In the first of our ongoing Sauga 960 radio interview series, we examine how to hone our networking skills!
Your Business, presented by David Wojcik, understands business. As the CEO/President of the Mississauga Board of Trade, he focuses on current commercial issues and how they affect entrepreneurs and key executives.
David Wojcik: I’m David Wojcik, your host. We’re talking about networking right now and in the studio we have Linda Kern who is the principal with Kern Associates and a super networker, understands all the do’s and don’ts of how to network, how to build relationships. And we’re very fortunate to have Linda in the studio with us. Welcome Linda. Thanks for coming in.
Linda Kern: Thanks David. Good to be here.
David Wojcik: So Linda, we talk about networking in the traditional sense and there are so many people that we see at networking events. They employ what I call the spray and pray method. They try and get as many business cards out as they can possibly get out in a networking event and then wonder why nothing works. I’m sure that you’ve seen this and it doesn’t work. It doesn’t work at all.
Linda Kern: No, it does not. Typically, what we recommend is setting a goal for having meaningful conversations at a networking event. So for example, if the event is a couple of hours, which a lot of them are, maybe you’ll have three or four meaningful conversations. And it really is about engaging people in those conversations.
David Wojcik: So it’s very much a process that you need to set up. I’ve got X number, I’ve got this amount of time, I need to meet this number of people. I want to perhaps meet them in these sectors. And then very much mapping it out as you would any other type of process.
Linda Kern: 100% yeah. As a sales expert, I’m laser-focused on setting goals for everything. And when I go to a networking event it is sometimes I want to meet a particular person because really good networking events will make available the list of people that are going. And I make a practice of seeing who’s going, and sometimes it’s an old colleague or a friend that I want to connect with, but sometimes I see somebody in a particular business that I might not approach in a super aggressive way, but I might ask somebody to introduce me to them.
David Wojcik: I can’t imagine you being aggressive in your approach. What’s a super aggressive approach?
Linda Kern: Hi, I’m Linda. Here’s my business card. I’m a sales expert and you need to do business with me. See ya.
David Wojcik: So spray and pray.
Linda Kern: Spray and pray.
David Wojcik: Let’s talk about introducing yourself and how you build that relationship. I was talking a little bit about it was a with Marc Patrone before we came on the air, and what I try to do in many cases is everybody knows that everybody’s in the room to do business, but I find that the longest lasting relationships are the ones where I connect on a level that’s not strictly business. So we find common ground. So maybe that’s wine, maybe that’s travel, maybe we’ve been to the same places. When you get to my age and you’re much younger than I am.
Linda Kern: Way younger.
David Wojcik: Jodie is way, way younger than me.
Linda Kern: Jodie and I are close in age. Very close in age.
David Wojcik: Very close in age. And what I find out is that I’ve been around a few years, that a six degrees of separation, it’s getting smaller and smaller. The ratio is much smaller now. I can get to three degrees of separation now. So how do you feel about that, establishing that personal bond, that personal relationship up front and try to find common ground?
Linda Kern: Yeah, that’s a great point. People still do business with people. It is still about that “emotional connection.” So my advice is always to go armed to an event with a couple of questions just in the back of your mind that you’d like to ask somebody. So if you and I are meeting for the first time, I kind of play a bit of a game with myself where I see if I can be the first one to say, “Hi, my name’s Linda Kern,” and you introduce yourself and then I say, “What is it that you do, David? ”
Linda Kern: I try to be the first one so that I can get curious. And so you tell me what you do and then I go, “How long have you been doing that? And what are some of your challenges?” I’m just curious about you and what you’re doing. And I’m not really looking for an opportunity to do business with you initially. I just want you to know I’m interested. I met a young fellow who we since become very good friends years ago who when it was my turn, I think he actually even got to me first, his first name is Ryan, and he just got so curious and a young guy very curious about my business. “How do you do that? And what is it that you do?” And so being the person that I am who works with sales teams all the time, I said to him, “That was great. That’s exactly how you’re supposed to network. I felt like you were interested in me. I felt like you really cared about what I did. It was very authentic and we literally as a result of that exchange became good friends.”
David Wojcik: Can you fake it? I don’t know that you can fake the authenticity because there are people that are not comfortable in that type of environment. And if they try to fake it, it’s not authentic and that will come through in the conversation.
Linda Kern: Yeah, it is all to intention. So my intention is to meet you and to really learn about what it is that you do and get really interested. That’s my intent. My intent in my head is not “What can I sell this guy? What can I push this guy? Can I get a meeting with him?” So the authenticity can come from your intention and what you’re thinking in your head.
David Wojcik: And that desperation will come through in that approach.
Linda Kern: It really does.
David Wojcik: Linda, here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to have some fun. We’re going to ask Jodie. We’re going to network with Jodie. She’s going to come on with her microphone and we’re going to meet her. So Jodie, it’s so nice to meet you. Please tell us in 30 seconds, we want to do it in 30 seconds. So tell us in 30 seconds, tell us about your business and tell us about yourself.
Jodie: So my name is Jodie, and I’m actually a general manager at a radio station. So that’s how I usually start. And then usually it’s like, “Oh, where?” And then I tell them “Newstalk Sauga 960. “How did you get there?” Well, I start off with my experiences that I’ve had because of my family business. My parents have always been in the media. So that’s how I got my hands on. And then I decided to pursue a career through a Sauga 960.
David Wojcik: Now Jody’s is at a very great advantage because who doesn’t want to know about somebody that’s in the media?
Linda Kern: So cool.
David Wojcik: Who doesn’t want to know about somebody that’s on radio and running a radio station and all that kind of stuff? So instantly you have people captivated, but you’ve got other people that maybe not such exciting businesses or it’s exciting but there’s a flood of them in the room. There might be 20 real estate agents, there might be 50 financial planners. And so Linda, how do you recommend that they separate themselves from the herd?
Linda Kern: Yeah. Great question again. You’ve got good ones. You’ve got good questions.
David Wojcik: I think that’s why they gave me the show. Okay, back to business.
Linda Kern: So it’s really about thinking about… So we’ll take the real estate agent, especially residential real estate, thinking a little bit about how you might be different. And so the first thing a real estate agent should say is “How would I be different?” And so I might say “What type of clientele do you serve?” “I work with seniors.” Okay now we’re getting somewhere. “Tell me a little bit about the seniors. Are they moving houses? Are they downsizing? Are they moving into retirement?” So you get them to think about how they occupy a niche, if you will. And then that also helps the recipient who’s listening to them, they’re the receiver of this information, to be thinking about, “Gee, it’s funny, I was just talking to my neighbor the other day and she’s thinking about moving and she’s thinking about downsizing or she’s an empty nester,” blah, blah, blah.
Linda Kern: I always describe it like this, and hang in with me, this will age me. I have a Rolodex in my head.
David Wojcik: A Rolodex?
Linda Kern: A Rolodex. So I have a list of all the people I know in my head. That’s a Rolodex from the old days.
David Wojcik: Jodie’s eyes glazed over. She’s not familiar with the term Rolodex. Oh, you do know what a Rolodex is?
Linda Kern: Good. I think of it as a generic term, but I’m thinking of real estate. Oh my gosh. I know thousands of people. When she starts to say, when this real estate agent starts to say seniors who are looking at one type of scenario, downsizing or whatever, that Rolodex immediately narrows down. And I start thinking of my neighbor, the conversation I just had. And so it is important to, with specially in a really wide market, like you described real estate agents and so on, to get very specific and help me help you.
David Wojcik: And that’s one of the most important points about networking is that when you’re meeting somebody instinctively as business people, we want to help somebody else and the more clues that that person can give to us about what they do, the easier it is for us to just narrow in on somebody that might need their help and they might not need it today, but they might need it tomorrow or next week. And that impression and that laser like focus, which I know you talk about all the time, Linda, but laser like focus. That laser like focus gives us such an advantage to help the individual over the course of time.
Linda Kern: Yeah. There’s a couple of points that came to mind when you were speaking David. One is the research shows in the high 70s to low 80% of people want to give referrals. We are actually hardwired as human beings to want to help one another. So it’s in the ask though. It’s in how you might ask and I’ll speak to that.
