Partnership is everything in business. In our first thirty years, Cydcor has had the privilege of meeting people from around the world, developing relationships, and creating new opportunities for growth and success. Though we live in a digital world, so much of our networking has happened in person, one handshake at a time.
Networking in person, especially as we become more accustomed to doing business online and over social media, can be a little nerve wracking when you’re just starting out. Meeting new people can spark anxiety. Entering new social environments and professional settings can make us feel like we don’t belong. But with a few tips that can shift your mindset around in-person networking, you’ll soon be making great connections like never before.
So, whether you’re off to a job fair, looking for partners in your next entrepreneurial endeavor, or just trying to grow your rolodex, here are three key things to remember the next time you’re networking.
1) Let Others Speak
We’ve all been there, trapped in a conversation with a new person, and wondering what to talk about. We want to make a good first impression, while also getting the conversation rolling with a good topic.
The secret is that we all have the same favorite topic: talking about ourselves. Studies continue to show that people like those who ask them questions – and engaging the person by showing genuine interest in them is a proven way to build rapport.
For those who are nervous speaking to new people, this is a great way to take the pressure off yourself. Let the other person do the talking, they’ll like you more for it!
You don’t have to take on the role of a Pulitzer-prize-winning journalist, your questions can be as simple as asking them their opinion on the event you’re attending together. Just because you’re in a professional setting, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for authenticity and personality. Ask them about their work, and try to discover what makes them passionate about it.
There is no such thing as a dumb question. Many of us avoid asking the questions we wish to ask because we don’t want to appear dumb. The person won’t think less of you for not knowing, instead they’ll appreciate that someone is actually curious about their insights.
In turn, they’ll start to ask you questions. A good conversation is a balanced one – and by sharing your thoughts and insights, the two of you will be able to discover where your passions, goals, and values align.
2) Lead With Empathy
As you let the other person speak and share, you’ll be learning more about their wants, needs, and desires. If the goal of networking is creating mutually-beneficial partnerships, then understanding what the other person’s goals are is crucial. This will help you empathize with the person.
Leading with empathy can help you get over your social anxiety. When we get anxious in social situations, it’s because our thoughts are focused on ourselves, not the other people in the room. But when we focus our attention on empathizing with others, our mind stops worrying about our own anxieties. Being socially anxious isn’t selfish, per say, but it does keep us from giving others the attention they deserve.
As we explored in our last blog, authenticity is key to trust. Our anxieties can get in the way of being authentic, as we try to be somebody who’s cooler, smarter, or more successful than we are. But when we focus on other people’s needs, we no longer have the attention to worry about how they are perceiving us.
Referencing things that they’ve mentioned in follow-up questions and offering words of encouragement are ways that you can show empathy to people. This shows to them that you’re not just listening – you’re hearing them.
3) Have Candor
At Cydcor, candor is one of the behaviors we value. That’s because we want people to feel free to share their thoughts and opinions in order to create lively, impactful, and substantive conversations. So while you’re asking people questions and empathizing with their answers, remember to not leave out your own thoughts.
Many people in networking settings try to people please, agreeing with everything the other person is saying. But we don’t want to engage with those who just tell us what we want to hear – we enter conversations to learn things that are outside of us.
There are ways to show candor in a way that’s respectful – and ways to do it that aren’t. By empathizing with the person you’re speaking with, you can use a differing opinion to further that person’s perspective, rather than just trying to prove them wrong on a topic.
Collaboration is the key goal of networking. Would you want to work with someone that parrots your ideas, or someone with a different perspective on arriving at a shared goal?
Bonus: Always Follow Up!
With these tips, you’ll be having meaningful conversations with new contacts in no time. As you dive into in-person networking, remember this: in order to start collaborating with all the professionals you met, you have to follow up with them!
We live busy lives – and can even forget the best conversations if they’re lost in the shuffle. So whether by email or social media DM, get the ball rolling quickly after the first contact has been made.
Now that you have the tips, time to build the skills! Maybe we’ll see you at our next networking event.
We are Cydcor, a recognized leader in outsourced sales and marketing services located in Agoura Hills, California. From our humble beginnings as an independent sales company to garnering a reputation for consistently exceeding client expectations and driving outstanding revenue growth, Cydcor has been helping Fortune 500 and emerging companies achieve their customer acquisition, retention, and business goals since 1994. Cydcor takes pride in the unique combination of in-person sales, call center, and digital marketing services we offer to provide our clients with proven sales and marketing strategies that get results.