Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Secret to Professional Networking

My friend Todd Cohen, a sales visionary I met earlier this year at a networking seminar, invited me to write about my Dirty Little Secrets of Communications for his growing online sales community, "Everyone is in Sales," according to Todd, and I agree wholeheartedly, with the caution that "Everyone is in Communications" too.

The ideas for this started percolating back when I spoke at Villanova, and I think a lot of what I wrote for Todd's sales community also applies well to those of you interested in professional networking:

People only listen to what's important to them, so talk about what matters to your audience, not about what matters to you. How does this apply to networking? Remember that networking isn't about you -- it's about the people you meet. It's about how you can help them, not the other way around. You have to listen closely to the other person, ask them questions that will help you learn about what they consider important, and then you can respond with your own stories and points of view, but done in a way that speaks to what is important to them.

Repeat your key message three times. There are two ways to apply this to networking. For example, a networking relationship really won't start reaching its full potential until you have connected with a person three times. The first meeting is just a start. Second meeting confirms the connection you felt the first time you met. The third time solidifies it. So, think about your networking as an opportunity to begin longer-term relationships, not just a chance to slip your business card to someone you will never see again.

Of course, repeating a key message three times implies that you have a key message in the first place. A key message is more than just your elevator speech (which is also a good thing to have on the tip of your tongue). A key message is that ONE thing that you want a person to remember after your conversation. For example, I met someone a few months ago (at the same event where I met Todd, actually) who said that she had achieved national recognition for creating "Bring a Fish to Work Day."

That stuck in my brain, and I can still remember it months later.

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