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Stepping Out of Your Networking Comfort Zone

We’re all aware of the phrase ‘comfort zone’ and most of us know when we are in it and when we are out of it. Often as we get older the temptation is to stay well within our comfort zones, which of course is comfortable, but means we are likely to continue to get similar results to what we have always had. If you want to get more value from your networking you’re going to have to step outside your comfort zone because, as one saying goes;

“Great things never came from comfort zones”

Why, because your comfort zone is all about the familiar, routines and safety. Your comfort zone is predictable (mostly) and secure and avoids people, activities and opportunities that  risk raising your anxiety. In your comfort zone you do the same things and get the same results so if you want different results you’ll need to risk stepping outside your comfort zone and do different things. Here’s some ideas you can try at your next network meeting;

  • Arrive Early – you’ll get to meet the leaders and chat with other early birds who you might not normally catch up with
  • Stay Late – if you meet someone who interests you see if they can stay back for a coffee and chat, or make times with people to stay back after the next meeting.
  • Help the Team – if you are there early or hanging back ask the team/organiser if there is anything you can do to help, you will be adding value to them and you never know where the talks you have end up.
  • Ditch the Pitch – if you tend to use the same pitch every time try something different. Consider using humour or some element that reflects you, risk being a bit zany. Ask people for feedback and keep changing and refining it.
  • Develop Interesting Anwsers to the ‘What do you do?” Question – don’t just go into the details of what you do, people don’t really want to know. They want to know if you are worth them spending time to get to know you, so give them something interesting eg a Bookkeeper might answer, “I help people sleep at night” . . . . “How?” . . . “by making sure their books are balanced, they have the reports they need to mange their business and ensuring their BAS is in on time”. Get people asking you questions. Play with it and have a few cheeky answers for less formal gatherings. One I use is “I run a speed dating service for small business owners’ – much more interesting than saying I run a networking group.
  • Ask Open Ended Questions – get people talking about their business eg;
    • ‘what do you like most about your business?’
    • ‘what’s the biggest benefit you provide to your customers?’
    • ‘where do you want your business to be in 3 years?”
      •  people like it when you take an interest in them and their business
  • Expect to Give Before You Get – ask people how you can help them and see if there are people you can connect them with to help them out eg
    • ‘what’s your biggest challenge at the moment’
    • ‘who do you need to connect with at the moment?’
    • ‘what sort of clients do you need more of?”
  • Get on Team – if there is a vacancy on the team grab it. You’ll increase your profile, get to know members better and learn a few things along the way, and
  • Ask for a referral – just like the biggest failing of most sales people is they don’t ask for the sale, the biggest failing of most networkers is they don’t ask for a referral. Consider who do you need to be put in contact with and the sort of people the person in front of you might know and ask them for a referral. Two things to remember;
    • If you don’t ask you don’t get, and
    • If you lay a good foundation by doing the points listed above and then ask, you are more likely to get

Stepping out of your comfort zone is all about taking small steps. Manage your anxiety by setting small goals and challenges you can take on at your network meetings. You’ll find your nervousness and anxiety will get less and your confidence will increase. Stepping out of your networking comfort zone will positively benefit not just your networking but your sales and business in general.
If you are having trouble stepping out of your comfort zone speak to us about how we can help you develop some strategies, ease your anxiety and build your confidence.

Happy and challenging networking!


The Value of Networking According to Richard Branson

Wondering if you should be Networking this Year?

Check out why Richard Branson thinks why succeeding in business is all about making connections and why he wants all his staff skilled in the ways of networking . . .

Richard Branson is a big supporter of networking. I recently re-read a blog article he wrote where made a number of points about the benefit of networking and thought it was worth sharing his key points  (from blog)

Networking Enables you to Bring in Skills you don’t have and might not be able to afford to purchase

“For an entrepreneur, the ability to forge connections is a great asset. When you’re conducting business in a field where you don’t have specialist expertise, it’s often the only way to get a job done right. When our team at Virgin wanted to go to space, I looked for the best engineer in the world to help us build a spaceship. Once we’d connected with Burt Rutan, creator of the revolutionary SpaceShipOne, we were able to get to work on creating Virgin Galactic,” blog.

  • small business networking regularly exposes you to people who have skills, experience and ideas that will benefit you. Many small businesses partner with the people they need to fill the gaps in their organisation, this is how Branson has managed to build so many different business groups.

Personal Contact is  Key

Business is all about personal contact. It is difficult to build trust based relationships with people you have never met, especially when you want to engage or partner with them in deals of significance.

“Succeeding in business is all about making connections. While we at the Virgin Group have never hired anybody whose job description was limited to making internal and external contacts, it is implicit that almost everyone on staff has these skills. This has helped Virgin to expand into so many different industries, from music to mobile phone services: As we build connections in other areas, we have been able to grow our expertise and multiply our reach.”

“Business is all about personal contact. No matter how heavy your workload is… everyone can and should be a networker.”

This rich networking ability has been a constant feature in the history of Virgin, with the group’s oldest and youngest businesses all benefiting from a swift ability for employees to forge strong working relationships.

  • focus on relationships not sales. As you network the relationships you build will generate opportunities you never considered or thought possible.

You Need to make time to Network

“Business is all about personal contact. No matter how heavy your workload is, do not allow yourself to work in your cubicle or office all day, every day – for your own well-being and the health of your business, you need to get out and about, meeting people and developing relationships. If you discuss a work matter with an employee or a potential client over coffee rather than simply sending over an email, you’re more likely to build rapport, which will be useful if you ever need to tackle any problems together. Good managers give their teams the freedom to set their own schedules, realizing that the same is true of employees’ relationships with their co-workers and the company’s clients,”

  • Get out and press the flesh – emails and texting have their place but there is no substitute for sitting down an having a coffee with someone. You’ll very quickly work out if you are on the same page in terms of business and values and if it is worth investing more time to develop a relationship.

Richard Branson is unusual in that he has built an empire of multiple businesses – music, airlines, finance, gyms etc. This is because he because he is an avid networker and has been able to connect people and leverage their desires and goals for all their benefit.

So if you are tossing up wether you should be networking this year or not, ask yourself, “What would Richard Branson do? “

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