To sum up our networking theme, I had my Blogging Intern, Samantha, interview a client, James V. Fix (an ADD/ADHD Natural Relief Specialist in western Montana), who has been very successful in networking to grow his business.
He excels at networking and talking to people – because his greatest strength is that he’s not too self-conscious and fearful to talk to other people about himself and what he does. He’s got a great way of doing self-promotion without it feeling self-centered and sales-y. He comes from a place of genuine care and concern for the person he’s talking to, and at the same time has the confidence in the results that he can produce. So it doesn’t come off like it’s just a big sales pitch. In fact, when I brought the concept of networking up to him, he said “Talking to people and getting to know them is just so completely natural to me, that I don’t even consider it to be “networking,” I’m just talking to people that maybe I can help.”
Here are the questions that she asked James during the interview, with her summary of his answers.
When you meet someone, how do you start a conversation with them?
The first thing that he does is introduce himself and explain briefly what exactly he does. He specified that he takes a slightly different approach whether he is in or out of the office, which is generally a good idea. So take note of this great tip: Knowing your setting and how to begin a conversation appropriate for that setting is very important. James relies on people asking questions to continue the conversation and allow the opportunity for both parties to engage in a conversation.
When you’re not in a business/office setting, how do you bring up the topic of your business without sounding like you are just trying to make a sales pitch?
James started off by explaining that he asks about the other person first. He asks what they do and lets them start the conversation. If that doesn’t work, he will say something that sums up his day. An example that he used was saying that he just worked all day helping people heal themselves. He has found that a lead-in like that helps engage the other person into the conversation and allows them the opportunity to ask questions if they’re interested in finding out more.
What do you feel is the most effective way to meet someone and let them know who you help or how you help in order to get them interested in hearing what you are saying?
James’ advice is: “Be fearless!” It’s important to inform people what you do and put yourself out there. If you don’t do that, they won’t ever know what you do. They might be missing out on an opportunity to gain something from the service you provide, and you may be missing out on a potential client. If you don’t try, then you will never know.
He told a story about walking around the local Farmer’s Market and starting conversations to the vendors there about who he is and what he does. That doesn’t seem to be the first place I think of when I want to go network with potential clients. He made the point that they are a captive audience.
It’s important to just hold a conversation and not come across sounding like you are just trying to sell something. People know that you are trying to promote your services, but holding a conversation makes it feel less like a sales pitch. People may not be as willing to listen to you or really pay attention if they don’t feel that you genuinely care. So your conversation has to be a two-way dialogue
Think about it this way: You are providing them with the information to make a decision as to whether what you have to offer is a fit for them, and it’s ultimately up to them whether they make that choice or not to look into using your services. People that are truly interested will ask for more information.
Do you ever feel intimidated or self-conscious when you are talking about what you do? What do you do to get past that?
Honestly, James said there isn’t a time that he wouldn’t talk about what he does if it can be brought up in a conversation. There are too many potential opportunities that can be missed if you don’t take those chances.
In general, do you feel that you have more to offer others or that others have more to offer you when you are networking?
He believes that everyone has something to offer someone else. It’s not that someone has more to offer someone else; it’s that those things are different and can complement each other very nicely. Networking is a great tool to find those people who have things to offer or particular needs that go with what you have to offer or your particular needs.
One last tip from James is…
If he sees someone that he believes he may have met before but he thinks they may not have met before, he introduces himself and shakes their hand. It’s important to always just go for it. If you aren’t great with names, he pointed out that it’s better to just say that and reintroduce yourself again. People do understand that you won’t remember the name of every single person you meet in your life.
If you are nervous about introducing yourself or don’t have a lot of experience with this type of networking, practice in front of the mirror or practice with your friends. It’s okay to use the same few lines over and over again even if you feel like you are repeating yourself. For that person, it is their first time hearing it. They don’t realize that you are being repetitive.
To sum it up, the two most critical concepts to networking effectively that James exemplifies that I should underscore are these:
- You have to genuinely care about the other person in the conversation, so if you don’t like people, your networking efforts will fall flat.
- You have to absolutely know that what you have to offer is valuable in changing people’s lives. If you are not confident in your own skills, gifts and abilities, it will be much harder to talk to people about what you do because you’re not sure that they’ll get anything of value from you. That is death to a networking conversation.
- And thirdly, although he didn’t say this in the interview, because I’ve known James for several years, I know that he is not attached to whether he gets a new client out of any conversation or not. He just loves interacting with people. So his primary focus is not on getting a new client, but on introducing himself and getting to know new people. If he has something that can help them out, so much the better because that’s his mission in the world.
I want to thank James for participating in this interview and sharing this information for the use on this blog. I look forward to hearing your networking stories and feedback to share with other readers.