What TO DO when networking

A couple of weeks ago we took a look at what not to do when networking. I thought it only appropriate to follow-up this week with a couple of helpful hints about what to do when networking:

  1. Don’t stress out. Networking is just building relationships, and the easiest way to do that is to help others first.
  2. When you meet someone listen for their name and use it after 1 minute of conversation. It reinforces your interest in them as a person and your interest in your conversation.
  3. Come prepared with three stories (children, vacation, social, etc.); stories provide interest and usually lead to follow-up questions and discussion. Remember: a story paints a picture, and a picture is worth a thousand words (and a thousand points of connection).
  4. Stray away from “business” quickly in your conversations.
  5. Focus on helping the people that you meet, not helping yourself. Would the person you are speaking with benefit from you introducing them to someone else you know in the room? Do you have information that the person you are speaking with might benefit from?
  6. Follow-up. Can you offer to do something tomorrow, and can you remember to do it?

In all that you do, remember to be yourself. When you are yourself and just focus on developing great friendships awesome things happen.

Under-appreciated people, networking, and relationships

redwineIf you were to open my top left desk drawer you would find two things in it, a bottle of wine and a bottle of champagne. I don’t keep them in my drawer because they were left over from last years’ holiday party; they are there to thank others for their help making us successful.

Under-appreciated people
In the fast paced business environment prevalent today, I have found that people are generally under-appreciated. Think back over the past year about how many times you helped other people, perhaps it is a hundred or a thousand times? Now think about how many thank you notes you have received. I often ask this question when speaking on networking and have found that only about 5% of people in any given room have received a thank you note in the past three months!

Appreciation Benefits
Did you ever consider the benefits of taking the extra time to say thank you? Here are two benefits you may consider:

  1. Thanking people reinforces the behaviour you are thanking them for and increases the chances that that behaviour will be repeated in the future.
  2. Showing gratitude helps to build your relationship and differentiates you from the hundreds of other people that the other person works with.

Go buy some champagne
Consider taking a moment to ensure that others know that you are genuinely thankful for their efforts. The holiday season is a great time to start, but remember that it is something that benefits everyone regardless of the time of year.

Space Mountain

This past week I had the privilege of taking my oldest son Evan on his first roller coaster: Space Mountain at Disney World. It was one of those great moments in life when you get to re-live and pass along the feeling and experiences of growing up. I loved watching my boy in line as the mixture of excitement and nerves left his heart racing and hands shaking. Personally, I’m grateful that Space Mountain wasn’t my first roller coaster; I still remember my first ride on Space Mountain with my dad as we fell, spiraled, and turned in the dark never knowing what was going to happen next. I wondered what was in store for Evan after the ride: would this be his last roller coaster for several years or was he going to get “hooked?” As we started the climb listening to the clack, clack, clack of the ascent I reached forward and put my hand on his shoulder.

I think that we have all been there, waiting in hopeful anticipation of the first exhilarating moment after having made a decision to strap ourselves into something new. It is a feeling that I can only refer to as being truly alive. I used to believe that those moments came to us with less and less frequency the older we became, yet this past week I realized that we can gain even more satisfaction when we help others to reach the places that we have already been. It isn’t a replacement for that moment in our lives, instead it is a natural progression that again leaves you with the feeling of being truly alive.

As we got off the ride Evan was undoubtedly feeling the exhilaration of life, but I was enjoying the fulfillment and contentment of helping him experience something new. Walking away Evan grabbed my hand and thanked me for keeping my hand on his shoulder, then he quickly changed the topic in true boy fashion by half yelling “Dad that was AWESOME!”

When was the last time you truly felt alive?

