Engage with Your Network and Build Profitable Relationships
As we emerge from the pandemic are you ready to engage with your network? For most of us in the 2nd half of life, our network probably grew stale and possibly aged out. It is very likely that some of our friends, colleagues, and mentors may have retired, be out of work themselves, or passed away.
I attended a conference and attended a sales session by Phil M. Jones. Phil is the author of Exactly What to Say: The Magic Words for Influence and Impact and spoke about a 5-step process for a successful sales program.
Okay, you are probably saying you are not in sales. I totally disagree with you. You are in sales and your product is … you.
I found these 5 steps to be incredibly practical and can be applied to engage with your network.
Let me take you through these 5 steps as I interpret them.
Everything in sales and networking starts with a question. If you want to get to know someone you have to start with a certain level of curiosity about that person.
When I used to network face-to-face (remember those days?) I put total focus on the other person. I wanted to know who they are, and what problems they are working on solving. The only way to do that is to ask probing questions to get them to talk.
I might start with why are they at the event. When I lived in Austin, Texas, I almost always started a conversation with the question “How did you get to Austin?”. This was an easy one as most residents of Austin came from somewhere else.
I keep asking questions until I find something that we have in common either professionally or personally.
We move on to the next step to engage with your network, conversations.
You can have meaningful conversations once you know something about the other person. This is not the idle chit-chat that most people detest about the weather, traffic, or the latest COVID infection rates.
This is your opportunity to both show that you are truly interested in the other person and demonstrate that you are an intelligent human being who brings value to the world. Remember that conversations are bidirectional, you do not want to dominate the conversation doing all of the talking.
We move on to the next step to engage with your network, relationships.
You do not build relationships in a minute or two. It takes time. Think of this like dating and marriage.
You will need to date for a while before a relationship forms. As we come out of this horrible pandemic, many of you will need to form entirely new relationships as old companies disappear, new companies begin and entire industries adapt to the post-COVID-19 world.
This is the stage you will need to spend most of your time.
You will also want to re-establish old relationships. Where do you start? You start with questions, move to conversations, and then work on the relationship.
Are you starting to see the pattern?
Whether you are selling a product or looking for a job this is where most people start. You just want to find that next opportunity. The problem is the best opportunities come from our network. More importantly, they are most likely to come from our weak ties or relationships that look more like acquaintances rather than close friends.
We know that spending a lot of time digging through a job board is mostly a waste of time.
Where did your last few opportunities come from? My guess they have come from former colleagues, friends, and other people you have relationships with.
The last step is to make the sale or land the job. This is where we want to get to and either minimize time spent on the previous steps or skip them altogether.
We can spend a lot of time optimizing our LinkedIn profiles, tweaking our resumes, and applying to jobs. When we should be working on questions to ask, conversations to start, relationships to build, and opportunities to find.
My guess is most readers of this blog have not been seriously networking during the last year. The reason I say that is in the last Career Pivot reader survey, the words “isolated”, “isolation” and “lonely” appeared A LOT.
Curiosity, Empathy, and Courage
Phil Jones had one other memorable theme in his presentation.
To be successful in sales, which includes you, you need to be:
- Curious about your prospect and what the problems they are working on solving
- Have empathy for their situation
- Display courage to ask for what you want
It is the 3rd step that many of us fall short of. We do not ask for what we want.
If we start with questions and by being curious, we can fully engage with our networks and build profitable relationships.
What are your next steps?
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