Hey there, it’s Samantha Hartley of the Profitable Joyful Consulting Podcast. This is season 11 and we are talking about consulting skills.
In the first episode, I shared eight consulting skills that I think are essential, and one of them was networking. Networking is the ability to connect meaningfully with others and develop relationships that can be beneficial professionally and personally. You know, you have colleagues, collaborators, and sometimes even friends. So I thought, “Well, that’s probably enough.” I’ve done an episode on it in season one. And then I had the Queen of Networking, Susan Roane on, she wrote the book How to Work a Room. So I’ve probably already covered this enough. And then I thought, “There are a couple of things that I’ve seen in the last couple of weeks, I really want to share because I feel like there’s a couple of opportunities that are amazing if you’re not networking this way.” So I’m going to go out and talk about those.
A lot of people feel like I’m really not a networker, or I’m not really a networking person. I don’t like to shake hands and meet people and stuff like that. And I get it. I get it. There is a way to network that can feel good for you. I’ve always said that about marketing. When you’re doing marketing and if it doesn’t feel good, you’re doing it wrong. It should feel joyful, at least mildly pleasant when you go to put yourself in networking situations, to go and meet new people.
And what you’re looking for if you’re in a networking situation where you walk into a room full of people that you don’t know. Whether you go into a conference or you’re at a wedding. Like, who knows where you are? But you walk into that room, you want to look for your people. And I always feel like you just kind of gravitate towards them. If you look at a room, you’re like, “Oh, those people look like my people.” So you walk over to them. So find your people. Who are your people? Well, it means, like, I don’t know, maybe they’re dressed a certain way or they have a certain energy about them. Or you can hear them from here. There’s all kinds of things that mean “Your People.” So I want you to look for that.
And I always describe it as kind of a spark. It’s kind of like that thing when you meet your soulmate and they always say, “Yeah, you know, you feel it.” Well, that kind of spark is what you feel when you meet your friends, right? You leave an event, you’re like, “Hey, I really liked her. I want to connect with her again.” That’s the kind of feeling that I want you to have. It should feel light like that. Or compelling, like, “Oh my God, we had the best time talking. She was amazing. I definitely want to stay in touch with her.”
That’s the kind of feeling that I want you to have. So seek that feeling. Pursue that feeling.
One of the biggest places my clients and I are finding clients right now are in what I’ll call, affinity groups (groups of like-minded people). So maybe you were in an online course where they have a little community element and you’re studying, I don’t know, video or content writing. And there’s a little community of other people who are there. That is a great place to meet other people and network. Connect with them. There’s all kinds of things you can do when you connect with them. You can ask them, “Hey, do you have a content writer you use? Where do you find those or do you have a contact here?”
Networking is not always self-serving. It can be about you, you know leveraging that network to find things for you, but also for you answering questions and being of service. So it’s really just about that connection. Affinity groups bring us together around a shared interest, and very often shared values too. And this is the thing that I love. I love to meet other people in online learning groups or in a class. You know, if we take a class here locally because I love to be around people who are learners, I love to be around people who want to learn. And so when I’m around them, I meet my kind of people. Remember I was referring to that earlier. People who are students are my kind of people.
So online learning environments or in-person learning environments are a great place to network with people. And you can find all kinds of resources there. So when we’re networking, if people think, “I’m looking for clients,” then they get into this myopic, single-minded focus, and then miss out on tons of opportunities. So in networking you can find answers to resources and problems like: “Hey, what’s the best tech that you’re using? Or what’s the X, has anybody found a better camera?” Those kinds of things, those kinds of questions you can get answered, but you can also find referrals, referral partners. You can do market research too. “Hey, you guys are both doing X and I’m actually writing a paper right now about X. I’d love to interview you about that.”
Speaking of which, take market research. Whatever you learn and write about, put it into content. You can also interview people for your content. So interviewing people is a great way for you to give them a platform for you to share things. You can also find collaborators. In my coaching program right now, The Path to $2 Million™, one of the things I’m most gratified by is seeing several participants go and do little one-on-one meetings with each other. This is super critical. We meet people in groups, but then take that relationship to a one-on-one. Or, you know, a small group where you can really get to know each other. So I have clients who are meeting with each other and finding out what each other does. And even though it looks like they do the same thing, guess what? They have little areas of overlap. And so some of them are going and pitching new clients. They’re coming together as collaborators. I super love that. I’m excited for them, I want to cheer for them, their success and also just for the kind of open-heartedness they had in coming together in the first place.
