The term “master networker” gets thrown around a lot to describe people that appear to have the innate ability to connect with others. This type of person is often characterized as likable, fun, extroverted, and confident. But not all master networkers have those characteristics in common. What they do have in common are habits. Characteristics are innate, habits are acquired, which means anyone can be a master networker by developing the right habits. Here are five habits master networkers share:
Listening is a learned skill that takes concentration and practice. It requires being present and curious about the person with whom you are speaking. Best-selling biographer Ken Abraham has done thousands of interviews for his books and is a power listener. Some of his tips for power listening are:
- Know it’s not about you. If you’re concentrating on making your point or achieving your agenda, you might hear what the other person is saying, but you’re not really listening. Be more interested in what they have to say than what you want to say or achieve.
- Repeat the message back. Make sure you understand what the other person is communicating by repeating back what they told you in summary. You can use this to lead into your next question. For example, if someone told you they grew up as the youngest of five brothers, you could say, “What was it like to have five older brothers?” This helps you remember what they told you and lets them know you’re listening.
- Listen for the emotional content of their message. We connect through emotions. Listening and being able to recall facts and figures makes a good listener, understanding the emotion behind a story makes a great listener and will make your conversation memorable.
Listening sets you apart and makes you immediately likable. Master networkers know this and create opportunities for others to talk so they can listen intently.
They Add Value First
Master networkers look to add value before they ask for favors. Many different theories exist on how many times you should give before you ask for something, but the general rule from master networker and author of Networking is a Contact Sport Joe Sweeney says, “Look for ways you can offer help long before you ask for a favor.” Making introductions, sharing specific knowledge about your area of expertise, or offering to help them with a project or problem are a few ways you can add value.
They Show Appreciation
Master networkers use genuine compliments as conversation starters, especially when they don’t have someone or something in common with the person they want to meet. If you’re meeting someone who has impacted your career or your life with their work, tell them. Be specific about how they helped or inspired you, and let them know you appreciate them. Even superstars desire validation and giving it to them – without putting them on a pedestal – is great way to start a conversation with them.
They Show Confidence
Master Networkers believe that they belong in any room they’re in and approach people they want to meet with confidence. The more prepared you are, the easier it is to be confident. Plan who you want to meet and how you are going to approach them. Be ready to ask insightful questions and listen. Don’t mistake having confidence for being arrogant. Nothing shows insecurity more than name dropping, talking about your accomplishments, or acting more successful than you really are. Many people feel insecure at networking events and will implore these techniques. Don’t play their game. Be authentic and focus on developing genuine relationships, and you’ll come out ahead.
They Follow Up
Master networkers follow up. Whether you send an email, call them, or connect through social media, following up after you meet someone is a must. Choosing the most appropriate medium depends on the strength and nature of your connection. Remind that person when and where you met and reference specific details from your conversation. This is a good time to provide value. A follow up email or LinkedIn connection request could look like this:
It was a pleasure meeting you at the Women in Tech luncheon on Thursday. Thank you for the Dot Complicated book recommendation. I ordered it this morning and am excited to read it. You mentioned you were heading to London next week. Go eat at Chiltern Firehouse in the West End if you get a chance. Great food and quite “the scene”.
Hope to see you at the next luncheon. Have a good trip!
You’ve mentioned where you met, referenced specifics from your conversation, and provided a recommendation. You now have added value and created topics to discuss on your next follow up. It may be appropriate to set up another time to meet one-on-one in a follow up, but if that feels like “an ask”, then you should wait until you’ve established more of a relationship.
All five of these habits are learned and practiced. For master networkers, these habits are so ingrained they appear to be natural abilities. While these skills may feel easier for some people, everyone can develop and execute them in their own authentic way.
These habits will help you develop genuine relationships, which create a powerful network full of people who can and will help you succeed.