‘It’s a kind of magic’ - every big opportunity starts with a little conversation
A number of people may say, maybe you included, that networking does not work.
“I go along to these networking events and I meet a number of people. They talk ‘at me’ and try to sell to me. I don’t feel like they’re really interested in what I have to say, even when they ask me, ‘so what do you do then?’ And nothing comes of the meeting after the event. So why do I waste my time going along to these meetings when I could spend my time a lot more productively, getting work done that needs to be done?"
In other words, you feel ‘disillusioned’ with networking.
“Every big opportunity starts with a little conversation.”
Stefan Thomas, 2017, author of Business Networking for Dummies
Starting conversations is where all opportunities lie. And what better place to meet a number of people in a room, where an objective is to mix and meet as many people as possible, than at a network meeting?
Networking is much simpler than you think – just go up and start talking to people. Forget the ‘elevator pitch’ (a succinct and persuasive sales pitch). Don’t even think about asking someone, ‘so what do you do then?’ Ask the other person questions about themself, and keep delving in order to try and find some common ground; a place where you can connect. It might be dogs, football, music, skiing, makeup, wine, stocks and shares…. whatever it is that you can find in common, that is where the relationship starts.
‘People buy from people who they know, like (or even ‘love’) and trust.’
‘When you start talking to people, that’s when the real magic happens.’
Starting the conversation is when the two of you are first getting off the blocks. Cultivating trust in the relationship between the two of you is the sprinkling of magic dust that is the enabler for ‘making business happen’.
Build a Relationship – starting from that first conversation onwards
But, you have to start to build a relationship first – more effectively when you have something of mutual interest to talk about – in order to start to get to know someone. If you have something in common to talk about, then it is much more likely that you will like one another. You might think that ‘love’ is a bit strong, but people can come to love a brand, and you are your own personal brand. And if these two pieces are in place (know and like / love), then the final piece, trust, can fall into place. But this can only happen over time.
‘Just go up and start talking to people…….keep delving ….. try and find some common ground. Yikes! I can’t just go up to people I don’t know. I’m rubbish at starting conversations. It sounds like anything but simple to me!’
Ok, so not all networking events are for everyone – especially ones where you are faced with a room full of strangers each and every time. But you can think about attending a network membership group that meet on a regular basis, possibly weekly or fortnightly. Granted, it may be a room full of strangers on the first occasion that you visit. But every visit after that, you will be seeing the same faces each meeting. And what better way to get to know people when you are part of a regular meet-up group, and of course, most importantly, build trust over time?
And even on your first visit, if a group of people meet regularly, it is usual that they will go out of their way to make someone new feel welcome and comfortable as they knew how it felt their first time. So you may be a bit apprehensive walking into a gathering of people at first, but with any membership networking group worth its salt, you will probably get ‘jumped upon’ (in a nice way :-) as soon as you walk in. And then you are unlikely to be on your own again until you get back in your car at the end of the meeting.
Building Trust – over time
That is you in blue in the middle. Those are the people you meet in red, at different stages of your relationship with each of them. What you need to do is to move people in towards you in the middle of the circle. it is your job (and your responsibility) to pull them into your centre. In other words, you have to move them in towards trusting you.
Obviously, this is a lot easier to do if you are part of a network group that meets up regularly. You have the time and contact frequency to really get to know one another.
But how do you build trust if you have just met someone at a one-off networking event?
‘The biggest missed opportunity after a networking event is not following up and keeping in touch with people.’
Chris Marr, 2017, Content Marketing Academy Live
Of course, after an event you can call or email someone to see if they would like to meet up for a coffee and chat further. But it would really have to be worth one another’s time to do this – and as we know, we are all ‘busy people’.
But there is another way to follow-up with people that you connected with at a networking event: use social media to keep in touch. By liking, commenting on and sharing the other person’s content, that’s when the knowing and all important trust starts to build. It is all about being genuinely interested in the other person, with no other agenda. i.e. it is not about you and your business.
On the flip side, if you would like people to keep in contact with you on social media, then be consistently helpful online. And the way that you do this is by producing and publishing quality content each and every time. Do not release content for the sake of ‘getting something up there’. Get to know your audience, and tailor your content very particularly for the needs and interest of the members of that audience. By publishing helpful content consistently, then people who find it valuable and helpful will continue to read what you publish, and they will feel like they are getting to know you online. Once again, over time, this can transform into trust, and you’ve guessed it – the magic can then start to happen!
So, in response to the question, 'Does networking work?', then the answer is yes, it absolutely does. However, it doesn't happen overnight. The bottom line is, be genuinely interested in others, be helpful, and in time, you will reap the harvest.
'Take no thought of the harvest, but only of proper sowing.'
T.S. Eliot, 1934, Choruses of the Rock
If you are interested in meeting a friendly networking group in Fife who meet up weekly throughout the year, please fill out the contact form for the Kingdom Business Forum, or contact our current chairwoman, Gail MacLean on 01592 890115. She will be happy to answer any of your questions and invite you along to one of our meetings.
Priscilla, Queen of the Caravans, Seton Sands Holiday Park
T: 0131 600 0063