What NOT to do when networking

I was at a networking function the other day and was reminded of the humorous and not-so-humorous things that people do when they are at networking events. Here is a quick list of things that you should avoid the next time you are out at a networking event:

  • Talking about the traffic or weather is ok, but it is a conversation killer if it goes on longer than 45 seconds.
  • If you are not a salesperson DO NOT SELL. Remember, networking is about building relationships.
  • Don’t be an excessive name dropper. Name dropping once or twice in a conversation can be beneficial as you work to identify mutual relationships, but be careful not to name drop in excess as others might find it annoying.
  • It is proper etiquette to wait until you understand what someone does for a living before you exchange business cards. It also keeps you from looking like you are more interested in collecting cards than building relationships.
  • Limit your drinking; a good rule of thumb is one drink per hour. This keeps you sharp and ready for the next conversation.
  • Don’t give someone that you just meet a brochure. It makes you look like a salesperson rather than a future friend. Brochures are for follow-up.
  • Finally, please don’t look for someone else to talk to while you are engaged in conversation. Believe it or not people can tell that you looking over their shoulders.

Remember that networking is about relationships, not events. Networking is not usually stressful if you are focusing on building relationships and having fun. If you are temped to “work the room” consider a new career in sales. If you want to build mutually beneficial relationships that will help your career and your company, just be yourself and look for ways to help everyone that you meet.  —  What would you add to the list?

 

Live One Life

At the turn of this year I wrote a little three word note that I thought was going to be a simple objective for the year: Live One Life. It was fairly straightforward when I wrote it down; I just want to be myself regardless of who I am with and what is going on around me.

The problem: Live One Life was a bit more complicated than I thought it would be. In order to live one life I needed to know who I am, what I stand for, and choose to be that person regardless of what others think or say.

Realistically, I don’t have all of those answers. I know what I stand for but I don’t understand how that always should coincide with my actions. Worse yet, I am a personal perfectionist. I know that mistakes are part of life; I just think that they shouldn’t be a part of my life.

Marley and Me

Several weeks into my newfound identity crisis we adopted a puppy named Marley. On a side note Marley was given a name and a subtitle (yes seriously) thanks to the book and movie Marley and Me. So if you ever meet her feel free to greet her as “Marley, the world’s best dog.”

It didn’t take long for me to realize that Marley already knew exactly who she was. It didn’t matter what type of day anyone else was having she just loved to be herself: she always greets me at the door, she is always a friend, and it is obvious that she genuinely loves just being herself.

Live One Life

Then it hit me: Living One Life isn’t as complicated as I thought; in fact it is so simple that even Marley can do it. I just needed to be ME. Living One Life means giving yourself the freedom to be imperfect and the opportunity to do what you can to make the world a better place.  It is a life focus on doing what I can do rather than focusing on what I can’t do.

Why Introverts are Great at Networking

business_people1For years I have watched with astonishment as many of my introvert friends have excelled at social/business networking. If you read most books on networking, (there are hundreds of thousands of them) you continually see information that is geared towards extroverts: how to work a room, how to effectively meet new people, and what to do at association events. The problem is that these thoughts are great, but not necessarily for introverts! By embracing who you are as an introvert and working your personal strengths you can see more success from your network than most extroverts. The secret is to focus on who you are.

Start with Who You Are

Let’s start with two obvious facts: 1) Just like extroverts, introverts are ‘pre-wired’ with a need for relationships. 2) Relationships are foundation of Networking. Based on these two facts it is easy to see that introverts should be able to easily succeed at networking, if only someone would tell them how to do it! You’re in luck, here is the secret:

Learn the key to Networking

With all that has been written on networking I am consistently amazed at how rapidly the central idea behind networking is overlooked. Networking is nothing less than focusing on and helping other people. When we help someone else once, it creates an innate and positive response. When we help someone three times, it creates a desire for them to help us in return; and when we help someone a dozen times, they have a healthy desire to help us in return. The great thing about real networking is that it creates mutually beneficial relationships where two people are consistently looking for ways to help one another. The key to this happening is concentrated effort on a specific group of people that over time develops these multiple mutually beneficial relationships.

