Over the last 6years I have presented to nearly 30,000 delegates and a wide variety of audiences and what I have learnt beyond doubt is that about 99% of them don’t like business networking.
“I feel uncomfortable entering a room full of people I don’t know.”
“I get nervous when I see an invitation I ought to accept”
are just two of the comments I hear. Or a third comment,
“It’s not for me I get enough business through referrals and recommendations.”
Now, that third response always brings me to ask what is the fundamental difference between getting business from referrals and getting it through business networking? Simple answer, the former is reactive marketing the latter proactive.
If you are content to wait for third parties to dictate the growth rate of your business, that is fine. Rely on clients and contacts to make those recommendations. However, if you want to dictate the growth of your business then I believe the most cost effective way to spread your message about who you are what you do and how your clients benefit from buying your services and products then business networking has to be the answer.
Having spent literally hundreds of hours analysing these negative attitudes to business networking, I believe I now have most of the solutions to help overcome people’s fears and anxieties. Let me share my findings with you. Can I ask how do you feel when you go somewhere be it business networking or social and you are not likely to know many people. If you are like my seminar delegates or audiences you tell me things like:
“I could make a fool of myself”,
“I may not belong here”,
“I am going to feel well outside my comfort zone”,
“I am likely to be embarrassed”,
and the list goes on and on.
I know the key learning point here is virtually everyone feels the same, therefore as a consequence if you feel totally relaxed and comfortable you are abnormal! Don’t worry, there are just a few of us still around. Don’t misunderstand me but I know the root cause of all these fears, it is your mother’s fault. My mother, your mother, everyone’s mother, what did she tell us about strangers? That’s right never talk to strangers. What she forgot to tell us when we became mature teenagers that there was no harm in safe environments in talking to people we don’t know.
I now give you that permission because you will never be rejected. Rejection, that is the overall fear to networking. Zig Ziglar, that famous and international motivational speaker said “Fear false evidence appearing real”. Now think about it for a moment. When have you been rejected when you have approached someone at a business networking event or social gathering? My guess is never, unless of course you don’t do it in the correct manner.
Imagine a scenario. Your clients have invited you to the opening of their new premises and have been kind enough to include you on their guest list. Let us move into that room. There are 50 people there and the only people you know are the hosts. You said your hellos to them then they move on to greet other guests. Now is the moment when I ask you to remember that 99% of the people in that room had similar misgivings and doubts. So, if it is a bar do, go and get yourself a drink and look round the room and you will see them. There they are standing alone near the wall like Billy and Betty no mates. These people are standing there because of all the fears we have mentioned so far. They feel as if they have 2 ton of lead on each foot weighing them down, unable to move. At best this is due to unease, at worst raw panic. Knowing now how they feel, take your drink, go up to them and from a short distance smile. Ask if you may join them, extend your hand, shake hands and introduce yourself. I think first names only are a great way to start to build a business relationship. Most of us struggle with names, let’s keep it simple. At this moment please, please believe me, you will not be rejected. You will never be rejected. They will want to make you their friend for life at this point. They will want to give you a big mental hug and more than likely they will offer up a little prayer of thanks. No one stands on their own by choice, they do it because of their lack of self-confidence, their worries and their misgivings. Even at this early stage you and Billy or Betty will have at least four things in common:
1. You are both fellow guests of the same hosts.
2. You both know no one.
3. You are both in the same business networking event.
4. You both travelled to get there.
There are many easy subjects you could discuss. You could talk about your hosts. You could comment on the room if there is something different about it or you could ask “so Jo, (it’s changed now from Billy or Betty Nomates because they have told you their real name) so Jo, how far have you travelled today to get here?”
It does not matter what the opening question is as long as it is something Jo won’t have any problem answering!
Believe me when I tell you that unless the person is truly antisocial, and yes it does happen very occasionally, the conversation will begin to flow. More often than not, there will soon be common topics to talk about. It may be where you both live, where your businesses are based, the fact that you are both in the same sort of business. You may both be suppliers to the host. By this time, you will both be feeling much more relaxed.
And finally, a quick tip. If you are nervous about entering a full room at a business networking event, get there early. This gives you a chance to chat to your hosts a little longer and it is likely they will introduce you to fellow guests immediately. This of course, rules out lots of the negative feelings, which we have already covered.
In other articles on business networking, we will talk about:
1. The problem people have with remembering other people’s names.
2. How to build relationships through the power of small talk.
3. How to extricate yourself, one person or a group of people
4. How to break into groups
5. How to park people with others, understanding that business networking is all about giving first and receiving second.
6. Finally, how to leave any business networking event with real potential business opportunities.
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Kintish specialise in training professional individuals, companies and corporations in business networking techniques via seminars, in house work groups and major events. Kintish has provided learning to some of the biggest names in UK finance as is in great demand as a speaker at business events.
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