Lately, I have been noticing a swift change in the way I speak to people. Before, whenever I would engage in a conversation with someone I did not know personally I wouldn’t practice active listening or any kind of listening to be honest. I would be too focused on what I was going to say next. If my purpose of talking to this person was to do business with them, then I would actively wait for them to stop speaking just so I could say “Well here’s my business card”. As if that was not rude enough, I would walk away right after giving them my card. I didn’t care if they told me their spouse just died or they were having a bad day. My motive was “get in and get out”.
Why The Sudden Change?
Before I moved to California I spent a few months in Las Vegas. In that short amount of time I met some wonderful people that changed my outlook on networking. I attended events though Meetup.com and I noticed how certain people would work the room. It seemed as though everyone that attended these events knew these people personally. They would laugh at each others jokes and I am not talking about the fake chuckle you give someone when you feel uncomfortable.
They would genuinely laugh until tears fell from their eyes. I also noticed that they never shoved their business cards in each others face. There was a time when I asked myself “Is this a networking event or a family reunion?” The funny thing is that was the point they were trying to emphasize, “we make everyone feel like family”.
During my brief stint in Sin City I actively sought a sales position because somewhere in the deepest, darkest, part of my mind I had convinced myself that I would like sales. I got hired at this very upscale car dealership. By upscale I mean they made people who were buying a Dodge Dart feel like they just bought a Bentley. I watched one of the top salesmen go beyond the standard “treat your customer the way you wanted to be treated” act. He even drove one of the SUV’s to this lady’s job because her husband said he could not make a final decision without his wife test driving it first. “Damn that’s dedication”, I thought as I studied him from the break room with a hint of envy. I later quit that job due to health reasons….well I told them it was due to health reasons but really I just hated the job and I hated confrontation even more (I gave them such a dramatic reason and I am still ashamed of it to this day).
However, I kept attending Meetups because honestly the people made me feel like I belonged. We would embrace whenever we saw each other (I’m not even a lover of hugs). We we would exchange work stories and family issues. They gave me a reason to not only come back but to share my experience with other people. That’s when that once flickering light bulb in my head began to shine so bright. Everything that they taught me about networking was coming together. I had a moment like that guy from that movie Almost Famous, “It’s all happening Penny Lane, just like you said it would”. (Just a side note, no Drake was not the creator of that phrase, learn ya cinema facts people).
So here are some effective networking tips!
1) Treat Your Consumer Like A Person Instead Of A Sale
Remember how I said the top salesman drove the SUV to that lady’s job? He could have insulted her husband for even stating that he had to wait for his wife. I have seen and heard of other sales professionals insulting people when they said they needed their spouse’s input. I guess that’s why they never make their monthly quota.
2) Do Not Hand Out Your Business Card Before A Connection Has Been Established.
Think about how many business cards you have collected over the years. Can you even remember who gave them to you? Can you remember their names without looking at the cards? I have made some great business connections and I can honestly say I have no idea what their business card looks like. I do however remember the conversations we shared over food and drinks. I can tell you the last post of mine that they commented on. I can connect with these people without having to look for their business card.
3) Treat People Like Family
Let me give you a very clear scenario. Let’s say you were in the market for a new car and you found a local dealership with reasonable rates. However, just as you were thinking about how fly you are going to look inside of that brand new car a relative informs you that they are selling their car (look at God…won’t he do it?) Here’s the part where you sit back and weigh your options. Is is worth it to buy from a dealership and endure the cheesy salesman act? Or should I buy my cousin’s Honda Civic? Naturally you are going to lean in the direction of the family member because you trust them. They aren’t going to sell you a lemon because you will eventually run into each other again. If a shady salesman sold you a car you may never see him again and if you did run into him it would be too late.
4) Follow Up
Many business deals are not finalized after one meeting. Sometimes people are not ready to receive your offer but that does not mean they will not be open to it later. There is a lady who makes customized designs for athletic shoes. At the time I saw her work, I was not ready to do business with her because I needed to take care of somethings first. Also, I kept asking myself, when am I ever going to need a customized designed shoe? Well, after I launched my hair blog, Loud Curlys (shameless plug I know) I was invited to attend a hair expo in October. I knew that I wanted to wear my brand proudly but I didn’t want to wear the cliche “afro-fight-the-power” looking shirt. I instantly thought of the lady who made custom shoe designs. She is now in the process of designing me a pair of fierce Chuck Taylors that is sure to turn heads.
I could go on and on about networking but I will leave that for another post. I have outlined the basics of networking for you and that should help you establish some great business connections. If you would like to connect with me, you can follow me on Twitter @Saruwatarisays or email me at Tay@LoudCurlys. I am still Sway Calloway so I do not have all of the answers but I do have some. Thanks for reading.