By Lisa Butler Networking and communication expert – Managing Director of The Talea Group
We are all getting used to adapting the way we work and live since the rise of COVID19 globally. Business networking is no different. The way you used to develop and grow your business relationships have changed for the foreseeable future, and consequently, adapting your mindset and approach is crucial to avoid being left behind.
The pandemic has probably killed many of your past ‘go-to’ networking activities. My recent research proved that people are spending less time networking, are feeling less confident about doing it, and have reverted to some very basic networking activities. In lieu of the pre-COVID coffee catchups, conferences, events and lunches we have seen a rise in emails, phone calls and virtual meetings.
This means that your contacts are being bombarded with emails and virtual events, and it’s overwhelming. There are many risks here, apart from not being heard above the noise. You are also potentially missing opportunities to genuinely connect, stand out and be front of mind with your network.
Now is the perfect time to re-invent your networking. It’s time to be creative, bold, generous and above all else, empathetic to the people in your network. But what I am noticing is a reticence, which often stems from a negative mindset.
Is your mindset holding you back?
Start by being honest with yourself about what is stopping, or slowing, your networking. I am discovering that, for many people, the pandemic and its implications are becoming an excuse not to network.
Blaming the pandemic is an easy out. Sure, changed working conditions are a major obstacle, as is the rapidly changing landscape of how businesses operate. Waiting for it all to settle down, for some sense of ‘normality’, will be a great risk to your business.
Just like we are all getting used to standing on dots in the supermarket queues and signing a register when we eat in a restaurant, we need to adapt the way we network. It all starts with a mindset. If you are looking for excuses, you will find them.
Ask yourself if these are genuine excuses or if they are perhaps a convenient cover for the real reason – that you just don’t like networking!
Personal connection, generosity and compassion are the heart of networking
If you dislike the term ‘networking’ and what it represents, take heart as you are not alone. I find that for many people this dislike stems from misperceptions about the true nature of networking. Witnessing inept networkers in action, seeing them ‘work the room’, with selfish abandon, is enough to turn anyone off.
One of the most positive outcomes from COVID19 has been a greater sense of community, generosity and compassion for others. This is what networking is, and should always be, about.
The most successful networkers will tell you that they key is to connect with people at a personal level, underpinned by a selfless and genuine desire to help. It is not, and should never be, about trying to sell or take from your network. When you truly understand this, your whole approach to networking will change.
You will feel more comfortable and confident trying new ways of networking. You will reach out to your network to see how you can help, who you could connect them with, or what information you could share. You will engage with them in a more personal way, and you will learn more about them in the process. You will more confidently suggest new and different ways to keep in touch, and you will be amazed by the response.
To re-invent your networking, start with your mindset.