In B2B marketing, building and maintaining relationships with your customers is key to nurturing leads. Whether you are at a local business networking event, or attending a conference as a representative of your organisation, being able to ‘work the room’ is a very useful skill to acquire.
Unfortunately, networking does not come easily to everyone. Some people, like yours truly, prefer to hide behind a MacBook computer screen, rather than have to deal with people. However, this is only more of a reason to get out and try implementing some of the strategies we are going to cover in this article.
It’s time to learn some simple hacks that will empower you in social situations and allow you to build up your B2B networking skills.
1. Remember names
“Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language” (Dale Carnegie)
The fastest way to build a connection with somebody is to remember their name. They have likely been called their name since they were infant. It arouses in people something deeply personal and allows you to engage with people on a private level.
Of course, the hardest part is remembering names, especially when dealing with large groups of people. According to modern neuroscience, people are only capable of handling up to seven pieces of information in their working memory. According to British anthropologist Robert Dunbar, people are only able to have meaningful relationships with up to 150 people at a time.
Below are three tips we recommend for remembering names at an event:
- Mnemonics – Use mnemonics to remember names and chunks of information.
- Association – Remember a positive attribute about the person you met, or a physical attribute. Maybe you could recall their gender, age and their favourite color? Dale Carnegie recommend remembering birthdays.
- Journal – Keep a ‘People Journal’ of everyone you have met in the day. Writing down information improves retention. Recall an interesting thing you found out about them.
- Take a moment – Every so often, while you are canvassing the room, look around and play a game. See how many people you can remember. If you do not remember somebody’s name, approach them, strike a discussion and at some point apologise for being forgetful and take note.
Never underestimate this first tip. Use a person’s name as often as you can. If you take any piece of advice from this article, this is the simplest and quickest way to build up your professional network.
2. Encourage people to talk about themselves
There is a popular story of a botanist and a mathematician at a party. The mathematician was very quiet but very interested in what the botanist had to say. For three hours, the botanist chewed off the ears of the mathematician.
At the end of the party, the mathematician was feeling quite awkward. He was worried he had made a poor impression, as he had barely said a word all night. However, when the botanist and mathematician were leaving and saying goodbye, the botanist paid the mathematician a compliment in front of their host, “Your mathematician friend is extraordinarily interesting! Quite the conversationalist!”
What does this story tell us? People like the sound of their own voice. The best conversationalists, as Lao Tze might say, are those that are almost invisible. Counterintuitively, shine the spotlight on everyone else and you will be the centre of attention.
One tip that psychologists and counsellors employ to open patients up to communicating is to leave a bit of silence after someone has finished talking. If they have left a thought half-finished, leave a bit of quiet before speaking, they will feel the social pressure to keep talking.
Of course, just listening to other people speak all evening can be quite draining, so don’t be afraid to speak up either!
3. Open body language and a smile
A smile is a contagious way to open people up and get past their possibly guarded nature. Open body language (such as pulled back shoulders, and open palms) are also signs that you pose no threat to those you are speaking to.
On a very basic instinctual level, your posture and positioning are doing 93% of the communication. This may feel uncomfortable at first, especially is you are a misanthrope like me. However, if you ‘fake it till you make it’ you will find that what’s inside begins to reflect what is on the surface. This due to a well-documented psychophysiological response.
Not only will smiling and opening yourself up make you feel better, it will make other people more comfortable around you.
One ‘handy’ tip from Psychology Today, is to keep an eye on the feet of the people you are talking to. If they are pointed away from you, they are likely disengaged. If they are pointed towards you, they are likely interested in what you are saying.
Another good observation to make is to keep notice of people’s eye movements. In 1975 Eckhard Hess discovered that pupils dilate the more interested they are in a subject. Also, Blinking more than ten times per minute is also another sign of interest.
According to modern psychology, someone looking to your right is a sign someone is remembering something. If they look to your left, it is a sign they are devising something. Looking up indicates visualisation, looking directly sideways indicates auditory thinking, and looking down is kinaesthetic (often involving feelings or internal dialogue). Try playing with the chart above to get familiar with these saccade eye movements (try not to be distracted by the handsome face of Hugh Laurie!).
4. Avoid criticising, condemning or complaining
We’ve all dealt with people we rather wouldn’t. We might have even said things we regretted later. As Bilbo Baggins would put it, “I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.”
However, business is about relationships, and sometimes we need to learn how to work together to achieve outcomes.
The first thing to remember is that no-one ever thinks they are wrong. Even Al Capone saw himself as an upstanding citizen. What can we learn from this? If you try to tell someone they are wrong, they will only hold it against you.
‘A drop of honey gathers more bees than a gallon of gall.’ Avoid criticizing (or correcting) others, unless absolutely necessary, and if you do have to, go about it in a respectful way that first acknowledges their importance and the truth in their statement.
Likewise, don’t talk ill of people who are not present. Whenever somebody says something cruel behind someone’s back, the person they are speaking to might agree, but secretly they are thinking, “I wonder what this person says about me when I’m not here?”
