The Best Way to Survive Networking

BY Kathy Crosett
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Some people are born to schmooze. If you’re not, you know it. You dread the new business hunting process. And you’d like to get out of the networking events your manager wants you to attend. Many sales positions require some amount of exchanging business cards and engaging in small talk. If you’re looking for the best way to survive networking, check out the tips suggested by Maryam Kouchaki.

The Best Way to Survive Networking

Networking prowess doesn’t just drive leads in the sales profession. Successful networking can also bring you to a new level in your career. Businesses professionals, not just those in sales, suffer when they don’t network effectively. For example, Kouchaki reports that "lawyers who felt dirty about networking had fewer billable hours than their unbothered counterparts.”

Despite the obvious benefits of good networking, Kouchaki points out that the process “makes people feel morally impure.” To help people get past that uncomfortable feeling, Kouchaki, and co-​researchers Francesca Gino and Tiziana Casciaro, dug into what’s really going on psychologically.

The surveys they conducted analyzed the feelings of participants in both intentional and spontaneous networking instances. Think of the intentional situation as an industry trade show where you’re actively promoting your product and deliberately trying to get names and email addresses of attendees so you can reach out to them later. A spontaneous networking instance happens when you encounter a prospect who seems somewhat interested in what you’re selling, and you give them your elevator pitch.

The research reveals that intentional networking generates higher feelings of "impurity." That’s especially true for people with a prevention mindset. Survey panelists obviously felt awkward about pushing their products or services at strangers in a process that resembled cold calling.

Your Natural Mindset and Networking

If you’ve taken psychometric assessments, you might know a bit about your mindset. Specifically, the results of these assessments will highlight whether you’re the kind of person with a “promotion focus” or a “prevention focus.” In Kouchaki’s research, the terms are defined as follows:

  • Promotion Focus – As you pursue your goals, you’re striving to “achieve the best possible outcome.”
  • Prevention Focus – You’re attempting to achieve your goals while thinking about the obligations you must meet and also about how to stay safe.

Some psychometric assessments, like those based on DISC model of behavior developed by William Marston, will show that some people tend to thrive in social situations. And, if they don’t have enough interaction with other people in their professional lives, outcomes suffer. These people typically are quite extroverted. Alternatively, other people, like computer programmers, may be naturally drawn to work that requires less networking and may be naturally introverted.

If you aren’t naturally a people person, should you leave the sales profession? Not at all. Researchers found that people who are prevention-​focused are more apt to dislike networking. But they also found that people can adjust their mindset and become more successful at this critical part of sales.

Your Adapted Mindset

If you’re avoiding happy hours and other meet-​and-​greet events, Kouchaki encourages you to start thinking of these activities as opportunities instead of burdens. That approach might require more complex thinking though and you should focus on the purpose of sales. Back in the day, sales professionals lived by how many deals they closed and whether they reached or exceeded quota.

Numbers still rule in the profession, but our research tells us buyers don’t want to be sold to. They want to work with a professional who understands their business and will help them solve their problems. When you look at networking through this lens, your attitude can easily shift from prevention to promotion. At a networking event, your goal should be to meet people with the idea of helping them with their business challenges. Not everyone you encounter will need your help, of course, but with that mindset, you’ll find yourself more willing to make your pitch.

To learn more about your mindset, the best way to survive networking, and being credible with prospects, download our free e‑book, The 7 C's of Pre-​call Intelligence.

Photo by Dani Hart from Pexels