Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Power of Networking.... Maximizing Every Handshake

Networking, as defined by Webster Dictionary is, “a supportive system of sharing information and services among individuals or groups having a common interest.”  Today we live in a business climate in which the demands on us as individuals can be almost overwhelming.  It moves at light speed; change is constant, and the ability to keep up with it all seems impossible.   With this fast paced and changing environment, in a world where we can never really “know it all”, why would anyone try and go it alone?  

The first key to any advancement or growth in personal life, professional development, or business, is surrounding yourself with a constantly growing network of people who can provide you or your organization help at any given time.  To build a network of people effectively, you have to understand the art of networking.  In my opinion, networking is one of the greatest life skills never taught to us as children or as business people, yet we are called upon to do it everyday.

The way to build a network is not about entering a conversation to see what a person can do for you.  The first step in networking is to get to know people and see how you can help them.   Zig Ziglar stated years ago, “If you help enough people get what they want, you will always get what you want.”

Recently I attended the MPI WEC meeting at Amelia Island, Florida, where I heard Laura Schwartz    She stated over and over that while she was working her way up through the ranks, whenever she would enter any social event and meet people, her number one question was, “How can I help you?” 
speak about how she rose from the position of intern at age 19 in the White House, to the Director of Events and Meetings for the White House. Ultimately, she produced every event President Clinton was involved with.

In the world of networking, people always remember those who have helped them be successful, and typically they are more than willing to return the favor.   The key to this element is that you give to help them achieve their goal without expectation of the return favor…that makes it genuine.  To be the best at networking, you must be a giver of help…not a taker.

As stated earlier, networking is about a connection to a group of people who, through your positive relationship, can help you at any given moment.  The key to a network is in your common interests or needs.  Some areas to think about building a network in would be:
  • Groups with similar interests
  • Individual with similar needs
  • Same age range
  • Mentors
  • Sphere’s of Influence
The second key to networking is to know yourself and others.   Take time to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the four different personality types.  The most successful networkers I’ve ever experienced have always been able to identify what makes people tick within minutes of talking to them.   Knowing this allows them to know “how” to talk to them.  Some people want to hear vision…some want to hear about your family…some want to hear the bottom line.   If you would like to see the strengths and weakness of the four personality types, you can visit www.tommorrison.biz and click on “Tom Morrison’s Handouts”.  There you will find a downloadable document that will be very eye opening about yourself, as well as, the people you meet.   The four personality types have all been characterized in many ways, including Greek words, shapes, animals, and colors.  They all break down to four:
  • Life of the Party
  • Decision Maker
  • Perfectionist
  • Can’t We All Just Get Along

Think about it…if you were about to enter a room full of people who spoke four different languages, wouldn’t you have a much better experience if you knew all four of the languages, and could talk in a way that they all understood every word you said?  The same is true with personality types.  We tend to speak to a person, like we are talking to someone who thinks just like us…big mistake.  You need to talk to people in a way that “they understand what you are wanting to communicate.”

The third key is to understand that networking is continuous and perpetual…it never stops.  Every time
you enter a room or shake a hand, it’s an opportunity to meet someone who may be the connection you need for a job a referral or help getting in the next door.

I know what many of you are saying at this point, “But Tom, I’m not a people person.  I’m uncomfortable in a room full of people, especially people I don’t know.”  Let me assure you that many people you may meet in that room feel the same way.  So my encouragement to you is to step out of your comfort zone, and introduce yourself.  At the end of this article, I will share a simple system for you to use on how to start up and move a conversation forward with anyone.

A few other keys you need to note on being a power networker are:

Be Viral:  A ton of networking and connection takes place online with LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Minimize and eliminate time wasters:  Your time is valuable and while you are talking to someone who has no interest in who you are, you are missing out on connecting with someone who will be a vital connection to your life.

Listen with your heart and often:  Simply put, be genuine and hear people’s stories.  Don’t fake whoBe real and transparent.  When you open up your heart to people and listen to theirs, that is when the ultimate connections are made.

Always be aware of where you are, who you are with, and who could be watching:  There’s a time and place for everything.  In the world of networking, you want to make sure you aren’t letting your hair down in an environment that could have negative consequences to some future opportunities you may have.

Be curious:  Ask lots of questions and get to know who you are with.  People LOVE to talk about themselves and what they do for a living.  They love to brag about themselves, leverage that to your advantage.  Share your wisdom when asked.  Always ask people for permission to give them feedback.  Help people create ideas and solutions.  Don’t be afraid to challenge ideas.

Remember and use names:  People love to hear other people call them by name.  If you don’t think so, try saying, “Thank you INSERT NAME”, next time you purchase something.  You will see the person smile.  Calling someone by name says, “You were important enough for me to remember your name.”

Not everyone will like you:  Remember that we are all different.  Not everyone likes certain personalities, there are differing opinions, many people have a past history that won’t allow them to like who you are and some are going to be jealous of you for whatever reason.  Don’t let it deter you…move on, they are most likely time wasters.

Everybody is somebody:  Always assume you need to meet a person…never under estimate who you  That person could know the person who is your next boss or next big client.  Always treat everyone you meet with respect and honesty as if they are the person who knows someone else you need to meet.
are shaking hands with.

Business cards:  Like the American Express commercial says…“Never leave home without it.”  These are how people remember you once you leave their presence.  The next level is to have a QR code people can scan with their phone, this way you are in their phone immediately.

Now that you know the keys to networking, I want to share with you a simple system for connecting with people once you have entered the room.  As you approach someone at the bar, or just in a small group, you have just reached out your hand and said typically, “Hi, my name is…..”  Most people don’t know what comes next.  Here is what comes next, it’s called F.O.R.M. 

FAMILY – everyone likes to talk about their family, so you start with simple questions like:
  • Where are you originally from?
  • Does your family live here?
  • How long have you and your wife lived here?
  • What are your kids into at their ages?

At some point, you then will transition into:

OCCUPATION – most people like to talk about what they do whether it’s good or bad, so you move into these questions:
  • So what do you do for a living?
  • How is the economy in that industry?
  • What are the major challenges a company like yours is seeing right now?
  • What do you like most about your job?

RECREATION – people have passions or outside work activities that they love:
  • When you aren’t at work, what do you like to do?
  • What do you like best about that activity?
  • Are you a sports fan?
  • Who is your favorite team?

After talking with someone about their Family, Occupation, and Recreation, it is now MY TIME.  The problem is you never get to “MY TIME” because you spent so much time letting the other person do what they like to do most…talk about themselves.

Your letting them talk so much about themselves, leaves them thinking you are this incredible listener, and an awesome person they just met.  BOOM!  Connection made.

Again, networking is a life skill everyone should master.  Start working on your ability to connect.  You never know which hand you shake that will change your life forever in the future.  A hand I shook in 1995, called me in 2005 to ask me if I would come be his #2 guy to take over as CEO when he retired in two years.   He said, while interviewing me, he always remembered how passionate my ideas were when he met me 10 years earlier…I was his only call to be his #2 person.