9 Networking Tips for the Socially Challenged

“Sales tips are only useful when your are actually talking to someone”.

This was one of the responses I got back from my last post http://nickrowney.tumblr.com/post/1045289041/the-nine-secrets-salespeople-dont-want-you-to-know, obvious and to the point but also undeniably true.

So lets get back to the beginning and talk about where all communication begins.

It all starts with a conversation.

Normally we stick out our hand and say “Hi my name is..” easy if you have just been introduced, but way harder if you don’t know anyone in the room and they are all standing in a little group with their backs to you.

But wait… it gets worse, you are the only woman in the room and all these men seem to know each other and are showing the signs of.

Keep out

You know the signs, casual laughing, no one wanting to make eye contact and that impenetrable wall of turned backs. So how do you break into the group without annoying people?

There is never just one way to do anything in life and this situation is no exception. But why not start with the obvious “excuse me would you mind if I joined in as I am new to the group and I am keen to make some connections”.

What you have done here is actually forced your way in to the conversation before you have had to introduce yourself. Also you have put the group in the position that makes it very difficult for them to say “no bugger off” and the best bit of all is that you have totally.

Changed The Dynamics

This is more important than you might realise, as once they have shuffled apart to let you in you have broken the chain. Now turn directly to the people on both sides and introduce yourself. You have now stopped the groups conversation completely and by way of introducing yourself you have made the conversation

All about you

Introduce yourself to everyone in the group and ALWAYS give them your business card.

This might be a good place to talk about the power of the business card. A business card is one of the most important tools in your sales arsenal, it tells people a lot about how you see yourself and the company you work for.

If you work for a company in the Technology, Advertising, Marketing space its better to have your LinkedIn and Twitter address than a P.O Box number.

The title you have is not necessarily the image you want. If you are called Business Development Manager people think that is just a fancy name for a salesman. So if you are hoping to talk with C level mangers and above having the title salesman is not going to cut it. Better to have a title that leaves something to the imagination something a bit ambiguous. Why?

Because this little piece of card has the potential to help the timid overcome the conversation barrier. Use it to become a conversation maker, So tell me what does an Organisational Trouble Shooter do?”

So how hard was that.. do you mind if I join, here is my card and the conversation has already begun. But I do understand that sometimes the fear of stepping up to the group and opening our mouths is what stops us in the first place.

So how do we overcome the fear of conversation?

We don’t fear conversation just conversation with strangers

Just for a moment imagine that the closed group in front of you was a group of your closest friends, so how would that conversation be different?

Fear of rejection is a terrible thing, it inhibits us from letting people know who we are and this can be our archillies heel when trying to fit in with a group or individuals we don’t know. As in all things in life practice makes us perfect, I practice every day by saying Hi to people I pass in the street, introducing myself to the person next to me, on the bus on a train, everywhere.

You see we actually all love to talk, especially about ourselves, its just our confidence that hold us back when doing it with strangers. So the moment you say to the disinterested person next to you on the bus, Hi my name is…, so what do you do… you have given permission for that person to talk, and by doing so opened a conversation with someone without any RISK to you. Right at that moment you have potential to succeed or fail, continue talking (especially about yourself or the great deal you’ve got) and failure is assured.

This is the moment to shut up and wait, if they don’t answer then they were never going to be of any use anyway. Chances are (once they get over the shock) they will mumble a reply, that is how some of the best contacts I have ever made started.

But there is also a risk that the person you have just engaged in conversation is not only boringly dull but now that you have given them permission to speak just won’t shut up, so…

How to get out of a conversation

This is sometimes more difficult than getting into a conversation, as once the talker is in full flight they don’t tend to leave much room for you to speak. Once again there are many ways to finish a conversation all with varying outcomes. I tend to stop the conversation by saying the persons name.. “John”.. once someone hears their name they automatically shut up to see whats following , “look its been great meeting you but i’m on a bit of a mission, you’ve got my card drop me a line” shake their hand and go. But don’t be frightened of…

Offending someone

I understand that from a business perspective offending people is not a very sustainable business model but sometimes you are going to do it. The trick to offending people is deciding who and why. When the constant talker has tracked you down to your next conversation and is continuing his bable he has become a liability and if you don’t wan’t him to destroy your credibility by people thinking he is your best friend then it is time to cut him lose and fast.

So for the socially challenged this is a terrifying thought, just a moment ago you were praying for someone to talk to you and now your praying for them to shut up. This is the best way I know without saying “piss off”. Excuse yourself from your new conversation take the person aside and  simply say “John I appreciate you wanting to continue our conversation but I have challenged myself to meet 8 new people tonight so If you don’t mind I would like to try and achieve that”.

Turn immediately and walk back to the group apologise and edge yourself back into the conversation…

But its not always doom and gloom

Sometimes there are easy marks, you know, the people who are as unsure about talking to strangers as you are. They are easy to spot they are the people at the edge of the room sitting by themselves and trying not to make eye contact with you. If you are unsure about starting conversations then look for these people as they will be grateful for a conversation and can sometimes be fantastic opportunities.

I love meeting new people and enthusing the people I meet, and the best way to do this is to introduce good people to each other. Online networking through sites like LinkedIn are just a great way of networking and introducing people.It is not difficult to get great referrals and for those who don’t like face to face this is a great way to build up relationships, but just remember…

It all starts with a conversation


About Nick

I don't say things to be liked I say them because I mean them. Reputation doesn't come from being liked it comes from standing for something.

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply