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Work the room: a psychologist’s tips for the reluctant networker

The Guardian // 15th May 2018
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Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Work the room: a psychologist’s tips for the reluctant networker” was written by Dr Rob Yeung, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 28th February 2018 07.30 UTC

Do you want to advance your career or business and make more money? Silly question probably.

Widening your network might be the answer.

A study led by North Carolina State University’s Jeffrey Pollack found a link between entrepreneurs’ networking activities and how much money they brought in.

Many people understand that they should network, but at the same time hate the idea of it. It’s easy to think of networking as a process of having to talk to complete strangers, schmoozing and pretending to be something you’re not. But many individuals go from not feeling like they can manage it to doing it very well indeed.

Think of it as making friends

People are very good at spotting insincerity. If you go into a conversation with the sole aim of meeting so-called useful people and selling your product or service, you will turn people off. Rather than rushing to win business, think instead about meeting people with the aim of making friends – or at least building enough rapport that the two of you might want to chat again in the future.

Introverts can make great networkers

It’s often assumed that extroverts make the best networkers, but that isn’t always the case; extroverts sometimes talk too much and dominate conversations inappropriately. The key to networking well is to ask open-ended questions and give other people the chance to talk about their work or the pressures they face. Most people enjoy talking about themselves. And hearing people talk will allow you to figure out the best angle for pitching your product or services to them at some point in the future.

Figure out why you do what you do

To make a good impression, don’t try to put on a front and become something you’re not. Instead, work out why you enjoy what you do. Maybe it’s because you get a kick out of helping people, or you like solving technical problems or educating clients. If you can communicate what – other than money – makes you excited about what you do, you will go a long way to coming across in an engaging or even entertaining fashion.

Share stories, not facts

When it comes to talking about what you offer, don’t cite statistics or get bogged down in abstract marketing speak. Talk about instances when you have helped real clients or customers. Speaking about specific situations you improved will make you come across as much more credible than if you speak in generalities.

Follow up

Meeting people once and exchanging business cards does not mean that you have networked successfully. Successful networkers understand that a first meeting needs to be followed up by regular emails and meetings. Keep track of the people you’ve met and find ways to be helpful to them occasionally. Let them know about relevant opportunities. Introduce them to other people you know who may be useful to them. When you have shown that you are looking out for them, they will be much more amenable to helping you in turn.

Don’t underestimate the importance of a real conversation

Yes, social media can help us to keep track of people. But truly useful business networks tend to be built by face-to-face conversations where you can look people in the eye, read people’s body language, share a laugh and talk properly. So think of online networking tools as supplementary, rather than your main method of networking.

Dr Rob Yeung is a psychologist, business coach and author of Confidence 2.0: The New Science of Self-Confidence.

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