On this episode, I had a conversation with Dalene Allen, a Master Networker and Executive Director at BNI Nova Scotia, New Brunswick & PEI. Dalene is an expert in providing effective networking strategies and networking tips. She arranges professional connections, networking events, and business networking.
Here is the summary of our discussion.
What are your perspectives on why an entrepreneur needs networking - Is it crucial and why?
It is free to network. You might pay a fee to go to a networking event, but really we don't have to go to a networking event today because of all of our social media platforms. What kind of drives me a little crazy - people go I have 1,000 followers and you want to go - that's wonderful. Are you talking to them? Because if we're not communicating with our connections, what’s the point? And we can do this from the comfort of our own homes, and anonymously if we are intimidated by that, although I'm a big believer in at least if we see each other's faces, right? There's nothing like human connection. But here's the thing I find that most happens. You go out, you're networking because - you know - you move to a new community and you need to connect. And then once we get a little busy, that's the first thing people stop. And to me, it is crucial that you're always every single day looking to make at least one new connection. It is the little things in your business that will not only sustain you, but grow your business. So, I'm a big believer in - activity equals results. You can’t control the results that you do, but you can control the level of activity that you do.
When you think of your sales funnel, and whether you've got a bricks and mortar store, or whether you're fortunate enough to work from home and don't need that, we still need to connect. And so, when you can get comfortable in making eye contact with somebody, and usually that's my first test. I look at them, and then I smile, and if they smile back at me, to me they passed the first test. None of us want rejection, but something as little as that can boost your confidence. But after you smile, and after you make eye contact and smile then you need to do something likely within the next 8 to 10 seconds or fear sets in, and if it does, you're 100% normal, so it's okay. But that little thing of smiling, you know making eye contact smiling, and then starting with hello and before long like any muscle, it's easier than exercise.
You start with the little things but then you need to still step out of that comfort zone to get a little bit further and a little bit further and a little bit further. And oh listen, since your business – Cornish’s Variety - has been around for over 100 years. And the fact that you started to sell merchandise with your name on it. So, depending upon the type of business you have, or your comfort level, and if you've got a favourite fan, wear that T shirt, because I guarantee someone else is going to meet you and go oh my god, I love that thing.
You see, networking may be easier for extroverts because I believe extroverts get energized by engaging with other people. On the other hand, introverts get easily drained by being around people, especially for a long period. So, how can an introvert network that would still be helpful and natural?
Well, if you're a social media person and you're on any social media platforms, you don't have to be great at all of them. But pick one or two, depending upon your business. I still like LinkedIn the best. That's where people are doing business. So, every morning - and I still do this - I connect with people on LinkedIn. I've been doing it for years because I have a friend who built a million-dollar business sitting at home. He never went out to networking events. He would have coffee with people when he got to know them. And that's how he built his business. But every day he would go in and he would find one or two or three profiles because you can log in and be specific, you know, what's a business that could complement your business? So, you go in and you make connections on LinkedIn, read their profile, and see if you can find a human connection. So, here's the thing. I do at least one new connection on LinkedIn five days a week. Okay. During COVID I was amazed at how many people got back to me - presidents of big companies. I mean, it was amazing. And still, you know, again, you want to make sure you're dealing with the person who's got their picture on display. Are they posting? And find the human connection first, and make at least two or three connections or contact points before you really try to sell something. But you can start off with Hey, I'd like to connect. Tell me about your business. What are some of the issues you're having? Because we're in a similar industry, love to connect for a check. So you know, we can help each other, you know, things like that. And, again, the consistency is the magic. Create the momentum to keep your sales funnel full.
Let’s look at this scenario - you find yourself in an event and there’s this moment of small talk. Everybody's talking to everybody, but you’re alone and it's awkward for you. You don't want to go stay in a corner and look like you don't belong there. You don't want to interrupt conversations that people are already having. So, what's your advice in that kind of situation?
That is an actually excellent thing, and I'm glad you brought that up. So, at this particular point, watch the body language. When it's two people together. If you think of it, they're standing likely side by side or facing each other. As long as there's an opening - so let's say they were standing side by side, then there's an opening in front of them. You could just walk up, smile, and kind of listen to the conversation. And when there's a break, then it's like, oh, hi, how are you? And that's when you could say, Oh, I'd love to meet you. Right. And let them talk first. When it's three people, it's usually even easier because there's invariably an opening.
I used to be the person that I would get to a networking event early. And I would stand in the corner, like a deer in the headlights, you know, the headlights in my eyes. I was frozen. And I prayed that somebody would come and talk to me, right? And I would wait till the first person and this took courage. And let me tell you, this is one of the ones that likely changed my life. I would wait until the first person walked through the room that had the deer in the headlights look and I would go over and say “Hi my name is Dalene. You look more afraid than me.” They would invariably go “Thank God you talked to me”.
One other thing - don't ask them what they do. Ask them – “What are you excited about today?” or “What do you like best about what you do?“ And then really listen. Because the question is a little bit different, you get an interesting conversation started.
If there is one advice you would give an entrepreneur - who is an introvert - on networking, what would it be?
Well, start working a little bit at a time and a little bit at a time. And, you know, again, you'll progress as long as you're doing it consistently. Like if every day you say hello to somebody, it'll get easier. And then have a nice day. And then how are you and then wearing something that can make people talk to you first, it doesn't have to be anything wild and crazy. I truly believe in the little things. Do take care of the little things and big things will happen. But once you start, be consistent.
In summary, it is the little things in your business that will not only sustain you but grow your business. Activity equals results. You can’t control the results, but you can control the level of activity that you do and that includes networking. Don’t stop networking.
Until the next episode, "Let's continue to learn together. And be encouraged to keep on connecting".
This blog is about personal development for entrepreneurs based on the principles of fairness, compassion, and commitment. This includes the practice of 'speaking' positive affirmations, which can be a powerful tool to support self-development. Hopefully, you’re impacted positively in some ways. As we all know, personal circumstances are quite different. So, I encourage you to apply the lessons in line with your own context. Do continue to “Hola” to connect with people and remember “Let's continue to learn together and be encouraged to keep on connecting”.