For years now, one of my most sought-after training presentations has been “Networking for Introverts & Extroverts: Shaking Hands with Your Goals.” Recently, the Edmond Chamber of Commerce hosted Women Mean Business Breakfast, where they hired me to share these networking best practices with introverts and extroverts alike.
If you have ever felt like the wallflower in a room full of name tags, this article will help you blossom at your next networking event. Are you the social butterfly during happy hour? This article will help you guide your energetic spirit to ensure you walk into your next work function with a clear business development goal and walk out with effective results for your sales funnel.
Consistency holds the “keys to success” in so many areas of life and business. Setting an intentional consistency to achieve your networking goals for business development will help you succeed in 2021 as in-person events, coffee shop one to one’s, and relationship building turn the corner post-pandemic and ignites our face-to-face interactions once again.
Law 1: Consistency is Key
You cannot join a chamber, an association, or club in hopes to win new business by meeting new people, yet only attend one annual function a year. Consistently attending as many events offered will help you hone in on the right audience, the right elevator pitch, and the best follow-up techniques that work for your industry. After all, the saying goes, “Practice makes perfect.”
When we do an action regularly, we get feedback, which helps us change course or tweak our techniques. Consistency, in other words, is all about repetition. If you repeat the right steps on a clear path, your journey toward business development success can find all the right shortcuts!
I personally spend six months attending every breakfast, lunch, and dinner offered by a group before evaluating whether it is worth my time to continue. My consistency led to a 300% increase in sales in just a year of networking!
Law 2: Track your Effectiveness
The questions I would ask myself after six months of networking within a certain group ensured I kept my eye on the prize. I needed to know the return on investment (ROI) of my time, my membership dues, and lunch event fees.
- Had I met enough volume of people at the events?
- Had the quality conversations gone beyond the event to any tours, coffee chats, or follow-up afterward?
- Had the relationships I’d built ever brought me any referrals, prospects, or contract opportunities within six months of meeting them?
- Had I closed any new business that I could directly contribute to attending that event and meeting that key influencer?
Be sure to measure your results so you can communicate the effectiveness of your networking plan to management. You can use an old-school technique of a three-ring binder, index file separators, and clear plastic business card holder sheets—or a fancy card scanning app that holds all your contact notes on your iPhone, or you can try new school technology like a customer relationship manager (CRM) such as Salesforce or HubSpot. No matter your choice, just use something to track who you meet, what your next follow-up needs to be, and whether a referral may come at some point for business. You need to learn how to communicate the need for networking to your boss and how to justify the expense and time spent on building your network for future sales to your company.
Law 3: Set Quality Goals
This is Oklahoma, folks, not Vegas. We are not blackjack dealers, so never enter a networking event with quantity in mind, spray the room with your cards like they’re diamonds, and leave early thinking it was a success. Quality conversations with a handful of people will win out over a lack of substance quantity any day of the week.
Networking conversations are a two-way street between two people. Never take the one-way avenue if you want to arrive at a successful sales destination. I highly recommend you consistently perform two steps to ensure you meet your networking goals:
- Walk into a networking event with purpose! Why are you there?
- Leave with a plan of action! Who will you follow up with?
When I was a CEO of a small Oklahoma team, I clearly communicated that the return on investment I was seeking by paying an annual membership fee plus event fees or lunch costs was quality, not quantity.
My team knew that any event they attended, they had a clear goal. Walk in with the purpose of meeting two people who you build enough of a quality connection with during the event, that if you emailed them afterward for a one-to-one at a coffee shop or to tour their work facility, that person would easily and quickly remember you.
This simplified networking practice, along with the suggested nine networking laws created a cause and effect that soared sales in year one by 300% in just 365 days. Continuous efforts over the years saw the company grow over 600% as I taught others on the team the same, consistent networking objectives.
