For some people, the motivation to want to talk to people regularly and to network is naturally high. They commonly talk to strangers in supermarket lines, at bus or train stops, or even in the elevator.
Still, statistics reveal that only one in 10 people is actually comfortable in striking up a relationship with a complete stranger. This means that misgivings, fears, and doubts potentially hinder the vast majority of people. And for successful sales professionals, networking is not a choice; it is a necessary part of the job.
Four Networking Types
Before engaging seriously in networking efforts, look at your own temperament or disposition and at your internal desire to network and to find value and enjoyment from the whole process of building relationships. Note how self-esteem affects networking efforts.
In practice, you can divide people who attempt to build networking relationships into four distinct types: the Loner, the Socializer, the User, and the Relationship Builder (the desired option for salespeople.)
Loners like to do most things by themselves. They may feel that they can do it faster or better, or perhaps they don’t want to bother or worry other people. They feel that their knowledge and skills are often superior to most people and that others will be slower and will set lower standards. They ask for help only as a last resort (and when it may be too late). Unfortunately the Loner attitude is a major obstacle to effective networking.
Socializers try to make a friend of everyone they meet. They tend to know people’s names and faces but not what they do. Socializers are not usually systematic about following up on a sales lead; contact is random. Such a person may not listen too deeply and is quick to move on. The Socializer may have a wide circle of friends and contacts but knows little of substance about personal skills and resources. As a result, Socializers do not often share their skills. The Socializer is also a random networker, following little or no formal contact system.
Users are likely to collect business cards without really connecting with people. They try to make “sales” or “pitches” on the first encounter. They talk about and focus on their own agenda rather than mutual needs; they often have superficial interactions; and they keep score when giving favors.
Unfortunately people of this type do network widely but in a way that creates little benefit for themselves or others. Even worse, this kind of networker tends to create a bad impression and therefore can make networking about selling, taking, bargaining, and keeping score.
Relationship Builders have a “giving” disposition or abundance mentality. They are generally happy to ask others for help or guidance and they listen and learn about people. Builders are regularly on the lookout for useful information for which others can also benefit. They have a well-ordered and organized networking system. This type of networker is an individual who takes a long-term perspective on relationships with others and thinks more about giving or offering than about the return.
Self-Esteem Is Key
Apart from the Relationship Builder, the other three types are hampered from networking more effectively over the issue of self-esteem.
The Loner believes in himself or herself, but not necessarily in others (especially relative strangers). The Socializer likes people, but also very much wants to be liked by others (and therefore does not want to ask for favors). Finally, the User takes a relatively selfish view of, “If I benefit or gain, I might reciprocate; otherwise I won’t.”
Of course, all of these types fear rejection, obligation, being too pushy, or even looking weak. All of these fears or concerns about networking need to be lessened or overcome.
Someone’s relative self-esteem is a complicated topic. However, it is important to appreciate how low self-esteem can have a major impact on your networking efforts if it is not at least basically understood and addressed.
An individual with high self-esteem is likely to have a positive, open “can-do” attitude. Conversely, those with low self-esteem are likely to lack confidence from the outset. They will convince themselves (and others) that they have little that is of interest to others in any network. And in a successful sales career, this is too high a price to pay.
Jonathan Farrington is a business coach, mentor, author, and consultant who guides companies and individuals around the world toward optimum performance levels. He is chairman of the Sales Corporation, CEO of Top Sales Associates, senior partner at the JF Consultancy, and chairman of the executive board at Top Sales Experts.