The Top Characteristics of a Great Networker

Many people offer advice about what it takes to be a great networker (myself amongst them).  One thing that is left out of that equation, however, is what other people think about what it takes to be a great networker.  Networking involves interacting with others. So what do “they” think it takes to be a great networker?  This is important because we all need to be cognizant of other people’s expectations and adjust our behavior accordingly if we want to make the kind of impression that will work to build a powerful personal network.

Recently, I took the opportunity to gather almost 3,400 survey responses from business people around the world.   I gave them a list of almost 20 different characteristics on networking and I asked them to pick the top behaviors they’d like to see.  From those responses, I have identified the top characteristics of what people believe makes a great networker and have listed them here.

  1. Good Listener. At the top of the list is being a good listener.  Our success in networking depends on how well we can listen and learn. The faster you and your networking partner learn what you need to know about each other, the faster you’ll establish a valuable relationship. A good networker has two ears and one mouth and should use them both proportionately.  Listen to people’s needs and concerns and find opportunities to help them.  You can’t help others if you don’t know what they need, and you find that out by listening. In many ways, networking is about connecting the dots but to do that you have to listen so that you can help people make the connections they are looking for.
  1. Positive attitude. The first thing that people see from you is your attitude, how you take things in general. A consistently negative attitude makes people dislike you and drives away referrals; a positive attitude makes people want to associate and cooperate with you. Positive business professionals are like magnets.  Others want to be around them and will send their friends and family to them.
  1. Helps Others/Collaborative. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.  Helping people shows that you care.  One survey respondent said that “people want to network with individuals who have a collaborative attitude.”  Helping others can be done in a variety of ways, from clipping a helpful article and emailing it to someone, to putting them in touch with a person who can help them with a specific challenge.  Several respondents commented about not wanting to network with people who are “in it for themselves.” A willingness to collaborate and help others is essential as it builds trust and helps establish a strong relationship.

Check out my blog next month for more characteristics of what people believe makes a great networker.

International Networking Week® 2011–New Video

The new video for International Networking Week® 2011, is now available on YouTube!

The short, eight-minute video, sponsored by NetworkingNow.com and the Referral Institute, discusses the history and significance of this exciting, celebratory week which will be recognized across the globe this coming February 7-11, 2011 (Mark your calendar now! :)), and it also explains a concept many networkers fail to recognize but which all networkers need to be aware of–the ‘networking disconnect’.

This is the fifth year for International Networking Week® and it is now recognized by many countries around the world, with thousands of events being held during the Week.  One of the main goals of the Week is to help businesspeople everywhere build their networking skills; don’t wait until the last minute to join in the celebration and start the year off as a better networker–watch the video now, find an event in your area, and come back and let me know what you’ll be doing to recognize International Networking Week®.

For additional information go to www.InternationalNetworkingWeek.com.

What Richard Branson Can Teach You about Networking

I recently had a phone conversation with someone who was asking me about the importance of eye contact when networking.  I answered his question with an interesting story about Richard Branson and I’d like to share that story with you here because I think it demonstrates a point that’s definitely worth remembering.

One of the many intriguing things about Richard Branson is that he has this laser-focus eye contact.  When he is talking to you, he’s not looking to his left, looking to his right, or anywhere else other than directly at you–he gives you his full attention.

I remember talking with Richard, one time in particular, about kids and raising kids.  I was telling him about my son, Trey, who was fifteen at the time and very sharp but not as committed to school as he could be.

Six months later, I saw Richard at a party and introduced him to my son.  Branson remembered who Trey was from our previous conversation, and I have this photograph of him, where he has this laser eye contact with my son (see picture at right), and he kept that laser eye contact with Trey for three or four minutes straight while he was talking to him. All these people were around, vying for Branson’s attention, but he was completely focused on my son during their conversation. Branson wasn’t intense in terms of his speaking—he was actually very relaxed—but he was impressively intense in his focus. The only person in that room, during that three or four-minute time span, was my son. Here’s a guy who never went to college, and he was telling my son. “Go to college. I spoke to your dad! You can do better. I have faith in you!”

Now, keep in mind, Trey doesn’t get impressed by anybody (or at least, like a typical teenager, he certainly doesn’t make a habit of showing that he’s impressed–if you have teenagers, I’m sure you’re more than used to being responded to with a shrug, a bored expression, and the words “it was okay,” or “yeah, (so and so) was cool, I guess . . .”   ;-)) .  Actually, I don’t think my son even understood who Branson was at the time of their conversation but I asked him afterward, “What did you think of that conversation?”  His very uncharacteristic response was, “That was amazing!”  I’m more than confident that what really did it for Trey, what really impressed him, was how, for those few minutes, he had Branson’s undivided attention.

I’ve had a chance to see Branson several times now, and he’s just a master at giving people his undivided attention. After his conversation with Trey, when he moved to the next person, the next conversation, he gave that person his undivided attention.

The thing is, giving people your undivided attention is one of the most important things you can do in order to become a master networker, and making a concentrated effort to maintain eye contact when engaging a conversation is imperative in order to demonstrate to somebody that they are receiving your undivided attention.

So, the next time you’re networking with someone and distractions surrounding you are tempting your eyes to stray from the person you’re speaking with, think of Richard Branson and remember to keep a laser focus on the person and conversation at hand–it’s one of the things that will make you a true master.

Do you have an interesting experience about networking and eye contact?  If so, share it here.

Bob Burg’s 10 Networking Questions That Work Every Time

My good friend, networking expert Bob Burg, has 10 questions he personally uses when networking that he believes every networker should memorize.

Bob explains that these questions are not designed to be probing or sales-oriented in any way; they are all friendly, fun to answer, and will tell you something about the way the person answering them thinks.  You’ll never need or have the time to ask all 10 questions during any one conversation but, still, you should internalize them.  Know them well enough that you are able to ask the ones you deem appropriate for the particular conversation and time frame.

Here are the 10 questions:

1.  How did you get started in the (______) business?

2.  What do you enjoy most about your profession?

3.  What separates you and your company from the competition?

4.  What advice would you give someone just starting out in the (______) business?

5.  What one thing would you do with your business if you knew you could not fail?

6.  What significant changes have you seen take place in your profession through the years?

7.  What do you see as the coming trends in the (______) business?

8.  Describe the strangest or funniest incident you’ve experienced in your business?

9.  What ways have you found to be the most effective for promoting your business?

10.  What one sentence would you like people to use in describing the way you do business?

Like Bob says, you’re not going to get to ask more than a few of these questions during an initial conversation,  so don’t worry about sounding like you’re conducting an interrogation. These are feel-good questions people enjoy answering, and they are meant to establish an initial rapport.  So next time you’re at a networking event, try using a few of these questions and then come back and leave a comment about how using them worked out for you; I’m more than willing to bet you’ll be pleased with the results.

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