Stop doing THIS when you network

May 05, 2022

Networking can feel awkward.  You sit at your desk, boot up your laptop or desktop, click the Zoom link… then anxiously wait for a stranger to appear.  You might adjust your camera or lighting, make sure your background is clear and then *bing!  Your guest arrives. 

Once you both nervously move past the pleasantries and start shifting into an actual conversation, eventually comes time for the meeting to come to an end. 

In my experience, I dreaded that last question that would leave me in a tizzy trying to formulate an answer. It’s a question that always felt superficial and lead to almost empty promises - 

The question was always, “how can I support you?” 

While on the surface it seems very genuine and full of good meaning and intention. However, you just met. You’re not likely connected on social media yet, and you don’t fully know one another to the extent of providing one another with “support”.  Every time  someone would ask me this question, I never had a good answer and to be honest - neither did they. 

So what is an alternative way to end the conversation?  Well, I think it comes down to starting the conversation better. 

Instead of immediately moving into general chit chat after the pleasantries, I suggest planning to ask two important questions. 

1.  Who is your ideal client / who are you looking for? 

2.  How would you like me to connect you with people in my network? (Email, FB messenger, text, calendar link)

When you START the conversation off this way, you create a mental note of who their ideal client/customer is. And as you have a conversation and start to learn who they are, what their personality traits are and maybe more about what they do - your brain automatically starts to kind of put puzzle pieces together of who you know that fits that description of who they are looking for, who would get along well with this person and why you would connect these people. 

When I do this, I often find myself jotting down names of people I know during the conversation. This helps the end of the conversation by then telling them how I’ve already thought of some people to introduce them to and how I feel they’d be a good connection.  So I’m creating that “support” from our networking session that is beneficial to not only them, but also the person I feel should connect with them. 

I have also found that when I ask the prompt of “who are you looking for,” that they ask me the same in return.  This also generally  creates a natural flow for that person to think of who they can introduce me to. 

For me, this is what networking is all about.  Sure, we might also end up collaborating on a project, purchase products or services from one another or maybe we just have a nice conversation and go our separate ways, but by inquiring who they need in their network, you open the conversation letting them know - you’re here to provide them value the best you can. 

If you start to shift how you think about networking and think of it as connecting instead, you turn a conversation into more of an exchange of value. Being connected to the people you are looking for is very valuable.  But in order to do that - you need to know and understand exactly who their ideal client / customer is, as well as your own. 

The next step is making sure you follow through with making those introductions.  

I hope you give this a try and see if this makes a difference in how you network. 

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