Monday
May142012

« 3. EI skills: Networking strategies not to miss »

By Rachel Green. Director, The Emotional Intelligence Institute; Author of "Business networking" (now out of print).

Sometimes people think of business networking as "working a room" and reciting a 30 second elevator pitch.

Yet there is so much more to networking than this and there are some important networking strategies and principles that you may have missed.

Business networking is not just about swapping business cards, working a room or attending a function.

It is about building relationships with people. This is why emotional intelligence helps. It is also about helping people, for your mutual benefit, and not just about "getting business from people".

Don't just go to get something, go to give something.

Let's look more specifically at three networking strategies and principles you may have missed, and examine how emotional intelligence competencies can add value to each of them.

Emotional intelligence skills 1: Understand the big concept

For some people the concept of "networking" is restricted to attending a formal work function such as a breakfast or lunch, or other activity that is labelled "a networking event". However, networking encompasses far more than this.

Almost every time you meet or contact someone it can be called "networking".

Why do I say this? Because every time you meet someone, whether it's at the bus stop, at a dinner party, or over the phone, you are also meeting that person's network. Everyone you meet has his or her own network. Every time you meet people, therefore, you are also making a connection with the people they know.

Thus, it's meeting people that is the key, not attending an event. Some of my best networking has been done sitting next to people on planes or trains. Every networking conversation is also about building connections with a person. This is exactly what happens in any conversation. Your task is to connect with people.

What are you like when you meet people in ad hoc situations? Are you friendly, kind, helpful and willing to engage? Or are you stand-offish, preferring to keep to yourself, and disinterested in forming a connection?

Emotional intelligence skills can help you to manage your own emotions and emotionally driven behaviour, and to engage with others across a range of situations, expected and unexpected.

This is one of the several connections between emotional intelligence and business networking. 

Emotional intelligence skills 2: Networking comes in many forms

Networking is not limited to face-to-face encounters. For example, I do a significant amount of my networking via e-mail these days. Networking also happens over the phone.

As an example, when I first started working officially under the "Emotional Intelligence" umbrella I wanted to get a strong network of emotional intelligence experts around me. There weren't many local ones so I took it upon myself to e-mail people around the world. I introduced myself, requested articles, offered to give input and asked for input from them. This is networking.

The responses I got varied. For example, I contacted eight consultants in my state and received two replies. I went for lunch with one of them and shared resources with her. I got more responses from the other side of the country and from the U.K. and USA. As a result of this, I have since attended workshops with some of the people I contacted and have formed solid working relationships with them.

Networking and meeting people is about your taking the initiative, so be willing to step forward and initiate contact to see what happens; don't wait to be introduced. This applies face-to-face, over the phone and on the internet.

Behaviour is driven by emotions. What are the emotions you need to feel to help you take the initiative and contact strangers and experts in your area via email, social networking sites or telephone?

One of the skills of emotional intelligence is being able to manage your own emotions so that you can generate the emotions that will help you to achieve your goals. What helps you to feel determined, keen or courageous?

Emotional intelligence skills can help you with all aspects of networking, once you know how.

Emotional intelligence skills 3: The essence is connection

Whether you are talking to someone at a dinner party, at a work networking function, or in one of the internet networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn, the contact is not about you and it's not about the other person. What it's about is making a relevant connection between the two of you. Your task is to search out a way to connect with them.

The obvious way to do this is to find out what you have in common. It doesn't matter what this is usually, although I do mean more than finding out you both have blue eyes! When people find something in common it is much easier to build on that and develop a longer-term business relationship.

This means you don't just talk about your work. It means you mustn't restrict yourself to one or two topics. It means you are willing to listen out for even tiny hints that you have a shared interest, a shared cultural background, a shared passion for a particular topic, and so on.

For example, I had a potential new client call as an initial contact wanting to find out if I could help her. As she was calling I thought her accent sounded familiar to me but I couldn't pick it. I asked her what her background was and she said she came from a place called Heywood. I responded enthusiastically that I knew Heywood and my dad had worked at the big estate in Heywood when I was little. She was delighted that someone had heard of Heywood. The result of this was that we had a connection.

That connection provided a stronger foundation from which we could do business together, which we did. It would have been easy for me to have made no comment and to not search for a connection - but why waste an opportunity to engage at a deeper level? Once people are engaged with you they are more likely to do business with you, or use your services, or help you advance your career.

How did my emotional intelligence help me with this conversation? The right emotions were in place. I felt interested in her. I felt confident I was asking a relevant question. I felt engaged with her story. I felt willing to disclose my own story. I felt patient about having such a conversation. 

If you are going to put your effort into finding out what you have in common, do you have the emotions in place that will help you?

If you are feeling disinterested, hesitant, rushed, reluctant, or diffident it is going to make it harder, isn't it? If you have these emotions can you shift them to more helpful ones, or don't you know how to do this?

The skills of emotional intelligence can help you build your network and build your business, every step of the way.

Emotional intelligence skills: 7 summary steps for success

  1. Consider e-mails, telephone calls, social networking, casual conversations and more formal events all as networking opportunities.
  2. Take the initiative to contact people irrespective of where they are.
  3. Don't think of "making small talk" or "pitching", think of making connections and search for what you have in common.
  4. Don't only talk about work. Talk about a range of topics.
  5. Be willing to talk about yourself - don't just ask questions of other people.
  6. Form a relationship first, business is second.
  7. Put the effort into staying in contact and helping each other.

Develop your business networking and emotional intelligence

There is so much more to learn about how to engage people, how to develop high levels of emotional intelligence, and how to be brilliant at business networking so you build your business. We have only scratched the surface here. Would you like yourself or your team to be even more skilled at business networking so they engage the people who matter? You can. With us

For more details or to make a booking e-mail us now or pick up the phone and call us and we will discuss your options with you.