Networks and Referral Webs

I spoke as part of a seminar today that was called “30 Seconds to Success” for my local Chamber of Commerce.  It was focusing on the first 30 seconds of meeting someone- whether it is a business meeting, a networking event, a round table, etc. My section, in particular, was addressing the well known (but not well practiced) “you get out of it what you put into it.” I have to add, my fellow panelists (all from different industries) were fabulous!  I wanted to share a few of the points that were covered, as this seems to be a topic of concern for many people.  In fact, one of my favorite people in the world, Cory Schaeffer, is speaking about networking and relationship building this month as well. And I am sure she will be spectacular!

These top ten tips may take a little extra time from your day, but I guarantee it is time well spent. I made them concise, but if you need any elaboration, please ask. And I left some out- I figured ten is plenty to start with. But please feel free to add your own suggestions:

1) PRACTICE- like anything, networking and relationship building takes practice, especially for those to whom it does not come naturally. Keep working at it. Keep pushing yourself, the challenge is rewarding.

2) Prepare your self- Take the time to present yourself appropriately, keeping in mind that the old cliché- don’t judge a book by its cover- is a nice sentiment and that’s probably about all it is. People are (however unfortunate it is) wired to make a judgment within the first 30 seconds (some argue first 10 seconds) of meeting. Dress the part, pay attention to the details, walk with confidence, do not approach aggressively. This applies to both men and women. Appropriate attire/ grooming is a must. As is a firm handshake and eye contact.

3) Prepare your mind- know what type of situation/ event you are walking into. Research that event and the topics, if appropriate, so you can speak intelligently on the subjects of interest to those at the event. Be ready to modify your presentation, approach and questions based upon the audience and venue.

4) Listen- engage others by listening to them. Find out what their needs are. Don’t stuff yourself down the other party’s throat. Allow the other person to take the floor and you can continue the conversation by mirroring what they have told you … i.e. : If I understand this correctly, you are saying that xyz isn’t working for you right now? You will get TONS of information you can use during the follow-up.

5) Sincerity is visual- (this is my favorite) be sincerely interested in what the other person is saying. Remember that it is apparent to everyone involved when one is not sincere. If you are perceived as “faking it” you have lost the conversation.  People shut down. You will not be able to get them back. The veil of boredom will be drawn. Do not disregard communication as insignificant and do not filter through dialogue until you can jump in and grab a sale.

6) Define success and then re-define it- Consider having different goals for each event you attend.  For example, if you are attending anInfoComm networking event, your goal may be to walk away having met 3 new consultants for your business. If you are at a chamber event, your goal may be to expand your network (not necessarily for sales) and expand your referral “web.”  In being flexible with your goals, you must also be flexible in your presentation.  Your “elevator speech” can be tweaked based on the audience- and it should be.

7) Minimize small talk- talking about the weather and the traffic and the lack of parking in your town is not helpful to either party. Be efficient and effective (do not act rushed). People will appreciate that you respect their time.

8) Speak clearly- practice your “elevator speech” in front of others, for feedback. You may understand what you do, but can you explain it to others who do not. It is your responsibility to convey your message properly. It is NOT the other person’s responsibility to decipher your message correctly.

9) Spend time following up- this is where you can a) set yourself apart from the crowd of people who just “collect business cards” and b) begin to develop a longer term relationship. Remember the details- or at least write them down – people are flattered when you take the time to remember that they have kids, animals, appointments, etc.

10) Be dedicated to follow-through- if you cannot help each other immediately, that doesn’t mean the connection is a lost cause.  Eventually the significance will become evident. Your respective networks may see value in your new connection, which also adds value to you (your referral web).