Good old Mom told you not to talk to strangers. And that was good advice. Unfortunately, society has that fringe of individuals looking to prey on the innocence of youth.
But that was then. This is now. And you’re no looking that little kid, are you? No! You live in the grown-up world. And while you still need to be aware of certain individuals, generally speaking you’re good to talk with strangers.
After all, in the grown-up world strangers are people just like you. Decent. Responsible. And aspiring, to list a few attributes. In summary, these strangers are new contacts that have a wonderful knack of becoming good friends, great clients and gateways to incredible opportunities.
So, it’s now okay. You can forget Mom’s warnings. Get out there and talk to strangers. But do remember to eat your vegetables. They’re still good for you.
In his book The Next One Up Mindset, mental edge guru Grant Parr shares a quote from Abby Wambach, the longtime superstar forward for the US Women’s National Soccer Team.
Wambach said, “If you’re not going to be a leader on the bench, how can you be a leader on the field.”
Parr goes on to elaborate, that whomever you are and no matter what your role, lead. Don’t wait to be anointed as the team’s star. Don’t wait to be elected team captain.
It’s important to note that this notion has application beyond athletic competition. It’s also sage advice for corporate America, entrepreneurial realms and even those associated with non-profits and social initiatives. It applies to really anyone who has interaction with others.
Whomever you are. Whatever you do. Embrace your role. Take pride in it. Lead others by how you carry yourself and support others. No matter the endeavor this will get you off the figurative bench that much sooner.
Who likes to be put on hold? No one. People hate being put on hold. Who likes to hear, “I can’t talk right now. I’ll get back to you ASAP”? Again, nobody like this.
Now if you operate in the real world (and you likely do), you know that putting someone on hold or having to call them back is inevitable, right? It can be a good problem, as at times things are coming at you so fast you need to use these tactics to keep a handle on things.
Knowing that people generally do not like these ploys, use them sparingly. When you do have to use them, make the hold time brief and the call back time quick. And if for whatever reason you can’t, get with the person immediately to re-frame their expectations.
No one like to be put off. But people cannot help but like someone who respects that.
In his book Achieving Success Through Social Capital, Dr. Wayne Baker relates a means of improving your networking skills using a manufacturing industry practice known as Total Quality Management, or TQM. The first step is to list out things you’re not doing that you should be, like:
Not appropriately thanking someone; or,
Not promptly returning a telephone call or e-mail; or
Failing to actively listen when engaged in conversation.
And this list could go on. Once you have the list, make a tally by each defect when you fail to do what you should have.
After several weeks, you’ll gain a sense as to what you can improve. But as Baker points out, just knowing that you’re tracking certain behaviors will serve to help you avoid committing these failures, which creates improvement in and of itself.
In short, through networking TQM you’ll improve your networking PDQ … pretty darn quick.
In her Networking Ninja series on YouTube, body language expert Alison Henderson encourages you to use note cards to craft various impactful 30-second commercials. According to Henderson, on individual cards you should draft short sentences that address a variety of topics like:
What you do?
Who you do it with?
Short client stories
Things that differentiate you
Then leading up to a networking activity, pull out the sequence of cards that make the most sense based on the circumstances of the event. This gives you a fresh, unique and appropriate introduction.
From here, take the time to practice. As Henderson indicates, work through your cards. Read them when you have time between meetings. Recite your commercial aloud as you get ready in the morning and during your commute to and from work. With this note card preparation and practice, you’ll make a lasting impact with your introduction at any event.
If you’re a student of networking, then you’ve likely heard the Golden Rule. If not, here goes: The Golden Rule of Networking says, “Give First, Get Second.” In a nutshell, those who are highly proficient at building relationships know that they need to do things for other people and then simply trust that good things will come back to them at some point in time.
From time to time, however, someone you’ve never done anything for does something for you. That’s okay. The Universe is not out of whack. It’s likely that all your prior “giving” efforts have made their way back to you. In essence, fate has simply shined on you. Graciously thank them for what they have done. Then make an effort to learn how you can add value to them. And finally make a mental note to keep your eyes and ears open for opportunities to serve them.
Humans are hard wired for self-preservation. That is, you’re geared to steer clear of potential dangers and protect yourself at all costs. In many respects, this is a good thing. It’s largely kept mankind safe and thriving for literally eons.
This is good, but beware. Sometimes that instinct can undermine your relationships. How? When things in your life don’t work out, that impulse to safeguard yourself can lead you to blame others for the misfortunes you encounter.
No doubt, other will wrong you or simply makes mistakes. But before you lash out (whether inward or outward), think through the situation. What could you have done differently to avoid it?
No, this does not excuse a mistake or misdeed, but it allows you to get a grip on your emotions. This will help you move forward in a mature, professional manner. And that will ensure you continue to win people over in your relationships.
In his book Who Do You Need To Meet, professional speaker Rob Thomas reveals that achieving his Boy Scout Eagle Badge taught him the value of community, relationships and service.
He shares, “That training inspired me to become a civic-minded adult. I discovered that if my goal is to meet more people and have them know me better, the easiest way is to volunteer and really become involved.”
Thomas continues to make the point that when you come out of your corner of the world to volunteer, you find yourself shoulder to shoulder with people who share your passion for something. Likewise, they’ve also come out of their corner of the world to serve too.
So, if you want a “feel good” way to get yourself networked, find a charity, organization or initiative you’re passionate about. Then offer up your time, talent and conviction to make a difference. As Thomas might term it, network like a boy scout.
To be successful in any business or profession, you cannot just hole-up in front of your computer and work the phone. You need to shower up, brush your teeth, and get out amongst people. Find groups and organizations to join.
Know this, however, you cannot just belong. You cannot just be in the community. You cannot just be in the Chamber. You cannot just be part of the Church. You cannot just belong.
To develop strong relationships – you know, build know, like, and trust – you must get involved. Roll up your sleeves (actually or figuratively) and lend a hand. Be an officer in a group. Be a committee member of an organization. Be something (anything) more than just a name on a membership roster.
By doing so, you raise your level of exposure. And you demonstrate your level of commitment to something more than just you. When you do these things, others will not be able to help but know, like, and trust you.
An effective use of social media is to share with your online network. Sure, you can enlighten others on who you are, who you’re with and what you’re doing. But beyond just being like your own personal publicist, you can use social media to add value.
Adding value is important whether you’re networking in a traditional manner or online. People simply want to associate with those that have something to offer. It is human nature. So, you can provide significant value to your online network by sharing content. This can include offering information, providing insights or simply alerting others to opportunities.
Furthermore, just like contributing content, you can add value by engaging your network. Ask questions that allow others to share. Solicit feedback, allowing others to chime in with an opinion. Create a forum for discussion and debate. Each of these creates interaction. With you. Amongst others. And all of it creates value within your network.