Great networking skills can translate into new opportunities, more leads and sales, and higher retention and referral rates. Use the networking skills laid out in this infographic to find out whether your networking skills are up to snuff.
Networking Skills Infographic: 10 Things the Best Networkers Understand
Effective networking is a talent that comes naturally to a lucky few. For the rest of us, it’s important to decipher the elements that the best networkers already understand so that we, too, can enjoy the benefits that strategic networking can generate.
There’s an old saying that says “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Knowing the right people (i.e., having the right people in your network) might be the key to landing a new job, filling the sales funnel, keeping important clients engaged and generating coveted referrals.
Your network (noun) consists of the people you know; networking (verb) are activities you can engage in, in order to grow your network strategically. Adapted from the Business Insider networking skills infographic below, here are eleven things that talented networkers understand, that you can master, too.
Infographic – 10 Ways to Test Your Networking Skills
1. It’s not business, it’s personal.
Although networking is a business activity and – done well – produces business outcomes, most networking occurs in social settings, giving participants a better opportunity to assess whether you are someone they want to do business with based (at least in part) on whether they enjoy spending time with you as a person.
2. Pitches are for closers, not openers.
While many sales professionals hope a great pitch will mean easy conversions, elevator pitches work best when a lead is ready to buy. When networking, focus on introducing and exploring topics that speak to customer needs, and save the elevator pitch for closing time.
3. Everyone doesn’t need your card.
Exchanging business cards at the end of a conversation, instead of the beginning, gives you an opportunity to write something personal and important about the exchange on the card that you give away as well as the one you receive. This can make it more likely for a prospect to reach out to you, or help you remember what was important to the prospect when you reach out to them after an event.
4. Spend more time listening than talking.
When you meet up with a likely prospect at an event or through networking activities, it might be hard not to jump into talking mode right away. The more time you spend listening (really listening!) and assessing the prospects real need, the more likely you are to deliver the information that will be compelling to them.
5. Have a book of short stories.
When you get an opportunity to talk about what you do, try telling stories about customer resolutions that are likely to relate to the audience at hand instead of talking products and services. Talking about customer outcomes, gains and resolutions helps your prospect envision these results as probable for themselves, if they choose to do business with you.
6. It’s not a numbers game.
Sales processes are often viewed as a numbers game. The more quantity of leads that get put into the funnel, the more that will convert to real sales by the end. When it comes to networking, all connections are not equally valuable. Spend time seeking out and cultivating quality contacts vs. trying to get as many people as possible into your network.
7. There is real work involved in netWORKing.
From the work you do in advance of activities to research and prepare to moving out of your comfort zone to engage people you don’t know, and give them a reason to want to know you too, the more work and strategy that goes into your networking efforts, the more return on investment you are likely to realize.
8. A network isn’t a circle, it’s a sphere.
A circle is a flat, one dimensional shape, while spheres are multi-dimensional. If you only connect with people you can sell to then you are merely skimming the surface when it comes to networking. You will be missing out on potential referrals and the chance to cultivate relationships with people who do not need what you have to offer now, but will in the future.
9. What goes around, comes around.
Networkers who are constantly trying to sell or engaging only in self-serving activities aren’t going to be perceived as valuable relationships. The best networkers understand that a lot of what constitutes effective networking are activities that are not self-promotional or self-serving at all. Connecting people with resources and solutions, sending links to interesting articles or apps, and getting involved in charitable and civic endeavors can all make you a more valuable networking partner, and keep you top-in-mind for when prospects do want products or services like yours.
10. Know when it’s time to move on.
Knowing how to end a conversation is just as important as how you begin it; and maybe more. Time is valuable. Whether you are connecting with someone over coffee or at a networking event where many other people are present, have a plan for ending the conversation that plants the seed for future interaction or gives people a reason to follow up with you (or welcome your follow up call or email) later on.