The comfort of playing it safe
Thousand years ago, we all lived in tribes. Being a troublemaker might mean being expelled by the chief, which could result in death. Not playing it safe usually meant death. And so, we played safe most of the time, conformed to the ways of the tribe and not to get out of the comfort zone. So it makes sense if we get uncomfortable at the idea of being different.
But you have to ask yourself. Did the people at the top of something they do get there by being just like everyone else? Or did they do something bold, something different and being more than just another average joe?
It takes a lot of courage to step out of the shadows of your functional skill. But it’s necessary if you want people to stop treating (and paying) you like just another ninety-nine percent of the people.
Speak to the right people
Networking is really about meeting the people who, after one good networking conversation could pave the way to multiple sales opportunities (or help you land your dream job). These magical people you must look for in every networking encounter are:
- Champions – high achievers and influencers who give your goal a huge boost
- Moment partners – small group of connections who share a common goal, call them your ‘rowing team’ if you want
Take some time to think about your current network. Perhaps even scroll through your LinkedIn connections and chances are you already have many potential momentum partners and champions in your network.
You never know who you’re going to meet
You never know what’s in the box unless you open it. Some of your best momentum partners, champions and prospects are likely there, waiting for you, even sitting next to you without you ever taking advantage or taking time to identify the opportunities. They may not be dressed like how you’d imagine them to be. They may not seem the right age. They may not even look like they’re open for a conversation. But the biggest mistake you can make as a networker is to assume the conversation is dead even before you open the box. Always be open to connecting people, anywhere, anytime.
Do your homework before you enter the room
Today with the rise of social media, dedicated networking sites and applications, there’s a wealth of cyber footprint out there for you to mine, if you will. People post pictures of themselves at events, like, comment and promote things they’re on. It’s all just waiting for you to discover. From these social profiles., you can usually take an educated guess if a person is more likely to be a prospect, momentum partner or a champion.
Don’t be afraid to connect with ten or twenty people, even before you enter the networking room. Focus on champions first, momentum partners second and prospects or employees third. Remember one champion or momentum partner can get you in front of dozes, hundreds or even thousands of prospects. They are the key to changing your life.
Crafting your own Unified Message (UM)
First, look at the things that you do and that your target segment really appreciates. And then ask yourself the following questions:
- What’s the higher-level benefit of all that?
- What’s that my target segment really gets out of working with me?
- How can I summarize all of this in just two or three sentences?
Here are some real-life examples:
- I help thought leaders uncover why their website content isn’t getting results on Google (the Authority Detective).
- I help traditionally high-achieving executives get out of an uncommon funk (the Plateau Hacker)
- I work with event planners wanting to pull off a memorable moment for attendees by providing laser light shows that dance to music (the Memory Weaver).
When you first come up with your own UM, don’t share it with family and friends. Share it with prospects or potential employers, because it’s their reactions that really count.
All that matters is, when you’re talking to someone in your niche, your UM makes them ask, “What exactly is that?” The entire goal of a UM is to get invited to share more
Be prepared to fine-tune as you go
If you’ve ever watched Groundhog Day, you’ll remember Phil (who happens to be an introvert) was forced to relive the same day over and over and that he decided to use this mystery to woo his coworker Rita. He spent weeks trying to have the perfect date, trying to say and do all the right things. He even acquired new skills and kept working at it even when things went wrong.
Groundhog Day serves as a great analogy for introvert networking. You focus on the system, not the conversation. You keep changing one small thing each time, determining if the change will get you closer to the goal. As Phil didn’t worry about hitting a home run, you shouldn’t worry about pulling it off perfectly even in your tenth conversation. If that happens, it’s a bonus. Until then, focus on having a prepared conversation. Hone that conversation each day just as if you were in Groundhog Day.
Preparing for a structured conversation
Think about the things you usually mess up? Chances are you were nervous back then. Introverts usually overthink things. We get stuck in our own heads trying to think what to say. By the time we do, the moment has already slipped by.
When you’re asked something you weren’t’ expecting it coming, you force yourself to live up to that conversation. When someone reacts poorly to what you say, your lizard brain goes into fight or flight mode. You’re not thinking straight because your brain is priming your body to fight or flee. That’s how human brains are wired.
Always know exactly what you’re going to say. To become a master at networking conversation, you need to perfect your networking script until it feels like a natural organic conversation.
Script: Inviting a conversation
Here’s a basic script you can use to initiate conversations:
“I’m the [insert UM].”