The Introvert Advantage

Introverts are natural networkers because they have a tendency to focus on a smaller number of relationships. This same concentrated approach can be developed by extroverts, but it is very natural for an introvert to develop a strong core of relationships that can feed them opportunities and information.

Taking the first steps to start networking

To start networking as an introvert you need to take two first steps: 1) recognize that networking is nothing less than helping other people without expecting anything in return and 2) identify a core group of people (More than 10 and less than 20) that would fit well into your network. For example, if your business was marketing for an architecture firm and your best friend is an astrophysicist, they are probably not the right person for your business network. Then start networking by continually helping that group of people, you’ll be amazed at what happens as others start returning the favor.

How can I help you?

As 2010 comes to a close I have been thinking about the lessons learned since I began Cofebuz almost 3 years ago. You, my friends here on Cofebuz and throughout the world in the Design and Construction Network, have been such a great part of my life.  It has been during this time that I have realized that true success comes from relationships and that helping others is the best way to build great relationships.

As I look towards 2011, I realize that my network of relationships is stronger today than it ever has been. It is my desire to use this network to bring people together.  I want to help others build relationships where they did not previously exist and to create friendships that stretch far beyond business into the parts of our lives that truly matter. So, how can I help you? What can we do together in 2011 that will really matter on January 1, 2012 and beyond? Please post a comment here, or send me a note directly to tim-at-cofebuz.com. It is your turn… how can I help you?

Your approach matters

This morning I received an email from “Mark” (his real name will remain anonymous) requesting approval to join the Design and Construction Network (the 10,000+ person networking group I founded early last year). While I receive these emails all the time the content of this email had me taking a second look, it simply said “What benefit or contribution can I get out of joining?” 

In 10 words Mark proved that he does not understand real networking, and I don’t think that Mark is the only one. For the past 20 years we have been taught that networking is a means to generate sales, while in reality it is about building relationships. Imagine if Mark walked up to you and asked “What benefit or contribution can I get out of meeting you?” Instead of building a mutually beneficial relationship his approach would undermine any reasonable chance at building a true relationship.

How are you approaching networking? Do you proactively build relationships through your actions and interactions? The real secret to building great relationships is to help others first, the result is friends that enjoy being around you and know that you have their best interest in mind.

The Relationship Development Process

Success in business starts with successful relationships. Because of this, the relationship development process is often the guide that is used to govern the marketing and business development roles in companies. As you look at these stages of the relationship development process note that marketing plays the pivotal role of effectively laying the foundation for relationships, while business development facilitates the initiation of those relationships.

The Relationship Development Process

Name Recognition – During the name recognition phase of the relationship development process a company or an individual goes from being an unknown, to being known. This foundation sets the groundwork for a relationship as others are at least aware that you or your company exists. Name recognition is one of the primary objectives of a strong marketing department and it often takes the form of advertising, promotions, mailers, and press. It is also handled in business development and sales when a new relationship starts. A common introduction when you meet someone new for the first time often builds name recognition: for example: “I’m John Adams with ABC company.” Note: I have found that if your company is an unknown, prior to initiating a new relationship, your chances of turning the relationship into a sale are reduced significantly.

Develop Understanding – During this part of the relationship development process, a company or individual goes from just being a name, to being recognized for how they fit into the world. This stage establishes a thorough understanding of your company, the services you provide, and how others see you in the industry. Most importantly, it is during this stage that others will learn how your company can be of benefit to another individual or company. This stage should be handled by marketing at the company level and business development at the relationship level. In marketing, this often takes the form of websites, brochures, newsletters, and articles. In business development, it often happens during conversation and should include how the individual fits into the corporate structure.

Interactive Communication – During this part of the relationship development process you must begin to engage at the human level. This is no longer about facts or information, it is about building a personal relationship. Because of this, business development should take the lead at this stage with minimal marketing support.

Solidify Relationship – Relationships are solidified when you engage in mutually beneficial action. When you call someone that you have solidified a relationship with, communication is easy and most of the time you will be able to quickly find direct and indirect topics of conversation. This stage should be headed by your business development staff in conjunction with your project management staff. Often, this is the point at which new work or projects are begun with your new client.

