Successful Networking for Introverts
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Before we know it, the first quarter of 2016 will be behind us. If you are not on track to reach your new client acquisition goal, here’s a way to close the gap. Networking is an often feared, but impactful way to generate new leads.
For advisors, the most common networking opportunity is a meeting, such as one organized by the Chamber of Commerce. Here’s how to successfully “work” the room – even if you don’t like networking.
Re-think the idea of networking
Think of networking as making friends on purpose: connecting with someone first as a person, not as a potential client. Don’t have an agenda when you meet someone; just relax and enjoy the interaction.
Of those who walk into a room where an event is being held, 93% feel shy. You are not the only one feeling apprehensive.
Don’t wait until you need something to start networking. Start today, and begin making friends on purpose.
Tips on networking
Arrive early and act like a host, welcoming people as they arrive, chatting with them and if appropriate, introducing them to others. Pick three people who interest you the most. Spend additional time with them throughout the evening.
Don’t arrive hungry. Eat before you arrive, or arrive early and eat. You want to have your hands free during the event. There is nothing more awkward than trying to shake hands, get your business card out or take notes when your hands are full. In addition, you will have time to check your teeth to be sure they are free from food and freshen your breath.
Make sure you have your business cards available and easily accessible. Have a pen and small note pad handy as well.
Arrive to the event with a goal or intention. Your goal is not to hand out as many business cards as you can. This is very unproductive. We like to help people and work with people we know, like and trust. We can’t get to know someone who hands us a business card and then is off and running to hand out their next card. Depending on the length of the event, your goal should be to make two to three good connections. If I come away from an event with one good connection, I consider the event a success.
It is okay to attend with a friend or colleague, but don’t spend the entire evening with him or her. As a team, you have an opportunity to connect with a greater number of people, and your friend may make a connection with someone who could be a terrific client for you. If so, she can introduce you.
Let your focus be on the other person. Be genuinely interested, and ask questions. Look for common ground, which shows similarities between you. I have included a list of questions that you can keep tucked in the back of your mind to help if the conversation begins to lag. Adjust the questions based on the situation.
Have a reason to follow up
It is always easier to contact someone if you have something specific to discuss. During the conversation, listen for opportunities to follow. It could be something as simple as the name of a restaurant, a web-site resource or the name and author of a book. It might be to set up a time to meet for coffee.
Your ultimate goal is to set a time to meet or chat to see if the services you provide are of benefit to them and if you can be a resource to them in some way.
If the person you are speaking with asks about you, be polite and answer their question(s), but try to turn the attention back to them. Remember, the best conversationalists are those who listen. You will gain more respect in social and business circles when you demonstrate good listening skills. Participate, but don’t monopolize the conversation.
A good conversationalist engages others and stimulates the conversation. Keep up with trends and current events so you’ll have something meaningful to talk about. Take a keen interest in others, but also live an interesting life of your own. Try new things. Accept unusual invitations. Volunteer for causes that interest you. Go back to school. Read. Meet new challenges, and then share your experiences. But again, don't dominate the conversation.