I get asked quite a bit about networking and the relation to job search and personal branding. Sometimes it’s about where to find good networking events, sometimes it’s more about how to approach the whole networking thing. Networking is second nature to some people and it’s a bit foreign to others. Once you have developed and positioned yourself in your personal brand it’s time to go out and meet some people and make an impact with it I say.
Did you ever hear the mantra that “people buy from people they know, like and trust”? This is as true as it ever was. But to get trusted you have to be liked, to be liked you have to be known… How do you get to know customers in the first place? Well, a networking event is a great forum for it. This is where people come out for the very reason to meet people, share ideas and in a way sell themselves.
At a networking event, you are showcasing yourself, your expertise and ultimately your personal brand. There is plenty of networking advice out there, I have come up with three things that have worked well for me over the years and here goes:
The golden rule at a networking event, or any other business interaction for that matter is to listen more than you talk. This is classic sales stuff that everyone should know. If you think about the really successful people in your life, are they very chatter boxes or are they listeners? I would think the latter. Do they ask the right questions? I would think they probably do.
You will only reach success when you understand what other people really want. Sometimes you will get people asking for your services but not knowing exactly why. This is your job to listen and make sure they know their reasons for it and what they are trying to achieve. If you think about it, what salesperson would you buy a camera from; the one talking at you and selling feature after feature, or the other one asking what you are going to use it for?
Being an active listener and asking the right questions sounds like simple stuff but it can be harder to actually do. Active listening takes effort but when you do it the right questions will pop up and the payback is there.
You will inevitably bump into people doing similar things to you at networking events. Instead of the Mexican stand-off which sometimes happens, try to find out where there can be synergies between the two of you.
Let’s say that you sell ice-cream for instance and you get talking to another ice-cream salesperson.