They ask: “The [UM]? What exactly is that?”
“Thanks for asking!”
[Share concise statements, drawing from your passion, your new understanding of your niche, and the three main problems you solve or outcomes you provide for them.]
Option 1: “Well, I hate seeing [niche] [define problems].
Option 2: “I love seeing [niche] [define success]; however, I find that [define problems].
“Do you know anyone like that?”
[Wait for response, which is almost always yes—especially if you’ve done all the right research beforehand.]
“Well, I’m on a mission to help [niche] realize/achieve/overcome/avoid [pleasure of attaining it or pain of not attaining it]. Not by [what most people are doing] but instead focusing on three often neglected/forgotten/ridiculously simple steps.”
[Act like you’re going to explain, then interrupt yourself.]
“Actually, you know what? Let me give you an example. See, when I first met [tell story].”
Finish with morale, then: “Does that make sense?”
[Wait for response.]
Script: Ending a conversation
Here’s a basic script you can use to end conversations:
For potential champions,
“[Name], I’m really enjoying this conversation; however, I don’t want to monopolize your time if you have other people you need to chat with. How about I reach out via email to schedule a lunch or a coffee? Would that be something you’d be open to?”
For potential momentum partners,
“[Name], I’m really enjoying this conversation; however, I don’t want to monopolize your time. Also, there are a few other people I promised I would say hello to while I was here. When I get back to the office, [I’ll be sure to shoot you through those introductions I promised you, or I’m going to shoot through a few introductions I think might be helpful to you]—is that okay?”
“If you’re open to it, we can schedule a quick call/Zoom meeting/coffee/lunch and I can talk you through the process I used to help (someone). Would that be helpful?”
Proper practice prevents poor performance
With proper practice, getting your script in a natural way doesn’t take as long as you’d expect. The three pillars of a proper practice are:
- Narrative Chaining – you memorize your stories and scripts.
- Imagination – you visualize yourself delivering that script.
- Buddying Up – you role-play with someone you trust and ask for feedbacks.
The step most people forget
Networking without follow-up is like farmers neglecting to harvest their crops. You’ll miss out your biggest-yielding prospects, momentum partners and champions who give you a huge boost to whatever you’re pursuing.
Ask yourself how many times you arrived at home with a stack of business card, looked at each one and thought:
- I had an awkward comment with that person. We barely talked and the last thing I want is to repeat that moment. Let’s wait and see if they reach out to me again. (They usually never do).
- I think I convey that what I do is interesting. Maybe I should contact them? But I don’t want to impose, so I’ll just wait until they make a move. (They often don’t).
- I gave that person a ton of value but they seemed they wanted it for free. WHy doesn’t anyone have the money to pay me? (They probably have).
- I got along with him great. But I don’t see anything valuable, other than building a friendship. I’ll just leave that one for now. (This may have been a great momentum partner).
Script: Following up a conversation
“[Name], it was a real honor speaking with you today and getting to hear about all the exciting things that you’re working on. I was particularly inspired to hear [custom note about one specific thing that connects with your passion and mission or, as a last resort, something they were really excited about].
I was also happy to hear that you’re open to continuing our discussion. Would any of the below times work for you?
[Offer four time slots, two sooner and two later, and each set at a different time of day—morning or afternoon.]
Of course, it would be great to meet with you again in person, perhaps over coffee. However, if you’re short on time, of course I’d settle for a voice or video call.
I look forward to hearing from you soon.”
Because champions are often far too busy and in demand, give them 2-4 weeks to respond. And then you may follow up again.
For momentum partners,
“[Name], it was a privilege to meet you yesterday, and I really enjoyed our discussion. I just shot you [the introduction or a couple of introductions] I promised you—did you get them okay? You never know with spam filters these days!
I hope they’re fruitful.
There’s no exact timeline for you to expect momentum partners to respond. Simply wait and see if they reply. If they don’t, that’s okay. Perhaps they’re not ready to be a momentum partner for now.
“[Name], it was great to meet you yesterday, and I’m so pleased you found my guidance helpful.
I greatly look forward to helping you further during our call on [date, time].
I’ll also follow this email with a calendar invitation.
If you have some spare time between now and then, I’d highly recommend checking out the below post/video/podcast interview: [Link goes here.]
[Briefly explain what it will help them with—this should not be anything promotional in nature.] I think you’ll get a ton of value from it.
I look forward to speaking with you soon.
[Follow up with your calendar invitation.]”