How I network as an introvert.
Arms folded, not the most photogenic, and bright colors that do not match my personality. Ah, the life of an introvert.
This will be a fun topic because I'm writing it, rather than filming. My wife likes to call me the king of networking and while I know that sounds high brow, let me explain...my friends list, my REAL friends list, not myspace or Facebook, is one that I take very seriously.
Maybe you're introverted, maybe you're not. It doesn't matter. I think I'm introverted and get a lot of my energy from one-on-one conversations with people rather than being in large crowds entertaining. I was horrified for years to do public speaking and that finally became comfortable as I understood that humor was my comfort zone to get me through that hurdle.
Before I give you my process, here's a few questions that you should ask yourself:
What hobbies do I have?
What sort of people or personalities does my hobby attract?
Am I comfortable being around those types of people or doing potential business with them?
Once those questions are answered, we can dive into the process I use and see if that helps growing your network of people and sphere of influence.
Hone in on your activity or hobby you enjoy. For my case, I enjoy golfing and traveling. We'll use golfing for the example.
Golf is a very solitary activity and unless you're participating in a club tournament, the likelihood of having more than 3 other playing partners very low.
This activity takes up a lot of time. 4-5 hours in some cases! So, if you don't have an activity that takes that long, that is OK, as long as the conversations are meaningful.
How do you get into a conversation? Focus on the activity first, let the other person or other people come to you. That might take some time or you may not have an interaction at all. That's OK. Remember, we're trying to attract the right type of person to fit our mold.
Attracting the right person is the same as building a relationship. Relationships take time.
Once someone does make contact, do the typical pleasantries and nothing past that. Again, be patient. It's not awkward, let the other person take social cues from you. You're both there to enjoy the activity first.
BREAK: Look, being patient and enjoying the activity is one of the most important parts about networking. It bothers me when someone barely knows me, pitches me on something they're selling without establishing any relationship. People hate being sold to. This is a first date, not a marriage proposal.
As the activities commence, I find it easier to compliment the other person on their skill or when they do something that genuinely excites me or makes me happy for them. That's why sport or game activities can be a great way to network. But you HAVE to be authentic to yourself. Say what you mean and again, focus on what you're doing together in an activity. Be present.
Now for the fun part.
At some point in conversation or activity, it's polite and okay to ask the others what they do for a living. But be cautious my introverted friends - pay attention to the attitude and personality of these people. Notice their actions during the activity and possibly their feelings and emotions towards their own line of work. For example, if the person seems generally negative towards themselves when the game or activity isn't going their way, how do they respond? Or, if the way they talk about their job or their business is negative, hesitant, or downright shady, that is a huge red flag. These are the warning signs your mother told you about when making friends with the right crowd.
You do not owe anyone anything - especially strangers you just met.
If you do not feel they are a good match for business, simply tell them your job title, or a one sentence explanation of what you do. That's it. Keep it short.
If you find that they are generally pleasant after a period of time I always respond to the question, "So, what do you do for a living?" with the following sequence:
*Use an explanation that tells a story or asks a question. This leaves the door open.*
For mine, I usually respond with, "Well, do you have a social media account? Have you ever noticed how you get served certain advertisements and you feel like your phone just heard your thoughts? Well, I manage advertising accounts on social media for small businesses. We work on strategy and targeting the right types of customers to bring in business."
By now, the conversation goes one of two ways but you always know if the person would be a good fit based on their industry. Same should happen for you and your line of work.
Another important point.
Now that you have established what each person does, take a break from that topic. If the person brings up a few thoughts or connects the dots between their business and yours, make a mental note of it and bring it up in snippets throughout the time you're together. Have key points that quickly show examples of how you may have helped someone in a similar situation. People enjoy great storytelling, not being sold to. So, don't sell, just tell.
Closing the deal - not the business deal - the networking deal.
Once someone seems like a good fit and if they might be interested, let them offer up the words or verbal cues of "I should get your contact information or business card".
Now, pay attention. Here is my opinion on where to go from here. I think business cards are nice to have, they're cute, they make us feel good, but they are a lost cause when it comes to communication. They get lost, people forget, or they don't make an attempt to reach out because they've forgotten who you are 7 hours later.
Before the end of activity, make the suggestion of sharing phone numbers. Make sure you text them your name, email, name of your business and/or the website all in that text. (texting is less evasive on first contact and email takes to long or doesn't go to their inbox of choice. Also, it confirms if they gave you the right contact information)
When you save their information, MAKE SURE YOU SAVE THE NAME OF THEIR BUSINESS IN THE INFO SECTION OF YOUR PHONE.
Follow up, follow up, follow up....follow up.
Now, don't blast that person a million texts. Give them a few hours after the activity and simply send another follow up message that says, "Hey, it was great meeting you today. We should catch a round (or insert activity name) again really soon. -Joseph MacMorran" Always include your name again.
Wait for them to respond. Once they do respond, if you actually having something planned, invite them and keep it low pressure, do not talk about business. A simple, "I have a (insert activity name/time) next Wednesday and it'd be awesome to join up again. Let me know if you're interested and I'll get you more information."
If you hear from them and they are interested, great, set up the time and place and repeat the process of asking them questions and getting to know them. People like to hear themselves talk, so let them do it! You'll learn if they're in a place of taking on new business with you. If all else fails from a business standpoint, at least you made a new friend and that's just as important. Not to mention, they start connecting you with others that might be a potential fit.
Friendship is an important part of life and if we're seeking friendships to always get something out of them monetarily or for business reasons, that's not a friendship, that's greed, deception, and being a con artist.
Don't be that person.