networking

Confidence holding you back? You can fake it

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Years ago I moved from Perth to Sydney to set up the Sydney branch of the company I ran. I knew no one in the market so on the first couple of days I spent flicking through some annual reports to work out who I would approach.

One of the key executives at a major investment company was a guy named Bill Brooks (name changed to protect the innocent and not so innocent). I knew Bill from years before so I rang him and confidently suggested that I come to his office for a coffee at 10.30 the next morning.

The next morning I was sitting in a plush reception and Bill came out to greet me – the only issue was that the Bill I knew was about 5ft 6in tall; this Bill was about 6ft 5in. We had a great conversation and later he became a significant client.

The great lesson for me was that if you approach someone with confidence, they are more likely to meet with you. In this case I had no doubt Bill would meet with me when I called because of our previous interaction.

In truth, I never did tell him of the mistaken identity and I still wonder to this day if  questions why this Perth bloke was so friendly and confident.

Networking questions – and answers

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Yesterday I spent some time with some of the incredibly inspiring Deloitte business women of the year candidates – lots of energy and talent and very open to discuss areas of strength and development.
One of the topics we covered was networking. People over-complicate networking. Simply, it’s just like building a friendship; it’s about engaging in a conversation on a topic of mutual interest.

Here’s six (common) questions, and my thoughts on each, that were asked:

Q. How do I start talking to people if I don’t know them?
A. Simply go up to a small group and introduce yourself and importantly ask a question rather than starting on a dialogue about you. Everyone has been in your situation and will accommodate you and engage you as part of the group. And if they don’t? It’s not about you – it’s about them; so don’t get discouraged and move onto the next.

Q. What do I do talk about to someone new?
A. It is about finding a topic of mutual interest. I will ask someone new a question about their company or their role. The key is to get them talking about themselves. But it shouldn’t just be all questions. The key is to balance questions with an insight or a point of view; expanding on a point they have raised to turn it into a conversation.

Q. How do I move on to the next person when you have been talking to someone for a while?
A. Dont say I’m going to the toilet or going to get a drink. Be honest – simply say “it’s been nice meeting and I’m going to talk to a few others in the room”. Or, suggest that you both go over and join another group. Everyone is in the same situation and they will appreciate your honesty and openness.

Q. How do you continue on to build a relationship?
A. You don’t create a relationship on the first date! It’s about weight of interaction so it is incredibly important to follow-up quickly with someone you have met. Drop them an email commenting on something you have discussed and ideally include a small article of piece of though leadership that relates to the topic. That will give you the basis in the next week or two to follow-up and suggest a catch up or coffee. Then, set yourself the task of at least one interaction (email, article, coffee, meeting , lunch, event invite) every month for six months. Do that, and you will have a relationship.

Q. What is important to become a good networker?
A. Have a strong personal brand. There are probably 100,000 professional advisers (accountants, consultants, lawyers etc) in this country. What is it that will make you stand out and be remembered? Then realise that networking is about great conversations and weight of interaction.

Q. What is important in terms of style and approach?
A. The most important thing is to be yourself; people spot it if you aren’t authentic. You have spent 10,000 hours perfecting your technical competency, so it’s unlikely you are going to be an expert networker on day 1. Test and learn – you will recover if things don’t go well and there are always more people to catch up with.

I know it’s difficult for most people to believe it , but, networking can be enjoyable.
Get out there and give it a go

Networking – no need for SMOOTH

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Developing a strong network is a foundation for career success – yet so many people have fears or misconceptions about building a network.

Networking is not:

– something you do to someone

– going to conferences and cocktail parties and collecting business cards

– manipulating people to get them to give you work

– something that can only done by extroverts or smooth ‘salesmen’

Networking is no different to building friendships – it’s about building genuine relationships based on authentic and consistent interactions over time.

Networking is:

– building relationships before you need them

– building relationships with people who you can help and can help you

– trusting that if you put energy in, you will receive something in return over time

– something you have to do consistently – daily is best and weekly at a minimum

Rules of Networking Part 3 (of 4) : I’m “not really” going to get a drink

People often get locked into standing with one or two others at a cocktail party or networking event and feel uncomfortable about moving on to another group. The “I’m going to get another drink” or “I’m going to the bathroom” excuses are often used, but all parties know they are generally poorly hidden exit excuses. Here’s 3 tips that should help.

  1. Understand when your time is up and leave them interested in more – don’t be frightened of moving on
  2. Practice some exits beyond “I’m going to get a drink”. The best way is to be honest and just say “I’d better move on and talk to some others” or say “why don’t we go over and join that group” or “is there someone else I can introduce you to”
  3. Give before you get – you may be desperate to build a relationship with someone that can be good for business or your career but you need to give them value before asking for value. In this way you are demonstrating a ‘2-way’ relationship and that ‘it’s not all about you’.

