Liz Lynch interview – Networking Strategist and Author
Liz Lynch is the author of Smart Networking: Attract a Following In Person and Online and a sought-after speaker who brings a practical and insightful perspective to networking that has connected with a global audience. She’s appeared in the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and USAToday as well as on Fox Business News, ABC News, CNBC.com and Businessweek.com.
Liz is also founder of the Center for Networking Excellence, a company that develops products, programs and seminars to help entrepreneurs and professionals get clients, build their businesses, and accelerate their careers through networking. Her bottom-line approach grew from her experience in corporate America working at some of the top firms in their industries — Goldman Sachs, Disney, Booz Allen & Hamilton, and Time Warner.
Josh: Liz, how do you define Business Networking and why do you feel it’s important?
Liz Lynch: To me, a network is a support system that you can turn to for advice, ideas, information and feedback. So networking then is simply the process of building and maintaining that support system.
The main reason you’d want a support system in your life is to give you maximum flexibility to pursue the goals that you want to pursue and have a high probability of achieving them. Want to change jobs, start your own business, or do something completely different with your life?
As independent-minded as you may be, if a goal is big enough, you can’t get there alone. You’re going to need the help of other people and your network is a valuable source of that help.
Josh: Can you share a few ideas that someone could put into practice that would help them to improve their business networking skills?
Liz Lynch: I think mindset is the most important thing for successful networking. Tactics and technique without the right intentions will leave you spinning your wheels and potentially alienate a lot of people. Once you develop an intuitive sense for building relationships, you can get almost anything done. So here are a couple of tips for getting there:
First, think about being a connector rather than a collector. When you meet new people it’s not about getting their business card, but about making a personal connection on which to form an authentic and supportive relationship. This means you need to have a conversation and get to know them. Let that be your goal rather than just collecting another business card.
Second, if you want to get someone’s attention you have to take the attention off of yourself. For instance, here’s an example of a Facebook friend invitation I received the other day:
My web site is [url removed to protect the guilty]. Subscribe to my newsletter. It’s free. I CAN HELP YOU! Check out my book on Amazon.com. The book is for males AND FEMALES. I will be posting content for you soon.”
Hmm, how’s that supposed to entice me to want to network? That message tells me that he’s only out to help himself and doesn’t care about me at all. Not a great way to start off a relationship. Needless to say, I didn’t accept the invite. Whether you’re networking in person or online, it’s important to put your agenda aside. Think about what’s going to pull someone into your network, rather than what you can push at them.
Josh: I get the question a lot from people who say, “those ideas all sound great, but they wouldn’t work for me because I’m an introvert.” What advice can you give folks who just aren’t comfortable getting out there and connecting with others?
Liz Lynch: I’m an introvert too! One of the reasons I wanted to write this book is to let people know that you don’t need to be the life of the party to be successful with networking. You don’t even need to do it all the time, as long as you know how to be highly effective when you do get out there.
So if networking is uncomfortable, you can at least minimize the time that you have to do it while still getting great results. This is what smart networking is all about.
In my experience, I find that introverts may have a slight edge over their extroverted friends because they’re less prone to hogging the spotlight. Turn your introverted tendencies to your advantage when you meet people and ask lots of questions. People love to talk about themselves and will feel more connected to you because you’ve shown interest in getting to know them.
Josh: For some people knowing where to go to network in the first place is a problem. Can you share some specific resources, events, or places that you have found helpful for meeting new people and growing your business network?
Liz Lynch: I’m a huge Facebook fan for business networking. But again, I think there’s a trick to using it and some people just don’t get it. I feel people are more responsive when you post things about yourself (pictures, status updates, videos, blog entries, etc.) and let those who are interested in what you’re doing find their way to you, rather than trying to market to people directly by sending messages, inviting them to events and groups. It’s also important to engage people in conversation by commenting on things that they post, which helps you start to build rapport.
I’m also now starting to explore Biznik.com, whose tagline is “Business Networking that doesn’t suck.” Not only have I met the nicest, most supportive people there, but it’s a company that believes in what I believe: that the best of business networking is the combination of online and offline. In addition to the site, they host events in different cities so people can meet face-to-face.
For in person networking since there are so many options, the best thing to do is ask your target market where they network and what groups they belong to.
Josh: Do you see any common mistakes that people tend to make when it comes to attempting to make business connections? If so, what are they and what corrections could they make in your opinion which would help them to be more effective in their approach towards networking?
Liz Lynch: Even though social networking is becoming more and more popular, remember that online sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. are just tools. They don’t do the networking for you. All the same principles of building relationships offline apply to building relationships online because there’s a real person behind that profile. Don’t spam your “friends” with overtly promotional messages and don’t waste their time with frivolous applications and irrelevant event/group invitations.
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