Law 4: Working the Room
As a business coach and keynote speaker, when training a roomful of eager executives on how to network with a purpose, whether they are an introvert or an extrovert, there are crucial differences in how an introvert digs up the courage to work a room versus how an extrovert may need to refocus their energy toward their specific goals.
If you are an introvert, often walking into a large chamber event can truly take your breath away. The roar of the crowd, the dotted landscape of cliques; it overwhelms your senses. I teach introverts to take control of their environment.
Do not look at a roomful of 100 people and feel overwhelmed. Simply walk to a line to shrink your room to just two people—one person ahead of you in line, and one person behind you. This can be the line for name tags, the food buffet, or beverage line, anywhere that you can shrink your surroundings to only focus on light, casual conversation with the person in front of you in line and behind you.
n Oklahoma, we are an incredibly friendly group of people. I can guarantee you have never been through a buffet line in utter silence. Someone will break the ice by mentioning some no-brainer conversation about the food or the weather. I think it is literally in our red dirt bloodline to not stand quietly in a line for more than 30 seconds without feeling the awkward silence seep into our soul.
Extroverts, on the other hand, enter any room like it is a “cheers” episode, where everybody knows your name, and they are always glad you came. Barely stepping in the door, you hear “NORM!” shouted from the corner, and you head over to your favorite group of friends to chat the night away, occasionally flittering from one group to the next like the social butterfly you are.
While you may have the comfort zone advantage, are you getting the business development results you want? When was the last time any of your social interactions at an event actually led to closed business?
I recommend you occasionally tell your friends, “Great to see you. Let’s catch up over lunch next week. I really need to meet some new people tonight. Is there anyone here you could introduce me to that I have not met before? I’m happy to do the same intro for you if there’s someone here you’d like to meet.”
Or, better yet, instead of making a beeline for your group of friends, find the wallflowers first! At every speech I keynote, 50% of the room raise their hands straight past their ears, pointing to the sky with gusto when I ask to identify the extroverts, and 50% barely eke out a tiny finger or two above their shoulder when I ask to identify the introverts.
The introverts take solace in knowing they are not alone, and 50% of any given networking event feels just as shy or awkward as they do. Extroverts should see that 50% as a vital opportunity to use their talents for good!
Seek out the shy wallflowers. They are dying for someone to talk to them, making it an instant conversation success rate! It may be their first time at this type of event, or they may have just started their job last week. Extroverts have a unique chance to work the room, focusing on the solo wallflowers to ensure they leave with at least two quality connections they can follow up with after the event.
Next month, I will share Networking Fundamental Laws 5-9, which include learning how to view body language during an event as either an invitation to join a conversation or a warning sign that you need a new strategy!
If you’ve enjoyed this article and just can’t wait until next month’s issue of Edmond Business, reach out to me on www.StacyEads.com for a free PDF copy of the PowerPoint presentation, given to 50+ professional businesswomen at the Edmond Chamber event. You will be “in the know” right away!
Need a keynote speaker for your next event or corporate training? I’m booked upwards of 70% each year coaching executives in small groups or large stage-like venues on a variety of business topics, such as networking effectiveness, leadership, change management, employee engagement, strategic planning, the value of executing your plan, and cash acceleration. Book a free consultation anytime so we can customize your solution today.
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About Stacy Eads
Edmond native & UCO Alumna, Stacy Eads, is an award-winning “Most Admired CEO” who scaled her company as a Woman in Tech before becoming an International Scaling Up Business Coach. She now empowers other CEOs from $2M to $200M to embrace their leadership potential through quarterly strategic planning. Her talent is in high demand to CEO Coach, Train Teams, and Speak at Events in both the U.S.A. and Canada.
Stacy Eads’ career affiliations include 50 Women Making a Difference award, Circle of Excellence award, Torch Ethics award, Most Admired CEO award, Edmond Chamber & UCO Mentor, Better Business Bureau of Central Oklahoma Board of Directors, TEDx OKC Speaker Coach, and Ambassador Chairwoman for the Greater OKC Chamber of Commerce.