others prefer major corporate events.
What this also means is that no-one will have exactly the same preferences and tastes that you do. Sure, there will be some who share your fondness for Twitter, and there will be others will share your dislike for the Alexa ranking. But overall, no-one else on this planet will have the same opinions as you and the same ideas as you.
A Typical Networking Example
Despite this fact of life, there are still plenty of people who attend networking events and talk only about themselves and what they can offer. They seem to think that the more they mention themselves and their amazing benefits, the more chance eavesdroppers will listen in and spread their good name.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like this.
If two people both adopt this approach and talk about themselves to the other person, then all that happens is a clash of noises. Nothing gets done, no new deals are struck, and there’s every chance one or both of these people will get annoyed with the whole thing and walk away. A lot of potential is lost when this occurs.
In this example, what happened is that both people put themselves first. They didn’t want to stop and listen to the other person go on about their achievements and credentials, so they made sure this didn’t happen by going on about their own achievements and credentials. I’d venture to say this happens a lot during networking events, and yet we rarely stop and ask ourselves how we can do things differently.
There’s one solid way which we can do it another way – focus on what you can offer the other person.
THEY Come First In Networking
Putting others first is a concept that nearly all of us have heard of, yet so few of us actually do it.
How can we put others first when the overall aim is to gain business advantages for ourselves? It’s a good question, but there’s a way to solve this dilemma effectively. You can put others first and still leave the event thinking it was a success. And if you want to know how to do this, there’s a clue in the wording.
Look again at that sentence in italics. Notice that I said “put others first” and “leave the event”. The trick is to do it in that order – focus the emphasis on others first, and then get your reward afterwards.
Other people are used to talking about themselves – it’s been said that one of our favourite sounds is the sound of our own voice. Granted, that applies to you too, but the next time you attend a networking opportunity, stop yourself from revealing what you are all about and listen to what they say instead.
Wonders happen once you start listening without waiting for your turn to speak. By listening, you immediately gain more information about who they are and what they do. You can learn what their goals are and where they’d like to see themselves. So far, so good.
But this can only go so far, and this is where the key is. At some point in the conversation, ask them what their problems are.
What you could gain from this question could be the knowledge you need to make a serious impression. By identifying what their problems are, and letting them explain in some depth, you then know what they want. Believe me, knowing what a potential client wants is an important ingredient in the recipe for success.
Once you know, you can then begin to talk about what you can offer, but with a twist. You can now tailor what you’ve got to suit their needs. If you offer something to them which can solve their problems and ease their worries, you’ve then got a major advantage over someone else who is going in blind with their ideas. A tailored fit will always be better than a ‘one-size-fits-all’.
This is why putting others first works – you understand their situation and problems, then go in with your idea as a ‘tailored solution’.
Even if they aren’t interested in your idea, you can still move onto the next potential client and use the same approach. As mentioned earlier, everyone’s different, and everyone will have their own problems. Sooner or later, your idea will be the perfect answer to someone’s problems.
The chances of you gaining business will increase if you use this approach, because you’re taking the time to put them first rather than yourself first. They’ll appreciate you standing down and letting them speak, as well as the tailored solution that you can offer them.
In other words, everyone’s a winner.