Let's start off by an amazing example. Do you know Judy Roinbett? Until the age of 40, she thought of herself as a shy person. So she would go to corporate events and stand alone in corners. That is because she felt awkward around others. But there came a point in her career that the management consultant realized she was not getting anywhere by being shy: keeping her head down and working hard.
Moreover, in reality, how do people know we are working hard when no one knows you? So what she really needed was to make useful connections.
Today people know Robinett as the author of “How to Be a Power Connector.” And now she describes herself as a "raging extrovert.”
In Robinett’s thought, most people know 632 other people. But what do we actually do? We go to networking events thinking that there is only one person who can help us. But if you think about it, we don’t know who everyone else knows. Therefore, our best bet is to have genuine and useful relationships with as many people as possible.
“It’s fine to have friends, but quality relationships plus strategy should be your goal in business. If you can learn to be scrappy, you can get anywhere.”
Now let's talk a bit general. Some sales people only get a few opportunities each year to attend telecom networking events and make connections. On the other hand, others attend networking events a couple of times a month. And it is important to note that when it comes to making your quota you got to think about networking: it is a game-changing strategy.
So what can you do while networking?
- Meet potential customers & get referrals
- Find out who is in the market for your product before anyone else.
- Keep tabs on your prospect’s buying processes
- Build awesome industry reputation
Well, do you want to become a networking champion? Ferenc Huszar, a machine learning researcher at Twitter has a brilliant hack.
Meeting People at Networking events
Let me paint you a picture. Imagine that you finally decided to go to a telecom networking event. So you walked into a huge room. And the huge room is filled with strangers. What is your move? Of course, you could approach someone at random and start a conversation with them. But you and I both know that it is highly likely that neither of you will be able to give value to each other.
It takes some time to discover your goals or needs when talking to someone. And you could have met a different person who could really benefit from your product. Or maybe that person would know someone who would benefit. It is important to note that there is a big opportunity cost to every unproductive conversation.
So, you are probably wondering where am I taking you with all these thoughts? Fortunately, Huszar found a way which is both simple and incredibly effective to hone in on the exact useful person you need in a room. So, here are your moves.
First, you need to pick a random person in the crowd: just pick someone, anyone. And second, ask that person if they know anyone at this meetup. And when that person points to someone, you have to go and talk to that other person instead. You are probably thinking that it is crazy right? But wait: there is an explanation.
Do you know what a Friendship Paradox is? It is a phenomenon in which a few members of a social network tend to have dramatically more connections than anyone else. And this two-step technique is based on that paradox.
Huszar claims, that “Probability works in your favor, this randomly picked individual (the person the first one points to) is … quite likely to be a highly connected individual.”
Now, let's pretend that you walk over to the second person. First, you introduce yourself. At that point, it becomes clear that they are not the right person that you should be talking to, either.
What should you do next?
You need to ask that person the following questions: “Besides (name of the first person), do you know anyone else here?” And they will most definitely point to another person. And the person they reference is probably another super-connector. Got it?
Researching Attendees Beforehand
You know how important research is, right? It is important when you are buying a car, a house or an engagement ring. It is also important when you are choosing a school for your children.
The same way it is a good idea to check out the other attendees before the event.
If you are wondering, this exercise lets you pinpoint the most valuable people for you to speak to and find commonalities. Moreover, it lets you find professional details and other talking points you can control when building relationships.
The easy way of finding the people who are going to the event is by searching the event’s hashtag on Twitter and/or Instagram. But if there is no hashtag available for the event, then there is an alternative way. Consider emailing the organizers and asking for a list of attendees. Start by telling them that you are trying to prepare for the event. Trust me that most of them will happily send you their attendee list.
Now, this is the best part. You got to prepare yourself like you would when preparing for an exam. Once you know who you want to talk to you need to save their name, picture, and some general information. Don’t forget to also write down the reason you want to talk to them.
And if you want to be super prepared you can have an opener speech on your phone.
When the big night of the networking event comes and you see that person, you can quickly pull out those notes and start talking to them.
In conclusion, be smart when networking. Remember that your time and energy are valuable. And when you are not prepared you might get no return. But if you keep in mind these strategies you will maximize the chances of making connections that will actually lead somewhere great.