How to Network, My Two Top Tips

By Jeremy Blake on April 30, 2018

What are you networking for? 

Responding to the question you dread. 

Whether you are new to business or you’ve been working since the 1950s, chances are you have been at a networking event.

What are you networking for?

 Is it to meet people, form alliances, meet suppliers, do research? There are more things to do when you go networking than just to try and give out as many of your business cards as possible.

I assure you no one ever booked or engaged you solely on account of your business card, and if they did their flattery meant they tried to get you on the cheap.

An early tip. You can go networking without taking a single business card. Getting their number is more important than giving yours. This is no different than being on the dating scene and giving your number to people and never getting someone else’s. “Don’t call me, I’ll call you” – really means “I don’t want you to call me, and I won’t be calling you.”

Picture the scene inside a chain hotel... As you edge towards the throng with your coffee cup someone spins on their heel as you come into their vision and they say, “Hi I’m Alexa?” Alexa holds out her hand and hits you with a wide beaming grin and you feel already that she seems rather good at this networking lark and then she hits you with, “What do you do?”

The single worst question to ever ask anyone you have only just met. If you do this privately and professionally then stop. This awful learnt behaviour from awkward and untrained adults takes place throughout the summer in the UK, and is often the starter for ten when meeting your next door neighbour’s friend. “What do you do?” Well I do lots of things but I know you only mean my work. I could talk about coaching teenagers rugby or my child rearing efforts, my chickens, but no its work. Intake of breath…

You can’t stop the question coming. You can stop reacting as you currently do and start responding; and this is what I recommend you do. 

I first learnt of a version of the method below in one of Bob Bly’s newsletters, he’s a North American copywriter, and an associate of his uses a version of this model.

What you are going to do is not answer directly, rather get the person who asked it to become your client, customer, buyer or influencer.

Here is an example for a profession that is often less loved…

“What do you do?” 
John responds…

1. “You know when you want to move to a new city, town or village and a range of people tell you what you should and shouldn’t do, or suggest the wrong types of properties or areas to live in? 

2. I imagine that makes you feel fed up, irritable and even sometimes it seems so much bother you wonder if you should just stay put? 

3. What I do is get to understand an individual, a couple or a family more fully. That might mean I understand schools they are going to be considering now and in the future. The activities they like to do at weekends, or where they’ll be heading for work so they are the right side of town to avoid jams. Some people prefer to call me an estate agent.”

At phase one they should hopefully have experience of being in that position and offer you a yes. At stage two they may be happy enough to contribute their own feelings and language and at stage three they should at the very least smile.

What you are doing is aiming to control the reaction to what they feel and think through setting up the hypothetical situation.

They may be a potential client or they may know someone who is in the market for what you do. After all in life and certainly at networking events we aim to make an impression on someone so they can help themselves solve a problem or help a friend or colleague who has a challenge.

Exercise - Now develop your 3 stage response.

Now you are armed with a method to handle that previously life sapping question!

Let me know how you get on.........