Rules of Networking Part 2 (of 4) : Woe is Me

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  1. Don’t be “woe is me” – no matter how tough it’s been, paint a positive picture when you’re making new connections. It doesn’t have to be “the world is great” but people like to meet someone who has a positive outlook and who sees options for the future. Do you like doing business with someone who has a downbeat attitude?
  2. You have heard it before but the two ears, one mouth rule is important. Understanding what drives the other person will give you a huge advantage as an adviser. Call it the introvert’s advantage – extroverts find it hard to be the listener
  3. Avoid uncomfortable topics – being friendly is key, but try to avoid topics that may make the person you have just met feel uncomfortable.
  4. Adopt normal social behaviour – where you direct your eyes, how closely you stand to someone, how often you might touch their arm etc are things to consider.

Rules of Networking – Part 1

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To be successful in business you have to learn networking skills.  And everyone can learn the skills – even those of you who it scares the hell out of. You don’t have to be an extrovert to be a great networker. This is the first of 4 posts covering points that I believe are the keys to networking:

  1. First impressions count – heavily. Your appearance and attitude matter – in the way that other people perceive you and the way that you feel about yourself
  2. The introduction – is critical. Introduce yourself by clearly stating your name and making eye contact while you shake hands. Weak handshakes turn people off as do the “crush” – it may sound odd but practice yours with a friend to make sure it’s neither bone-crushing nor wimpy
  3. You are interesting – but not that much. No one needs to hear your entire work history upon meeting you- start to finish should be 30 to 60 seconds.
  4. Start with the future – start with where you are headed and then connect the dots to your history sharing what’s relevant rather than what’s recent.

Using CPI as an effective tool for networking

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Going to a networking event, a lunch or a meeting?

In preparing I find it useful to think of CPI or in fact 3 definitions of the acronym:

  • Consumer Price Index – have a quick scan of key financial, economic and business data that have been the big news in the last week. It is hard to be seen as someone who is tapped into business, if you are unaware of recent news
  • Common Points of Interest – if you know who is going, Google them to try to find things that might be common points of interest. If you meet someone at the event you don’t know, finding the CPI is one sure way to connect
  • Critical Performance Indicators – if you are meeting with a client or target, do as much research as you can on them and their industry to understand the critical levers for their business and industry. It will certainly increase the information they will share if you can ask about issues that are the key ones for their business.

Twinkle twinkle

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Leading Harvard Professor Boris Groysberg has written books on what makes people ‘stars’.

His study over 25 years has led him to one conclusion; the difference between someone who is talented and someone who is a star is the quality of their network.

Having a network within an organisation is seen by Groysberg as critical for success. Having a network that extends beyond the organisation means that success can be replicated by the ‘star’ even if they move organisations.

Despite the overwhelming evidence from Groysberg and others, so few people prioritise the building of a network. Instead they continue to focus on the development of technical skills and leave the network to chance.  Thier are a number of simple steps you can take to build and foster a network, but they do all take an allocation of time.

Are you building a network that will make you shine?

 

 

What do I say to someone new?

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A lot of people ask ‘what should I talk about when I am meeting someone new?

In some ways it is an impossible question to answer but in some ways it’s very easy.

The easy response is to just be yourself – you’ve built friendships and relationships many time and there is really no difference in a work situation. The problem is that in a work situation most people put significant pressure on themselves to try to be the smartest person in the room to impress with knowledge.  The key is to remember:

1. People want to talk to someone who is authentic

2. Being authentic requires a lot less energy than trying to being something you are not – save the energy for talking about a topic you are authentically interested in

3. It should be about building a relationship‎ and for that to be long-term it has to be built on a solid or true foundation.

The key for me (as well as being authentic) is to create a focused conversation on something of mutual interest‎. So how do you find the topic of mutual interest. Here’s my 5 simple tips:

1. do your research on the person and the company – but don’t create a script. It’s amazing what you can learn from LinkedIn, twitter etc that will allow you to direct the conversation to areas that interest the other person

2. have a Point of View to take in and be prepared to use and also be prepared to throw it away (ie not use it if the other person wants to go down another path)

3. give the client some space through questions and sharing observations that allows them to raise issue of interest to them

4. share an article of piece of thought leadership that you believe may be of interest

5 raise a couple of areas that are of interest to you – that you do have knowledge about but would genuinely like more insight from the other person.

At the end of the day, every one likes to feel valued, likes to engage on a topic of mutual interest and wants their opinion to be heard