5. Give honest and sincere appreciation
Make a habit of noticing positive attributes about people that you meet. You may like their hair, or admire the way that they talk confidently. Then, get into the practice of articulating your appreciation for others.
Compliments will get you anywhere. Conversely, an insincere compliment will immediately make people dislike and distrust you. People will know whether you are being sincere or not.
Finding opportunities to appreciate people is an art form in of itself. One tip we recommend is to ask small favours of people. Surprisingly, according to research, people are more likely to like those that they have done a favour for. This could be as simple as asking someone to pass you the salt. It is not the scale of the action, it is the gesture that matters. Don’t forget to thank them though!
Also, while we are on the subject of etiquette. Avoid saying sorry, instead thank people. People say sorry the smallest of inconveniences. Sorry subconsciously shifts blame onto yourself, thank you makes the other person feel appreciated.
6. Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely
Everybody wants to feel important. From the perspective of other people, you are only a secondary character in their narrative. Don’t take this personally, everyone is like this. Instead, use it to your advantage.
Firstly, it is one less thing to worry about. Now that you know you are of little importance to most people, you don’t have to worry as much about living up to the responsibilities and expectations you may have built up in your mind.
Secondly, make others feel appreciated is a great skill! Anybody that can make someone feel important has tapped into humanity’s most fundamental psychological needs. The need to be appreciated is almost as fundamental as food or sleep!
Finding out what motivates people, and what makes them feel valued is the key to unlocking social success.
7. Memorable introductions, and end on high notes
First impressions matter; the human mind is quick to cast judgement. According to Business Insider, you only have seven seconds to make a first impression. This is where it pays to always be prepared, and to project the image you want to the world to see.
For example, a world-class musician once busked on the street in normal clothes with a $3.5 million dollar violin, and only earned less than $40. They typically would have made $100 per seat in an auditorium. This demonstrates the importance image.
In fact, according to the well-documented ‘Halo Effect’, people are more likely to perceive those who are talented or attractive as both kinder and smarter!
It is also important to work on your entrances and exits. According to the ‘Serial Positioning Effect’, people best remember the first and last parts of a sequence of events. This means that you want to start strong and finish strong when engaging in conversation. Introduce yourself with a smile, and be vocal. Don’t forget to leave with high energy and repeat their name back to them!
8. Give yourself something to do
If you are like me, you can get a bit nervous about social interactions. One tip is to focus your attention on what you are doing to calm the nerves. This is why dinner is a very common social activity, why chewing gum (according studies) gives off the impression of confidence, and why ‘social smoking’ is such a phenomenon.
If you are organising a meet and greet, consider a physical activity that will give your guests an adrenaline rush. According to psychologist Ryan Anderson, “Evidence suggests that people are more likely to enjoy themselves with you if they experience some kind of adrenaline rush while in your presence.”
9. Pump yourself up
If you really want to make a good impression on somebody, take some time before hand to pump yourself up. If you go into a social situation in a positive energised state, you are likely to elicit a similar response. People are naturals at reciprocating behaviour.
People will also associate you with the emotions that you elicit in them. If you are bored by people and bring nothing to a conversation, they will naturally dread seeing you. If you are positive and upbeat, they will have a similar impression of you.
10. Mirroring and repetition
According to Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP), one of the best ways to get people to trust and open up to you is to mirror their body language and speech.
If they are leaning slightly to their left, subtly mirror their body language. They will begin to start associating with you and see you as someone they trust.
Mirror their language as well as their posture and movements. Most people think dominantly in one of three ways – visually, auditorily, or kinaesthetically. Our language often reflects this. For example, you may notice that you say phrases such as ‘the way I look at it’, ‘I’m hearing you’’, or the ‘this is how I feel about it.’ Each of these betrays the way we prefer to think.
By mirroring the language of the person you are speaking to you are able to better facilitate communication and build trust.
11. Don’t Be Boring
This is the least difficult step in this article. You are incredibly interesting without even having to try. The real trick is not ‘being interesting’ but developing interest in other people.
As we mentioned earlier, allow other people to lead the conversation. Find things about them that you find genuinely interesting and probe them about it. The minute you notice you are speaking too much, and they are switching off, check yourself and ask them something.
According to Edward DeBono, the originator of ‘lateral thinking’, “being interesting is nothing to do with intelligence, beauty or confidence. It is actually a state of mind.”
Humour, insight and surprises are the skills you need to use to stimulate conversation. The state of mind DeBono refers to, is that of a creative and imaginative mindset. Get used to speculating. Objective facts are boring. Subjective questions are interesting.
Also, don’t restrict conversation, by talking about topics others are unfamiliar, or uninterested in. Instead, make it an even playing field. Talk in terms of emotions, and invite people to visualise and imagine.
In this article we owed a lot of these tips to Dale Carnegie’s ‘How To Win Friends And Influence People’, Edward DeBono’s ‘How To Be More Interesting’ and various articles from Psychology Today. We recommend these resources for anyone interested in the subject of networking.
If you enjoyed this article and are interested in learning more about business networking, read this article/ infographic on Business Networking Etiquette 101.
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