Learning To Love Networking
April 18, 2008 by Akemi Gaines
Are you secretly shy but want to network to promote yourself and your business?
First, you are not alone. It is so natural to feel a bit of resistance when we make that first connection with a new person. It’s an animal instinct – you don’t know how they may respond, so there is a level of danger. Further, we’ve all had unpleasant experience with those slick “networkers” who work the room around handing out their business cards. Apparently, all they cared was their own business and you felt used. So you don’t want to be like them.
The good news is, networking doesn’t have to be that way. I have been making several new friends a week using the following three strategies. These strategies reduce my stress level when I approach new people, and let me build rapport that helps each other.
1. Have sincere interest in the person you are reaching out.
And know that people like being approached . . . by someone who really appreciate who he or she is. This means I do my homework before contacting the person. When I reach out to another blogger, I first spend time reading their blog – their home page, about page, their own top pick posts (many blogs have “Best of XXX” list in the sidebar), and several recent posts. While I am at this, I might leave comments or stumble upon the posts. Then I email the blogger how I like their blog, which part really touched my heart or which tips I found most useful.
Most of the time, the recipients get back to me so happily. Very often, we start working together quickly. For example, the guests of my Interview With Successful Entrepreneurs series are often recruited this way. Or we might talk about guest blog opportunities.
I find online connection is easier than offline because I can do this homework. It is also easier online to find people with similar interests. I search through Google and StumbleUpon for blogs about business and personal development. I also check comments on my own blog and on blogs I like. Additionally, there are blogs who regularly feature good blogs, such as NBOTW and the Quote of the Week.
When I physically meet people, the homework is sometimes difficult to do. I don’t usually know the people who will be there at the meeting I will be attending. So I just have to build it from the ground that we are attending the same meeting – with a certain interest in common. And I attempt the second strategy . . .
2. Have something to give.
This is mainly for myself, for me to feel more comfortable to approach a new person and to have a little reason to approach the person. If it’s online relationship, I might offer my e-workbook 7 Check Points For Aspiring Entrepreneurs for their review. The stumble (= new traffic) and comments I mentioned above are another example of mini gifts.
It reduces my stress level tremendously when I think more about what I can give rather than what I can get. And I don’t think it has to be a “stuff” that I give. I’d most appreciate if someone emails me with an idea to improve my blog. Or when someone quotes from my post and send me link love. Wouldn’t you?
When I attend meetings and seminars, I might bring in something to give (think of a box of donuts, for instance) if it seems appropriate and I seek something nice to say to the person I want to talk to. For example, I will talk to the person during the break and mention the great question she asked in the seminar. Or I compliment the unique ring the woman next to me is wearing or ask about the book someone is carrying.
And finally, here is a strategy to multiply your effort of networking. . .
3. Promote others.
Yep. Don’t just promote yourself, promote others. For two reasons. One, it’s the best gift you can give to the person you are helping to get ahead, and if that person is worth the attention, they will remember. They will do what they can do to help you. You are building a strong ally for yourself by promoting others. Two, you are helping the person in front of you, too, by giving solid reference, and they will appreciate you. (Needless to say, be sure your reference is excellent.)
And again, saying nice things about someone else is so much easier than promoting myself. I often wonder why it is so challenging to say I am a great coach! I know I do a wonderful job, and it is a work of love – it helps people to live better, so I am proud of my work, and yet . . . aaaaagh! My heart is starting to go faster with self-consciousness!! Whereas promoting the coaching service in general is not that difficult for me, and talking about the great blog I found is casual and fun. (Like, did I mention Cath Lawson’s Fab Quotes?)
We can’t afford not to network in life and in business.
Any business is about person to person connection at its core. The above three strategies make a good start in networking. It is not a way to get maximum number of names in the shortest time possible. It is about building strong meaningful relationships in a slow and steady way while feeling good about ourselves. It works for me, especially online. For offline networking, I still have a lot to try – I am checking what kind of meetings or seminars are good for networking, how to find them, how to physically approach people, and so on. I appreciate if you have any suggestions.
Related reading: Professional Networking: It’s Not Just Who You Know
More related reading especially about how to use comments for networking:
How I Made $2500 Online Simply By Leaving a Comment at Adversity University
Rethinking Blog Comments at Dosh Dosh