How are you doing?

Looking at this process, you can see the importance of both business development and marketing in the sales process. Take a moment to identify the areas that you need to strengthen in order to improve the effectiveness of your sales process. Is your marketing department truly laying a foundation with name recognition and developing understanding, or are they just producing glossy brochures? Is your business development staff regularly initiating interactive communication with important potential relationships, or have you yet to identify who is responsible for business development at your company? As you think about these questions, I hope you can see the steps you need to make to improve your sales process.

Networking Secrets a Father Taught His Son

The following is a guest post is contributed by Maria Rainier, who regularly writes on the topic of online college education.

My brother is a wildly successful person. He literally has thousands of business cards in this gigantic blue 3 ring binder he keeps with him at all times. Ask my brother do you know a good handyman, he says “I know several”; ask him if he knows a good Cardiologist he replies “of course, I know the best in the city”. Ask him if knows anybody to do anything, he always says yes. It seems his binder is almost like a magician’s magic hat. You ask it to produce something and presto, it appears. A few weeks ago when we got together for Mothers Day at moms I decided to inquire. I asked him, how did you have time to meet and talk to all these people? How do you know them? He said. “I met 99% of them through networking”. I have to admit I was shocked.

Not to worry. I learned networkers are made, not born.

Growing up, my brother kept to himself. In high school he was not what I would call outgoing. He was not very talkative for a boy and he was not by any means a natural born salesman. So I asked him, “How did you get so good at networking?” He didn’t hesitate and replied “Practice”. I was puzzled. I always thought you can either network or you can’t. You are either a networker or you’re not. So I asked him, “what do you mean, you where never really a people person, you have always kept to yourself, why this new networking you?” He said “dad taught me how to network, go ask him” and then he laughed. So I pressed on and asked my brother “what do you mean dad taught you?” He said dad taught him the 3 cardinal rules of networking when he was in college taking a business course. Now I thought this is getting ridiculous, the 3 cardinal rules and a business course, he has to be pulling my leg. Maybe this goes deeper and I better not dig further. But of course, I had to. My dad never taught me to network. I needed answers.

I asked my brother if he would mind sharing with me how a quiet shy kid can turn into a networking expert. He quickly snapped, “I am no expert, but I can hold my own” “I told you sis, practice” I said “I know all that, but tell me exactly how you do it”. He said it would take him an hour and a half to teach me the 3 cardinal rules of networking dad taught to him and I should call him one night this week. I reluctantly agreed.

Get it from the source.

The next evening I called him and I said “OK so what are the 3 cardinal rules to networking?” he replied, “Do you have a pen?” I said, “Yes” and like it had been rehearsed and practiced dozens of times, he recited these cardinal rules to me: “Practice, Practice, Practice”. I said “c’mon now, I really want to know”. He said “OK”. He went on to tell me for over an hour that knowing people from all walks of life was essential to being successful. He told me that you did not have to make friends or even have anything in common, just that you were to create real business relationships. He said “this is the first cardinal rule, build solid relationships”. He further explained that he was taught by our dad to let the other person talk about their business and magically, in some metaphysical way, they would remember you and what you do through your silence. This was rule two. He then went on to tell me that common sense, when a networking opportunity presents itself, was the 3rd and final rule. He explained that carefully presenting your services when appropriate and only when appropriate, was key crucial to networking.  He told me that sometimes it took him two or three meetings to form a working relationship or even say a word about what he did. He was careful to point out not to pressure or rush a contact into a relationship, and better to stay low key and not seem desperate. He said that part of the common sense in cardinal rule three was to act like you don’t need the contact, but that you want it. He said this was a fine line and it took practice. He finished by telling me that no one wants to buy from, or do business with a desperate person. People want to buy from and do business with a successful person, so act like a successful person and you will never have a problem networking.