Episode 20: April 28, 2011
by Lisa B. Marshall
Making Friends While Shopping
I hate to admit this publicly, but last Friday, I was one of those crazy Americans standing in line at the crack of dawn hoping to get a great bargain. (In the U.S., stores give big discounts the Friday after Thanksgiving and some open as early as 4 a.m.)
While I was waiting for the store to open, I decided to talk with the guy in front of me. (If you’re a regular listener, you already know I learned this habit from my mother). Anyway, Joe and I had almost an hour before the store opened, so we had plenty of time to get to know each other.
He told me about the new floors he just installed, he told me about his wife and kids, and he even shared with me the story of his career. I reciprocated by telling him about my family, my work, and of course, about this podcast. Joe was an interesting guy and I really enjoyed our conversation.
At the end, he surprised me by asking me to send him a quote for some training for his team. But, really, after thinking about it, I shouldn’t have been surprised.
I’d made a connection. I was “networking.”
That word, ”networking” used to be a dirty word for me. I hated going to events to “network.” I viewed it as “wasting time,” I felt like I was forcing myself to make useless small talk with strangers. Really, that’s honestly the way I felt and as you might suspect, I didn’t have much success with my networking.
I just didn’t get it.
Eventually, though, I finally realized that networking wasn’t about attending events or about fake small talk. I was looking at it all wrong.
Networking is really just a process. A process that starts with an initial contact, which leads to a connection, which can then lead to a relationship. Networking should be viewed as a process of building relationships that get incorporated into the fabric of life -- both your professional and personal life.
Networking is about being genuine, not fake. It’s how we look for a job, it’s how we find prospects, it’s how we engage our existing customers, and it’s how we stay in touch with our friends and family.
Networking in a Troubled Economic Environment
And in these economically troubled times, my professional and personal relationships are even more important. Opportunities come from people. And when opportunities are limited, you need to have a strong, thriving network to go to so that you can find and take advantage of those opportunities.
People want to work with people they know and trust, especially in difficult economic times. If you have a limited network, your ability to dicsover opportunities is severely diminished.
People want to work with people they know and trust. Especially in difficult economic times, if you have a limited network, your ability to discover opportunities is severely diminished.
This episode is a reminder that now is the time to renew, refresh, and revitalize your network. Don't wait until you need something to contact your friends and colleagues.
Think about it.
Who would you rather be approached by? Larry or Harry… Larry, “ I just got laid off and I’m wondering if you know of any opportunities to help me?” or Harry, “What can I do to help you?”
If you wait to approach someone when you’re in need, it seems as if you are only interested in helping yourself. In fact, I think that’s why most people find networking so uncomfortable, because they wait. But if you approach networking with a thought of genuinely wanting to help the other person, think how much more receptive the other person would be and how much more comfortable you would be.
Every day, think about how you can have more conversations and make more connections. Think about what you can do to move your connections into relationships. Mutually beneficial long-term relationships. This way, when and if you need help, you’ll have people to turn to. You won’t need to sell yourself, because they’ll already know you.
I know many of you listen to the show for concrete, practical tips. So, I thought I’d share with you a few techniques or guidelines that I’ve found helpful over the years. My hope is that for some of you, maybe an idea or two will be new, and for everyone else, these will just be reminders of the things you’ve already found to be true.
So the first thing, and perhaps the most important thing, is to be yourself. Talk real, act real, be real. Being yourself allows you to be comfortable, confident, and consistent.
I’ve already alluded to my second guideline, it’s important to be genuine. Take a genuine interest in the other person. Get to know someone. Learn from him. Show an interest in him. Don’t just qualify the people you meet.
Next, be prepared. Always project confidence. Smile. Always communicate your story in a compelling manner. Use good posture and have a firm handshake. People make judgments quickly, some researchers say in minute or less, so all of these things can have a significant impact on the first impression.
Quickly find common ground. People build bridges between themselves by discussing things they have in common. Think of small talk and questions, not as insincere conversation, but as tools for quickly discovering what it is that you have in common. Common ground is what moves an initial contact to a connection.
Pay attention. You can make connections almost anywhere. Take people to lunch instead of sitting at your desk. Talk to the people sitting next to you at every event you attend—at a conference, at a wedding, at the supermarket. Opportunities for contacts and connections are all around, don’t wait for a networking event.
Give. Give. Give. To build a strong relationship you need to give something. Add value; even if it’s just an introduction to another person. Always think about how you might be able to help a person in your network. Be generous with your time and energy.
Stay in touch. Follow through with your promises. Continue to provide useful information. Send quick notes just to check-in and ask how things are going. Staying in touch is what moves connections to relationships.
So there you have it, seven actionable tips that can help you to make contacts, establish connections, and develop mutually beneficial relationships. With busy lives, it certainly is easier to talk about these ideas rather than implement them. However, the economy is getting worse, not better. Now is the time to think about strengthening and expanding your network. Now’s the time to take action.
This is Lisa B. Marshall, passionate about communication (and networking), your success is my business. I’d love for you to join my professional network. You can connect with me in all the usual places, like LinkedIn
and of course, plain old email
. Oh, and be sure to tell me how I can help you! Really, I enjoy helping other people.
If you have a question, send email to email@example.com. For information about keynote speeches or workshops visit lisabmarshall.com.