Matthew Davies is an Author, Speaker and Consultant in Learning and Development. He is a Fellow of the Learning and Performance Institute and works with major corporate clients around the world, including MOO.com. This is the forth series of six blog posts in which he teaches teach us how to work the room so effectively, you’ll get holes in your shoes.
Networking is NOT selling so do not sell. Got it? Really, I mean it, don’t sell…. now have you got it? Good. Networking is about meeting other people and finding out about them to simply expand your network, hence the name networking. So ditch the sales pitch! Once you’ve build the relationships the sales will come. I actually find it moderately offensive when a stranger thrusts a business card in my face and asks me something like ‘who does your SEO?’ It’s a bit much.
The route to a sale has several steps and building a trusted relationship can’t be leapfrogged. So take it easy and be gentle. Many of your fellow networkers won’t know you and will not want to know you if you’re overwhelming, aggressive and basically cold calling. Let them ask you about what you do. It’s your role to be interested in them and not the other way around. So remember and apply these two basic principles when networking:
1. Do not sell
2. Be interested instead of interesting
Being interested instead of interesting is a great relief to many of my clients. Suddenly their role changes and the pressure is off. The way you become interested is simply to actively listen.
How to listen
The first rule in life is to listen and it’s no less important at a networking event. We listen to learn, to understand and to respond appropriately. Listening is simple, yes, but it’s not easy.
The overwhelming purpose of any business is simple: To be reactive to the customers needs or put more simply, to solve their problem. So it can be argued that to run a successful business we need to listen more actively. Active listening is about making a conscious decision to concentrate on what the other person is saying, in other words, to dismiss any distractions and mindfully listen to the information they are imparting.
If we agree it’s important to actively listen at networking events, what do we do with that information? Does listening require action? Or can the act of just listening really build trust or even solve a problem? In counselling (especially in what’s known as person centred counselling) listening and clarifying what someone says is the primary role of the counsellor. It can be incredibly powerful. In fact, a Turkish proverb says “If speaking is silver, then listening is gold.” So listening can be cathartic and it displays empathy. It’s also an important trust builder in any relationship.
Here are my five tips for listening:
1. Be present and don’t distract
2. Don’t interrupt or preempt
3. Confirm and clarify
4. Stay focussed and be fascinated
5. Don’t assume they need your experience or advice
The last point is worthy of note. Sometimes people don’t need your opinion, they just need a good listener. If you feel the need to rescue people, think again. It is said that the worst vice is advice so the best way to share your opinion with others is through experience, for example “I worked with a client and…”
People will respond way more positively to the power of example rather than an example of power! And remember people love to be listened to.
Written by Matthew Davies