Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking to the seniors in a class at Medina County Career Center about sales. I was sharing thoughts about how there is no selling in sales. How sales is about matching a solution to a problem. And then I started talking about networking and what that really looks like.
Suddenly, while talking with the students it occurred to me that they already know how to network. They do it all the time. So I took a step back and examined networking from a different perspective.
Do you know what I discovered?
We’ve known all along how to network. We knew it as kids. Somewhere along the way, as with so many things, we changed the way we look at things and therefore changed the way we network.
Let’s explore, shall we?
How to Network Like a Teenager
Remember when a boy liked a girl in high school? He probably went to one of her friends and asked the friend to find out if the girl liked him. Kind of like asking for a referral. You go to someone who knows the girl (prospect) well and ask if they’d be open to a date (conversation).
When you were in high school you had friends. Sometimes they were in your classes and sometimes they weren’t. So, you most likely got to know some of the other kids in your classes. Back then we had an interest in getting to know something about them so we could decide if they were someone we wanted to add to our circle.
Most of the kids we knew on a surface level. And then there was the handful who we took the time to get to know. In some cases, we became very good friends with them. There were also people who we just didn’t jive with at all. Maybe they were self-absorbed, or not interested in talking with us. And when there was someone we wanted to know better we sought them out to learn about them. Or we reached out to someone who knew them and asked some questions to try to learn more about them.
Now, fast forward to your adult business networking experience:
- Do you go at it from a position of gaining a sale or telling everyone about your product or service?
- Do you expect to meet everyone in the room?
- Or do you seek to get to know a couple of people to see if there is any synergy?
- Are you comfortable talking to one or two people at an event and having a deeper, more meaningful conversation?
- Do you try to learn more about someone before you approach them?
- And do you reach out to someone they know and ask for an introduction?
I think if we approach networking like we approached relationship building in high school we’d probably be better off.
We’d understand that we weren’t going to connect with everyone. And that while there will be a lot of people who we will be familiar with, there will only be a handful who we will have a solid relationship with.
It is those solid relationships that will help us grow our businesses over time. It’s not really new. You’ve known how to do it since high school.
High School Image via Shutterstock