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Down and Dirty Rules of Networking

Now that we are returning to networking events, seeing customers face to face and coming out of our caves, I wanted to share some personal rules of networking I have used over the years. They may not work for you, but I challenge you to find a different way of connecting with people. I find networking events mostly boring. I want to have real, meaningful conversations with people—or at least have a laugh. Leaving your home and traveling somewhere is such hard work and I believe in making the best and most of these moments.

Rule #1: Never talk about the weather. For God’s sake, if you talk to me about the weather in your first sentence—I AM OUT. That is a signal for a lame, boring, human with nothing creative or interesting to say. Think about your interactions, let your guard down—these are humans, get to know each other and try to find common ground. An exception to this rule is if you or your client are farmers or your business is impacted by weather, such as a storm, hurricane, fire, or impending tsunami (but these are the only “talk about the weather” exceptions).

Rule #2: Read. When going to another city for business, read the local newspaper that morning to discover the hot topics in your potential client’s world. Read their last three press releases on the company website so you're aware of recent news within their organization. Follow their city and company on Instagram and Twitter so you can be in tune with recent events and make meaningful small talk. It shows you care, are smart and did some work.

Rule #3: SWEATworking. I’ve attended many spin classes, brisk walks, volleyball games, and hikes with business partners and clients. There is a reason why people say golf is a good game to learn if you want to go into business—it’s a long game. You learn the other person’s strengths or weaknesses. You learn how they think and their strategy. You see how they behave when they are at their best and worst. And you have plenty of time to get to know someone, out of the shop, board room, or office. People are different when you remove them from their normal, boring work setting.

Rule #4: Remember the color of their eyes. Whenever I go into an event cold, where I know absolutely no one, I try to remember the name of each person I meet. I look into their eyes when I meet them, give them a firm handshake and try to remember the color of their eyes. James, green eyes. Kim, blue eyes. Mike, one eye. Remembering the color of their eyes and their name helps me remember them. Another thing I try to do in that quick conversation is repeat their name three times. Danielle, nice to meet you. So, Danielle, tell me about your business, what does XYC company do? Danielle, what do you think about the Cleveland Browns this year? I don’t rapid-fire the name in the first three sentences. I try to spread it over a five- or ten-minute conversation. That helps me remember their name and makes the experience more personal. She may remember me as a creepy, leering, eyeball-looker, but at least she remembers me, right?

Rule #5: Work the room. I know this is cliché but it’s really important to maximize time. You’re only there for two hours or less so make the most of your time. Try to get to know as many people as possible while balancing your conversations so they are still quality, meaningful conversations.

Rule #6: I never give my business card unless someone asks me for one. I do ask for business cards if I want to get to know the person or their business more. When I was younger, I used to just hand out business cards like candy. I was super annoying. I have learned over the years that if people are interested in you or your business, they will ask—or track you down. Forcing your card on someone will ensure it ends up in the trash.

Rule #7: Smile, have fun, look for the good. I love meeting new people. I love strangers. If you don’t like meeting people or strangers, then you need to find a business development person to do the networking for you. There is no shame in being a shy business owner. Keep doing what you’re doing with your awesome widget or service. If you're not doing it, someone in your company needs to be out there, mixing with the public. People need to know who your business is, so find someone who likes strangers as much as I do. Even if the networking event was a bust—meaning you didn’t find any potential clients—maybe there was a recommendation for a book or movie, or a tip on putting your kids to bed. Networking events are not transactional. It’s rare you will go to an event and leave with three leads for new business. Networking events are the beginning of a relationship you can build, grow, and foster so it leads to new business.

Rule #8: Be open to learning about other people’s products too. I always remember that even though I am there to find business and meet new people, other people are there for the same reason. If I am a target for someone’s sales plan, I do not run away—this networking thing goes both ways. I give people the time they deserve to get to know me, sell to me, and share their values and business ideas with me. You never know, someday that person might eventually be a client or business associate—or maybe even your boss, boyfriend, stepson or mother-in-law. I always try to be kind and open to all people at a networking event because you never know where that relationship will go.

Networking doesn't have to be lame. Networking can be fun and enjoyable. You just have to put the work in and get creative. Networking happens in many forms—from workouts to weddings, backyards to boardrooms. You can meet someone once and that person can be in your life forever in many different ways. If you plant seeds and surround yourself with like-minded people that are aligned with your beliefs, your community will grow and networking will move your life forward in a productive and joyful way.

This is an excerpt from the new book Sales Tales: The Hustle, Humor, and Lessons From a Life in Sales written by Mandi Graziano. The book was an Amazon bestseller and is available wherever you buy your books. Her audiobook was released in April 2022. To get more Sales Tales nuggets from Mandi directly click here. Mandi is Vice President of Global Accounts for HPN Global, a venue finding and hotel site selection company. She's been in hospitality for over 20 years, delivers one heck of a fun keynote speech, and has been known to give her audience "Digestible Sales Snacks" of info they can use in their daily lives.

For more information on booking Mandi Graziano to coach or speak, click here.


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