Three Simple Steps to Deepen Your Network

In the midst of increasing world
tension, political stalemates, and government inaction, people across
the country (as well as around the world) are affected by the current
state of the world.  The sluggish economy has affected millions of
incomes, and people are realizing that they need to make some changes to
get the results they want.

Networking groups have seen a surge in participation in the past few
years, and networking is no longer an activity that is associated only
with people who are in middle of a job search.  Nor are networking
groups limited to entrepreneurs and sales people.  People of all ages,
career levels, and industries are recognizing the value of building,
growing, and deepening their network.

So, the desire to get ahead hasn’t changed.  But, how people achieve
their goals–how people springboard their careers–has changed.  The
value of relationships is becoming more apparent, and it’s time to take
notice.  Fortunately, it’s not too late for anyone to build on his or
her existing network, expand it, and strengthen it. 

In fact, with some concerted effort and focus, some dedicated thought
and attention, anyone can become a master networker in a matter of a
few weeks.

1.  Focus on what you give rather than what you get. 
For many people, networking is awkward and hit-or-miss.  They go to an
event or a chamber meeting looking for potential clients or customers. 
Their “elevator speech” is designed to sift out chaff, and they hope
that a nugget of a potential sale is somewhere in the room.  Constantly
searching for someone who can benefit them, they become irritated with
anyone who gets in their way.

What if you approached interactions with people the opposite way.  Instead of hoping for something you can get from them, search for something you can give. 
Listen to their elevator speech.  Examine your own network.  Who do you
know who can meet the needs of the people you meet?  Make those
connections.

As you spend time helping others, you will feel energized.  Your mood
will lighten.  Not to mention that people will appreciate you for
helping them.  And when they appreciate you, it’s easier for them to
help you in the future.

But keep in mind, you’re not looking for an even exchange.  You’re
looking to give without any expectation of receiving anything in
return.  Give because you want to.  Eventually, you will receive.

2.  Ask the right questions.  Questions are powerful.  Imagine getting ready to leave for the day, and your significant other asks, “You’re not wearing that today, are you?”  Instantly, the pink plaid shorts and the pumpkin-orange sweater don’t seem like such a great idea.

When you interact with people, ask thoughtful questions that affirm
their value in the relationship rather than questions that manipulate or
seek information for personal gain.

“Do you know anyone who’s looking to buy life insurance?”  is sure to
be a conversation stopper.  (And don’t be the guy that says, “If you
think of anyone, here’s my card.”)  Instead, consider questions that
show you value having a connection with the individual.  “Tell me how
you got involved in your industry?”  “What is something that energizes
you?”  “Tell me what someone not familiar with your industry should know
about it.”

Questions will open people up to sharing insights with you–and you may learn the nugget that you were looking for. 

3.  Listen to their story–their whole story–first. 
You’ve heard it, right?  The conventional wisdom that we have two ears
and one mouth, and we should spend twice as much time listening as we do
talking.

And it’s true.  When you talk, you learn what you know.  But, when you listen to others talk, you learn what they
know.  What they know may not surprise or interest you, but it might. 
And even more importantly, when you listen, you affirm the value of the
other person in the relationship.  You show that you are fascinated with
the person.  You’re interested in the individual—not just the
possibility that she represents a possible sale.

Let the other person talk.  Learn about them.  Ask good questions, and a friendship will develop.

Dale Carnegie taught that the best way to make friends was to be
interested in other people.  “You can make more friends in two months by
becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying
to get other people interested in you.”  He also said, “Talk to someone
about themselves, and they’ll listen for hours.

Because traditional networking is awkward for many people, and
because finding the “right” connection can be random, shift your focus
in your networking efforts.

Rather than judge an interaction to be a success if you gain a “key
contact” or you make a sale, consider it to be successful if you have an
enjoyable interaction.  If you feel joy, and if the other person feels
joy, then you have had a great networking experience.

You’ll probably be remembered by the person you met, because you were
interested in them.  Stay in touch, and you will have added to your
personal network of contacts.

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