By Jeff Beals
The key to success in any networking conversation is your ability and willingness to listen. In fact, I recommend you listen two-thirds of the time and speak only one-third of the time whenever you strike up a conversation at a networking event.
I call it “The Rule of Thirds.” Two-thirds of the time should be focused on the other person and one-third of the time reserved for whatever you think is important.
I was presenting a networking workshop for a large group of sales professionals a few years ago when one of the attendees approached me during a break. His name was Anthony.
“You know that whole ‘listen-two-thirds-of-the-time’ stuff you talk about?” he said. “Well, I do that. But how come nobody ever tries to do it back to me? Why am I the only one who listens? People are so self-absorbed. Why doesn’t anyone try to listen to me two-thirds of the time?”
He was frustrated that despite how hard he worked to show interest in others, nobody seemed to reciprocate.
I thought about his observation and said, “If you think about it, Anthony, it’s really quite a blessing. After all, if everyone followed the Rule of Thirds we would have a mathematical problem right?”
If people let you do the questioning and listening, they are essentially giving you all the power. The questioner leads and manipulates the conversation.
If you are going to be effective as a networker, one of the first things you must do is become a forgiving person. For the better you become at interpersonal communications, the more you will notice how lousy at it the rest of us are.
Ultimately, you win when you make it about the other person. It’s always about them, not you. No matter how much they might deny it, the truth is that people really care most about themselves.
Don’t get discouraged if people are self-absorbed and don’t show much interest in learning about what you hold dear. If you listen to, comprehend and engage with what they are saying, they will love you. That will lead to sales, deals, agreements, job offers or whatever else you might be seeking.
While the virtue of forgiveness is important in networking, it is not the only skill you need. Here are some networking rules to keep in mind whether you’re rubbing shoulders with movers-and-shakers or simply mingling with prospective clients:
Start with a Purpose
Focus on results when networking. When you go to networking events, go with a goal in mind. Sure, you should try to enjoy the social aspects of your conversations, but make it your mission to meet new people, find a good lead and learn about a golden opportunity.
A Positive Face
When participating in any networking event, bring a positive attitude even if you don’t want to be there. People with energy and enthusiasm are more attractive to fellow networkers.
While you never know who could provide you with opportunities or valuable information, make your networking efficient by seeking out people in your target audience. Spend the preponderance of your time with people who can help you reach your goals in the shortest period of time.
Ultimately, networking should lead to some tangible benefit. You can push professional relationships forward in part by asking questions. Ask things that lead people down a path to your ultimate goal. You may find benefit in preparing questions ahead of time and rehearsing in your mind how you might ask such questions.
You should leave discussion partners with an item of value but this is nothing you can see, taste or touch. It’s intangible – something like a joke, piece of trivia or a bit of interesting insider information. These intangible leave-behinds make you and your message more memorable.
Observe the Masters
If you are shy or awkward in professional networking situations, you can improve by observing the masters, those people who are naturally gifted at making small talk, working the room and connecting people. Emulate what they do well and you may eventually become a master yourself.
Make a commitment to network more and remember to do it deliberately with a purpose. Showing up at public venues frequently over a long period of time will increase your public profile, connect you with the right people and help you become that person who always seems to know about business and political happenings long before your colleagues do.
Jeff Beals is a professional speaker and award-winning author, who helps professionals enjoy greater success through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques. He delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at (402) 637-9300.