Networking: “How can I help you?” not “How can I win business?”


It causes a fair bit of anxiety for a fair few people.

Stupid, self-conscious, nervous, desperate, demeaning, shallow, clammy hands, dry mouth, forced, embarrassing.

These are just some of the ways that either networking events themselves or the feelings that they drum up have been described to us in the past month.

If you’ve felt any of these things, you’re not alone. Quite the contrary. Take comfort in the fact that you’re actually part of a pretty extensive community.

I’ll make my second reference to American Pie in under a month. Pretty impressive! Ridiculous.

But the way that Jim Levenstein’s first approach to Nadia is captured in slow motion at Steve Stiffler’s party sums up brilliantly how so many of us feel on a cold contact approach at a networking event.

Nothing feels natural anymore. Your sense of self is so heightened that even the most basic human functions, placed under the microscope, become quite a challenge to perform- walking, talking, breathing, listening- Who am I??

However, there’s hope.

I once received a simple piece of advice that has transformed the way that I see networking events. It’s freed me from the prison of my own harsh self-analysis.

Go into every networking event with this mindset: “How can I help?”

And mean it.

Take the pressure off of you, your needs and the needs of your business and be consumed with a genuine and authentic desire to help as many people as you can.

A lot of the discomfort surrounding networking stems from a feeling that you’re selling yourself. As you approach someone, that sense that you want something from the transaction is all too palpable. As soon as you’re in the position of needing something from someone else, it lowers your status and puts far too much pressure on the conversation.

A few years back, I’d seen someone speak at an Expo and felt that they could definitely benefit from our coaching. A little later on, I caught the person having a bit of down-time. I thought, “Ah, I should definitely share my card with this guy.”

However, as I approached him, I suddenly became so consumed with the fact that I was selling and a sincere desire not to be a burden that I spent most of the time apologising for disturbing him. As a result, I got in the way of him actually understanding what we do and how we might help.

In my desire not to be a burden, I became a burden.

Take the pressure off. You’re just offering a little bit of help.

On top of this, think win/win.

“Win/Win is a frame of mind and heart that constantly seeks mutual benefit in all human interactions…win/win sees life as a cooperative, not a competitive arena.” (Stephen R Covey)

You’re not going over there to see if you can win business off of someone. You’re going over to explore if there is the possibility to make their life a little bit easier. If there’s no synergy, that’s absolutely fine.

If there’s no possibility for win/win- ie- if anyone loses out from a scenario where you’d work together, it’s a no deal.

I assume that if you’re in business, then you have something to offer people. There’s nothing shady or untoward there. And you’re only at this networking event because your business may help those people that are in attendance. It would be a shame for people to miss out on this help because you’re too busy apologising, railing against the fact that you hate these events, or over-analysing every little thing that you do.

It’s not about you. It’s about them. Apply this paradigm shift and see what a difference it makes!

By Chris Wickenden, 28th May, 2019.

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