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Effective Networking: Personality Partnering
By Anne Warfield   Printer Friendly Version

Networking is no longer the "good ol' boys" club nor is it appropriate to pass your business card out to everyone you meet. Networking is a much more savvy market today. Networking is not something you do; it is an art you perfect. True networking will increase your business and give you a solid base for years to come. So how do you network in the 90's?
To be effective in today's business you need to network by "personality partnering". Remember you are not trying to only reach the person you are speaking to, you want to have access to all the people they have an influence over. Let your networking be defined by your personality and life style, not by your work.

Remember , you need to create a desire to hear more from you. Your first line of introduction should tell people the benefit of working with you, not how you do what you do. Karen Peterson has been with Hanson's Goodies & Gifts, an 80 year old company, since she closed her own bakery in the spring of 1994. Prior to that Karen was a customer of Hanson's for 4 years. When I first met Karen her introduction was, "My name is Karen Peterson and I'm with Hanson's Goodies & Gifts. We make gift baskets filled with candy, nuts and goodies for every occasion." She found her response from people was only mediocre at best. Today Karen says her benefit statement of, "I can help provide you with the perfect gift at the perfect time for any occasion without you ever having to leave the office." Having a benefit statement gives her confidence because it always rolls right off her tongue and it peaks interest. Matter-of-fact, after saying her benefit statement at a recent women's network meeting, Karen had two people come up to her to set appointments to purchase product!

Do not network for people whose companies might be good prospects for you. Instead try to find people in the room that have similar interests to you. Similar interests include hobbies, vacations, parenting, experiences, and travel to name a few. For years the "good ol' boys" network survived because they were often built on a similar interest outside of work. They were built on golf courses, basketball courts, churches and workout rooms. Business happened as an afterthought. Do not begin by talking about work.

Churches, community events, ski clubs, golf courses, workout centers, and Chambers of commerce are some of the best places to meet people that have a similar personality and interests to yours. In Karen's situation church, chamber events and community events would be great places to "personality partner". These events would allow her to meet others, be involved and display her gift baskets as centerpieces for different events.

Your goal is to find out if your personality relates well to the person you are talking with. In order to find this out, ask questions such as, "What is your favorite hobby?", "Where was your best vacation and why?", or "If you could relive one part of your life without changing it, what time would you relive and why?" These are great icebreakers when you are seated at a table with 7 other strangers. For Karen, a great icebreaker is to ask people what big events they have upcoming in their lives. This allows her to tell them about a basket that would fit the occasion.

Diana Hoffman of Investor Mortgage spends much of her business time managing a women's breakfast networking group. She invites people she feels will match in personality and then starts each meeting with an unconventional networking question. She finds people open up to each other, and naturally refer business.

Being a good "personality partnering" networker is similar to being a good neighbor. You do things for others because you genuinely like them and see this as a long-term partnership, not a short-term business venture. You will find the more you give, the more referrals people will send your way. They might not be able to do buinsess with you themselves, but they like you so they will want to help you. Think of how many things you buy or do because a friend has recommended them to you.

Focus on helping them solve a problem they face or present new information in an area they are interested in, and people will remember you. They will appreciate your effort and try to pass business you way. Karen helps people focus on upcoming anniversaries, birthdays and other important events in their lives. She is then able to solve their problem by presenting a choice of baskets that can be mailed or delivered for those occasions. People feel grateful they are able to be thoughtful about sending a gift while still meeting all of their work deadlines.
When you go to your next networking event, use it as an opportunity to find others who think, feel and act similar to you. Begin with your personality and lifestyle in mind and let work be an afterthought. The more you practice this, the more the other person will be asking for your card without you even suggesting business and you will make business partners as well as friends. MB & O

Anne Warfield is president of Impression Management Professionals. She helps people project the positive, physical and mental image necessary to reach their goals.

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