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Is networking ever uncomfortable for you?

September 26, 2012

The other day Chelsey, my eldest daughter, and I were discussing networking and how that can sometimes be uncomfortable. Chesley is a buyer for the Nashville Airport (BNA) and she belongs to a networking group that is specifically geared for buyers. She had a recent function that she went to and found it intimidating and not quite sure what to do; how to make the most of the networking experience. Through out the course of my career I have participated in several networking events, ones that I attended and others that my firm hosted. I look at it as a kind of right of passage for any business person. Yes it can be uncomfortable as the first day at a new high school, or the first day at a new church, or even (and more importantly) a first date. You go with great expectations: either your going to learn a lot, maybe get new clients, make some new friends, and even learn about other businesses out there that you’ve never heard of before. Most times you walk into the event with a clenched stomach, saying to yourself…where is the bar?, get me that drink and I will relax. You see people talking to each other and right away you assume they all brought someone…geez I’m alone. You get your drink and look around hoping someone makes eye contact, or even better there is someone else standing alone and maybe you can stand alone together. Sound familiar? Hopefully the host of the event is top-notch and will handle the uncomfortable introductions. But in any case this is the real world. Whether you are in high school, on a date or at your first networking event…you got to move and start talking.

My parents were both talkers. My dad was the typical italian from New York where he could talk to anyone about anything and usually have the last word. My mom was from the midwest and so nice that people wanted to talk to her and she had the gift of listening. My sister and brother and I were raised to talk. So networking came easy for me, not so much because I can talk but because I can listen. And listening, in my opinion,  is the key to a good networking experience. When I go to a networking event most people are not excited about what I do…generally a tax accountant gets many yawns. So what I have learned to do is introduce myself, make what I do a funny (or sometimes  an odd thing) such as tell them I am Bill “the super tax man hero” vs the ordinary “super tax man” as that distinction sets me apart and I have their attention. But right away I ask the questions and let them do the talking about themselves. Selling myself as the “super tax man hero” is pretty much it, now I need to know about them, what they do and how I can help. People love to talk about themselves and let you know all about their accomplishments. By listening you are gathering information that you can use to help them and they are becoming comfortable with you…and hopefully a bond is created.

Zita Gustin who proclaims to be a top-notch networker has put together a list of 10 networking tips that will give you the advantage.

  1. Be prepared. Have your networking tools ready: business cards, brochures, name badge and your elevator speech.
  2. Arrive Early. Just to pause and gather your thoughts, get calm, and plan your attack.
  3. Have A Plan. What is your goal: meet new people, get three new clients or just drink all night?
  4. Be A Giver and/or a Connector.When you focus on giving and being helpful to others, the getting will come later.
  5. Leave Your Troubles behind. Put on a happy face at the door and remind yourself that it is “show time.” People will look forward to seeing you and meeting you if you are energetic, positive and out going.
  6. Listen and Focus. When someone is speaking to you give that person your entire focus.
  7. Be Genuine. Everyone knows when someone is schmoozing the, And no one likes being primed for the pump.
  8. Do Teach/Don’t Sell. The savvy networker knows that the immediate sale of a product is not the goal of networking. Networking is about building relationships with people who will be happy to tell people about you.
  9. Follow Up. After the event, send a thank you card to each person that you had direct contact with.
  10. Follow up some more! Savvy networkers know that to build strong relationships they must dig deeper and make the continued effort to build ongoing relationships.

I think Chelsey will be prepared for her next event as I told her to take me with her and we can be a father daughter tag team. Just like the father daughter dances in Jr high school that she hated. LOL I found that networking can be invaluable especially in the age of social networking where so much has become impersonal. At Gunwel Associates we are full of ideas on how to build your business. We don’t just try to save you money, we try to help you make money. Give us a call today at 615-730-9444 or visit our website at www.gunwel.com. We look forward to helping you with every aspect of your financial life. See you soon!

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