I’m super happy that I have attracted people who have that kind of abundance mindset and also collaborative mindset. Like attracts like. So again, in the environment that you’re in, whether it’s a Facebook group about dogs or a LinkedIn group, oh never mind, not LinkedIn groups, a Mighty Network, whatever affinity group that you have joined, you can make the most of those relationships, but it really helps if you take the initiative. When you do take the initiative from having those conversations and learning more about people, be sure to take the next step. So you pick up the ball. We also call that follow up, but make sure that you take that relationship to the next step so that you are able to stay in touch with them. Too many of us will have a meeting, meeting, meeting. Hey, we love that person. That was fun and interesting. And then we never were able to take that anywhere.
So if nothing else, take it where, “I’m not sure what we do with this, but I really like you. Can we talk again in 90 days and then, you know, put that on the calendar.” Those kinds of connections, you never know what they’ll turn into. If nothing else, I love to go find that person, and cheer on their social media. Or do referrals for them. So keep those kinds of things in mind. Just think abundantly and expansively about what kind of connections you’re making when you’re networking. That to me, is the most productive use of this skill is having a givers mentality and thinking, “Oh, of my connections that I’m making, what can I do for this connection? How can I help them? How can I serve them? Who could I introduce them to?” People love when you introduce them to other people who you think they’ll like.
One last example, especially if it feels like this can really only work in my business groups and it’s probably not going to work that well in my dog groups or my cooking groups. Not true.
We’re in an in-person group of people who do spiritual meditation, and we’ve been in it for a couple of years with a certain person that I’m friends with. So he and I had a conversation recently, and he’s going through some spiritual struggles and kind of wondering about life and also procrastinating. And I said, “Really, the best person I can think of to help you with this is Christopher.” Whom he knows. That’s, by the way, also my husband, who he knows. He was asking me about a coach and I said, “This is who I’d recommend.”
Now, because of the Know, Like, Trust Factor, they already have that in common. So this is going to be a working relationship. They’ve decided to work together. So affinity groups where you meet people and you develop relationships, they can turn into business. It isn’t why I joined them and it isn’t ever my intention to go in there and network for business. It is my intention to meet people and to develop relationships. And when you talk passionately about what you do, or if that ever comes up, then it can turn into work. It can also be the kind of thing where somebody says, and this is one of my favorite things that people say, you’ll find this in networking situations where everybody is a complete stranger, and you’ll also find it in these affinity groups where you’ve known people for a little while, but they’re not sure. They’ll say, “I was supposed to come over to you and find out more about what you do, but I don’t know why?” And then you get to say, “Well, this is what I do.” And they go, “Oh, that’s it, that’s what I’m needing!”
So have you ever been in a situation where people, someone, just either a stranger or someone that you’ve known for a little while says, “I think I’m supposed to come over and talk with you about something. What do you do?” And then you tell them. That happens over and over again, to me and to people around me, probably because I’ve made them aware, like, come and tell me when that happened.
So I’d love to hear if that happens to you because it is a super fun thing. It’s just about energetically being in the right place at the right time and having the right vibe. And somebody feels comfortable coming over and saying, “I don’t know why I’m here, but why do you think I came to talk to you?” And you can say, “I don’t know. Are you interested in dogs? No. Cooking? No. Maybe you have a business?” “Yes, I do.”
So that leads me to the last point that I wanted to make, and that is really about being prepared to answer the question, “What do you do?” I have a whole episode on Jaw Dropping Self Introductions and how to answer the question, “What do you do?” And the thing that I really wanted to specifically talk about today is that during the pandemic, it fell out of favor to say, What do you do? And I think that’s probably a good thing. We’re not all defined by our work. What you do in the world isn’t like what you do in your work. And even if it’s a passion or a vocation, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you always want to be answering, “What do you do?” with what you do at work. Like, I also do stuff outside of work. I also have all these passions and hobbies and other interests.
So come up with an answer to “What do you do?” one that makes you feel good and is also accurate. In certain situations I will sometimes answer, I help people make money doing what they love. It’s accurate. It’s not the way I would have taught myself to answer that question. It’s not that, you know, here’s the target audience and the problem in that desired outcome and the benefits. No, it doesn’t meet that formula. But it is a true answer to that question. So think about what your answer can be and then also practice doing it the official way.
The other thing is come up with things that you can ask people about. Pursue sincere interest in them that isn’t centered around, What do you do? That isn’t about their work. Because learning much more about them as people can go so much further in developing relationships, broader relationships again as contacts, referral partners, interviewees, friends, and further than just being a potential client.
So I hope that this has given you a new perspective on networking. What networking is and how it is evolving. We’re doing things differently. We’re being different. Things have changed. And it can still be an amazing way to connect with others and an amazing way to find people that you will love having in your work world. Just not exactly in the way we used to do it and not exactly in the limited ways we used to think about it.
So with that, I would love to connect with you online (on LinkedIn or Facebook) and I wish you a Profitable and Joyful Consulting Business.