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The link between networking and great leadership

March 28, 2012

Taken from a post on Dynamic Business, Neil Tilley talks about how to successfully network and have the confidence to take the first steps to building those important business relationships.

Being a good leader requires you to be great at selling yourself and your business, but for many networking is an incredibly daunting exercise. Here’s some easy ways you can overcome your fears and become a master networker.

I’d like to break this down into some basic skill sets that I think anyone can master and help the less sales orientated of you fulfill this important role.

One of the first things to get right is what I like to call your “BBQ chat”. This happens when you’re at a friend’s place for a BBQ and someone you don’t know asks you about your organisation. You need to be able to describe briefly what you do and why it works for your customers whilst not looking too weird or sales-y. One way to do this is to think of a brief way to describe what you do (ideally using a story or analogy) and then if you’re feeling confident maybe even use a good customer example. Over time you can build up a number of good BBQ chats.

If you’re having trouble thinking of some good stories try work shopping this with the rest of your team. Then you should all practice telling the story so that your delivery is relaxed and confident.

These BBQ chats are very versatile and will come in extremely handy next time you’re at a networking event. Most people I know find networking events a bit scary, especially if you’re at one where you don’t know anyone else. You feel a bit weird standing by yourself but scared of barging into someone else’s conversation. Conversely, how often have you gone to a networking event or other social event where you could be making lots of new contacts and find yourself talking only to those people that you already know because you’re a bit scared of introducing yourself to others?

A great tool that can help with this is the FOR toolkit. FOR stands for Family, Occupation and Recreation. These are great subjects to start a conversation with someone you don’t know. Over the years we’ve developed a cheat sheet with dozens of good FOR questions that you can ask someone new to spark up a conversation.

With a little bit of practice you will find it much easier to introduce yourself and start a discussion.

My last bit of advice is to treat these opportunities as chances to meet new people and build your own personal network. This is achieved way more efficiently by not being sales-y and not pitching your products or services at these events. I always go to these events with a view that I want to make some great new contacts (that I hope to sell to later on) but right now I just want to get to know them. One of the best ways to do this is to learn about their business and think about how you can help them or how other people in your network can help them. This is great karma and will nearly always pay you back in the long term.

If you practice these skills you will soon be a great networker. Good luck.

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