How to Be An Eloquent Networker
Savvy business people know that they cannot rely solely on doing their jobs well to get ahead. In today’s competitive job market, professionals who stand out are the ones adept at networking for the purpose of rainmaking: turning relationships into economic value.
You can become an effective and eloquent networker when you
- sharpen your personal relationship-building processes
- become organized, disciplined and proactive when reaching out to business contacts and
- focus on giving before getting
These three abilities will help you drive business development, because big relationship networks can produce big opportunities for closing sales in the long run.
Most people have been forming relationships during their entire lives, but the process in business settings may still seem daunting because people are rarely taught how to do it. Professionals are often expected to “just know how.” The major barrier is fear: fear of embarrassment, rejection, or failure.
To successfully overcome these barriers and become a champion networker, you should focus on learning, rather than telling. Throughout your career, you may have developed skill in talking about yourself, your projects, opinions, and successes. However, you may not have been taught the value of meaningful listening and learning when building business relationships. The goal in building rainmaking relationships from networking is cooperation.
Rehearse your elevator speech until you can say it in your sleep. The acting technique called “endowment” will help you speak with authenticity, poise, and warmth.
“Endow” your listeners with qualities that will cause you to speak with poise, passion and persuasive power. Choose a person from your real life (past or present, dead or alive) who has qualities that make you feel cared for, trusted, respected, admired, inspired, and/or loved. In your mind’s eye, “see” that person in front of you. As you rehearse aloud, imagine that you are speaking to that specific person.
Rehearse aloud as if you were talking to that person. This will help you speak in a conversational, authentic, and caring manner. It will have a positive impact on your tone and demeanor.
This process may feel strange at first, so rehearse aloud at home as often as possible. Focus on what you have created in your mind’s eye. How is your imaginary person responding to you? What do you perceive from his/her facial expressions? It is very important that you become flooded with positive feelings as you speak, so choosing the “right” person to feed your imagination is key. Experiment with the technique of Endowment by imagining multiple people from your real life, in to discover which person most effectively triggers your warmth, confidence, and poise.
Never tell anyone the identity of the person you have chosen to “use” for the process; keeping it a secret strengthens the power of this technique in the world of your imagination.
Over time, this rehearsal process will strengthen your ability to focus the mind effectively and will allow your imagination to work more and more quickly. It will help you speak with total conviction — a conviction that is visible on your body and audible in your voice.
Using the Endowment technique has a secondary benefit: it will keep your mind so focused on the task at hand, that you will not have the emotional availability to be nervous or self-conscious.
During your networking conversations, ask questions, listen and do not interrupt others with stories, opinions, solutions, or personal experiences. The immediate goal of your networking conversations is to learn about the other person, not to sell your products or services.
Questions to ask your conversation partners, to start and maintain meaningful conversations:
- What are the most important things you’re working on right now?
- What do you want to accomplish this year?
- What are the biggest barriers to meeting your goals?
- What can I do to help you achieve these goals?
- Asking questions and truly listening to the answers will help build a relationship and will let the other person know that you are interested in giving as well as getting.
The most important thing is to let the other person do most of the talking and to listen carefully for ways to help that person achieve his or her goals. This may sound counter-intuitive, but it is the key to the entire process. Your goal in networking: begin building relationships by giving before you get.
Giving before you get makes it much more likely that the other person will want to collaborate. Giving may include:
- Business or personal suggestions
- Volunteering to help with a civic organization or charity the other party feels strongly about or
- A piece of free counsel on a subject of interest to your conversation partner
Don’t become too informal with people too quickly.
Even though your new acquaintances probably seem very receptive to you, you may not have an accurate picture of how comfortable they actually feel in the moment. Cultural background and personality style both play a part in norms formality and therefore, a wise strategy is this: Find a physical and verbal demeanor that is comfortable for you – and what we might call “register neutral:” neither too formal nor too informal.
Use caution when attempting humor with people you have just met.
Individual sense of humor is a very complex and mysterious phenomenon. In addition, culture and individual personality play a strong role in what a person finds funny.
If you tell a joke or make a comment in jest that the listener doesn’t understand, misconstrues, or simply does not find funny, your attempt at humor can easily backfire. Remember that it is very difficult to repair any erosion of rapport with someone you’ve just met.
If you feel compelled to use humor with a new acquaintance, stick to self-deprecating humor. Most people will appreciate your humility and ability to poke fun at yourself.
Before networking, you can energize yourself when you are feeling tired or sluggish. Do this in a private spot or the restroom:
- Extend your right arm in front of you at shoulder height, and shake your right hand vigorously as if you are trying to shake your hand off your wrist.
- Hold your arm out straight with your fingers extended as far apart as possible. Drop your arm to your side. Notice how it tingles and how alive it feels. Repeat this with your other arm.
You can also decrease your nervousness. Center and relax yourself before you speak:
- Inhale and feel your abdomen expand. Try to take 10 counts to inhale.
- After the inhalation, hold your breath for a count of 10 before exhaling.
- Exhale slowly, taking 10 counts to exhale.
(Repeat this sequence two more times.)
When Billy Crystal hosted the Academy Awards for the first time, he went on stage with his toothbrush in his pocket. He knew that a small personal prop would remind him of “home” and help him feel more comfortable. To decrease nervousness before a business talk, you can do something similar! Secretly carry something hidden in a pocket or on your person that will act as a “security blanket” for you while you are speaking. The simple awareness that it is there will help remind you that you are safe and can speak with greater comfort and ease.
Apply these techniques to become an eloquent networker, project a spirit of cooperation, and begin building relationships that lead to sales!
Copyright © 2013-2015 Maria Guida
Photo credits: Shutterstock and courtesy of Maria Guida