Grow Your Network the Old-Fashioned Way – Genuine Conversation!

by | Apr 29, 2022 | blog, Business Planning, mindset

We often think about networking as huge event mixers where we all exchange business cards… but it doesn’t only have to be like that! It’s been awhile since most of us have had the opportunity for in-person networking experiences. As things open up again, it’s time for a refresher.

Networking is something that YOU get to define in your business.

Any entrepreneur – from songwriter to theater owner – knows that networking is critical; that’s why it’s so exciting when you can create market awareness that feels natural (and still gets results!).

Today, I’ll walk you through three key components of building authentic business relationships.

1) Use Your Personality Quirks To Your Benefit

Your personality type is the first thing to consider when you begin to reimage a more natural networking process.

We can learn the best way to build the types of relationships we wish to have when we understand our personalities — whether we’re introverted or extroverted. 

(If you’re unsure about your personality type, this Myers-Briggs Personality Assessment is a good starting point.)

How Can Extroverts Improve Their Networking Conversations?  

Although extroverts are energized by talking with other people, they can struggle with creating deep bonds; they often have too many relationships going at once. 

The lack of intimacy keeps these relationships casual. Surface-level. 

One of the strategy tips I talk about in my book, She Rules: What You Didn’t Know Is Holding You Back In Business, is the importance of cultivating strong relationships. 

That’s where the saying, “we have two ears and one mouth, so we should listen twice as much as we speak” comes into play.

Over time, I realized that an important part of cultivating deep, meaningful relationships is being a good listener!

If you’re an extrovert, try these tips to improve your listening skills:

  • Learn to ask good questions. In this blog, I explain how curiosity makes better leadership. (And I know extroverts often take on leadership roles.)
  • Listen for how you can offer your support. Is it best to offer your advice? A connection to someone in your network? Or some motivating words? Listening will give you the answer.
  • Find a restorative zone that fuels that socializing element; keep yourself open to deep, focused conversations. 

How Can Introverts Improve Their Networking Conversations?

Just because introverts need time alone to recharge their internal batteries doesn’t mean they can’t be successful networkers!

Some of the best networkers that I know are introverted. They just know how to make it work for them. 

Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts, asserts that “the secret to life is to put yourself in the right lighting. For some, it’s a Broadway spotlight; for others, a lamplit desk.”

If you’re discouraged because large networking events cause more stress than motivation, remember to:

  • Schedule quiet, alone time after a long day of networking. Or, find quick breaks in the middle of the day to regroup. 
  • Arrange low-pressure, 1:1 conversations where you can let your natural listening skills shine. 
  • “Act” extroverted; fake it ’till you make it works for salespeople and those who experience imposter syndrome. Susan Cain found studies showing that pretending to be an extrovert empowers shy wallflowers to make more eye contact and speak more confidently… without raising their anxiety.  

2) Find a Mentor Who Understands Market Awareness 

Business owners from all stages benefit from mentorship; your mentor answers your questions, or you can be part of a group that answers each other. 

It’s a much different arrangement than talking to people with the sole intention of them helping your business for nothing in return — that’s a transaction! And transactional relationships rarely feel natural. 

Let’s see how different types of mentorship bonds relate to business networks: 

Informal Mentorships 

This is the most common arrangement; we go to our network of colleagues or peers, and they help us talk through our problems. 

The simple act of talking through problems is so oddly helpful that it’s a technique software programmers have been using in their own way, called rubber duck debugging

Rubber duck debugging is when a programmer talks through their code problems to a cute, plastic duck – the kind you might see in the bath aisle of a kid’s toy store. It gets programmers to find the holes in their logic.  

Informal mentorships have a leg up on rubber duckies (who tend not to respond with advice when you ask them questions) because they’re a perfect chance to give and receive advice.

You offer expertise about budgeting and, five minutes later, receive a peer’s expertise about work culture strategies.  

A beautiful thing that happens when we grow our networks is the natural development of these informal mentorships.  

Formal Mentorships

In my business, I had informal mentorships and formal coaches.

Formal arrangements are what we often picture when we envision a mentor. An expert (professor, coach, guide), who helps us through particular topics. 

Mentors can also be involved in our market awareness plans. 

You already built a close, genuine relationship with them, and they want to help you succeed! That’s why they became a mentor – to impart knowledge and help their mentees grow.

Try this out: Offer to help organize a small event with your mentor. The event will be a chance for you (and other speakers) to give short, value-filled talks related to each person’s zone of genius. 

Your mentor will likely love to offer something like that to the rest of their mentees, and it lets you show your business strengths to all new people! 

3) Heal The Root Cause Of Your Networking Discomfort

You may be thinking, “Okay, Sara, I know my personality, and I see how mentorships help both sides, so why are authentic conversations still difficult for me?”

Networking can be fun; you connect with people and talk about things important to each of you.

But, sometimes, there’s a mindset hurdle that we must overcome to arrive at the fun part of networking. 

Here are a few examples of what I mean:

You (Wrongly) Believe You Don’t Have Anything To Offer

Networking works best when there’s a give and take. When you genuinely care about the person you speak with. 

If you feel like you’re only “taking” from your interactions, you might be overlooking opportunities for you to be an active listener.

Sometimes the best thing for you to offer is a kind ear. Listening will help you figure out any common themes where you can support each other.  

Prior Feedback Is Making You Doubt Yourself

A study from Harvard Business Review detailed the words used to describe women and men in business settings. The results were as you might expect, unfortunately. 

Negative words (unlikeable, bossy, or inept) are usually given to women. Those words become internalized thoughts about our actions toward others and our beliefs about ourselves. (Hello, internalized patriarchy.)

So, you may be unsure about your relationship-building skills simply because of feedback you received in the past.   

The good news is that you still have confidence in yourself; you just need to find it! I have a free download that offers advice to help you unleash the 7-figure confidence in yourself

Your Peers Don’t Feel Like “Peers” Anymore

Entrepreneurship has pockets of loneliness. Especially before we establish a solid network of people who relate to us.  

Friends and family often don’t understand our networking struggles. And relationships we would normally make at work are harder to come by when we are the center of our workplace. One that may not have a staff of its own yet.

Suddenly you feel like the odd one out. You become unsure about your ability to make new, deep connections while networking. 

Some silver lining: Since the pandemic, more people than ever have launched their own businesses. Now is a great time to reach out to them and share connections. 

New peers are out there, and they understand.

Summary

Networking is critical to any business. It’s what keeps alive the market awareness of our product/service.

One of the best ways to build a network is by having genuine conversations that lead to strong relationships. 

And, as I talk about in my book, an easy trick to cultivating strong relationships is just by listening.

  • Listen to yourself and choose a networking style that matches your personality type. 
  • Listen to your mentors/mentees and uncover the best opportunities for you to help each other.
  • Listen to helpful, unprejudiced feedback and disregard the rest!

 

 

 

SRL

P.S. Whenever you’re ready… here are 3 ways I can help you grow your business:

1. Grab my Guide & Workbook to keeping your cool and making money- even during a global pandemic!
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2. Book a free strategy chat
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3. I’m looking for a few specific people to join me for my live training, where we will spend 90 minutes a week for 90 days to exponentially grow your business.

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