By Gail Stolzenburg
Are you one of those people who are unsuccessful in networking? Is it because the people you are talking with are unreceptive? Does it have to do with your approach? Are you talking too much about yourself rather than asking questions about them? Maybe it is a case of “Networking Disconnect”.
Imagine a group of experienced networkers in a room when they are asked, “Who came here today to make contacts, get some referrals, or even make a sale?” Almost every hand is raised. Then the question is asked, “Who came here to buy?” and no hand is raised.
They all claim they believe in the Zig Ziglar quote, “You can get anything you want in this life if you just help enough other people get what they want” and they also say that they practice the law of reciprocity. But their actions speak louder than their words. They forgot the principles of servant leadership and paying it forward. That is what’s called a networking disconnect.
Networking requires work and it requires keeping your ego in check by focusing on what you can do for someone else rather than what you can receive in the form of instant gratification. It requires more of working on yourself than selling yourself to others. “Attracting and engaging” is better than “pursuing and convincing”.
You have heard that an attitude of service begins at home and that also translates into networking. It begins when you wake up and look in the mirror. Are you in your best “state of mind” to attend a networking event? Your presence and your confidence are what people notice first. It you are in a lesser “state of mind”, another networking disconnect situation might occur.
People like to tell you about their USP (“unique selling position”). When they do talk about it, the focus should be on providing solutions, solving problems, and offering resources. Businesses are about relationships and relationships are built on trust and rapport. If you go for the close before that trust is built, there is going to be a networking disconnect. It may be difficult to accept, but people will not care in the least about who you are and what products you have until they know that you sincerely care about who they are and what their problems and needs are.
One of the best or worst examples of the networking disconnect is “upchucking” (also called premature solicitation), where you talk about how great your company is, how great your products are, and how great you are. The person whom you are talking with may appear to be listening, but the odds are that they have already decided to never get near you again!
Another way to avoid a networking disconnect is to have a reputation for being professional and that you are consistent not just face-to-face but also on social media. In addition, it helps to be memorable so make sure that your conversation is interesting, that you use effective body language, and that any commitments you make are kept.
Last but not least, make sure that you follow-up in a timely fashion. You will avoid the all too common way of networking disconnect if you use this simple follow-up formula when meeting new contacts called the 24/7/30. When you meet someone at a networking event, drop them a note within the first 24 hours; within 7 days connect with them on social media; and, finally, within 30 days reach out to them to set up a face-to-face meeting. Most importantly, make sure that when you do reach out to them, your communication needs to be memorable, personable, and that it reminds them how you can help them with their needs. This will help you establish an excellent referral partnership and avoid the disconnect.