David Wojcik: Because there are certain people you just don’t want to help it.
Linda Kern: Right. Indeed, yes. Not many. I don’t run into too many. We don’t run into too many. But the second piece is, because I have this conversation with someone this morning, is the narrowing your focus of who you do your best work with. It’s a little counter intuitive. Well, as a real estate agent, theoretically I can deal with anybody, but here’s what I say is help me to shrink down the number of thousands of people that are floating around in my head. So help me to narrow down from a perspective of giving you an introduction, number one, and number two I say is if somebody says, “I understand you deal with seniors, but my, my sister’s moving, she’s just had a family and they’re looking for a larger house, could you help her too?”
Linda Kern: That’s up to the real estate agent in this particular example to say yes or no. But most of the time people would say, “Absolutely, we can help for sure.” So it’s about an outbound ask versus an inbound, I’m going to take that business type thing.
David Wojcik: Can people be taught to network?
Linda Kern: Oh yeah, definitely, and really you mentioned the word it is really about being your authentic self. It is really about just really tapping into your personality and a lot of people are nervous to network and that’s okay. You can start with that. That’s authentic. Oh my goodness, I’m so nervous. But it’s really nice to meet you. Tell me what you do.
David Wojcik: And that question gets you off the hook for a while because people will… They can go on and on and on and on about their business, which is not ideally what you want to do, but if you’re new to networking you can just sit back and relax and listen.
Linda Kern: Exactly. And I play another game with myself where sometimes I will have asked the person about themselves and asked a few followup questions and been really curious, and then we part ways and they don’t ask me about me. And I kind of laugh. I’m not stressed out by it. I’m like, okay-
David Wojcik: You don’t take it personally anymore.
Linda Kern: I don’t take it personally.
David Wojcik: Did you ever take it personally?
Linda Kern: Nope. No, because in my head I’m thinking, “That’s okay. That person doesn’t really know,” and that’s okay. So tip being make sure that if the person asks you first that you then reciprocate and say, you can joke, “Enough about me. Tell me what you do. I’d love to know what you do.” And you want to be genuine because it really is about building your connections. Who do and who knows you. And initially it’s often on just a little spark of, I really liked this person, like the wine or the travel examples you gave.
Linda Kern: And so I’m often looking for like-minded people that I like. I’m like, “I want to be that person’s friend.” Sometimes that’s how it starts.
David Wojcik: Yes. Is it our responsibility as professional networkers, is it our responsibility to help those poor wounded lambs that we see at these networking events making all of the mistakes that we’ve probably made in our past, is it our responsibility to help them?
Linda Kern: I would say yes. I mean, I would say yes over time.
David Wojcik: How do you do that? How do you see somebody fumbling around, they’re making an absolute mess, you can tell by the body language of the person they’re talking to they are not interested at all? How do you help them understand that I might have some advice for you?
Linda Kern: Yeah, I would suggest you tell them a story.
David Wojcik: Tell me a story.
Linda Kern: Okay, I’ll tell you a story. So, hey David, if it’s okay with you, II want to share a couple of tips about networking, and you’d probably say yes because people are generally very polite at these things. I mean they’re there to network. So if I’m genuinely wanting to help you, I might say, “Let me tell you about a story of somebody who” I call it sort of dealing business cards, I’ve seen it, or brochures on a table. They literally file them out like they’re dealing for a card game. And I’ll say, “I’ve seen that. They make no connections and nobody is interested. And in fact, many of us who do a lot of networking don’t even pick up the card or one of our mutual friends puts it in a specific pocket.”
David Wojcik: We talked about that. Left pocket, right pocket.
Linda Kern: Right. Which is kind of funny. You just got to have some fun with it. So that’s what I would do is I would tell a little story. I’d say, “You actually make your best connections when you have a one-to-one conversation, when you are curious, when you’re not thinking about business initially,” and you are thinking about, “Hmm, how can I help this person? Is there an introduction that I can make?” And it might just be this person’s not going to give you business, but they might know somebody who can. This is a well-connected person or this is a person who also sells a complementary product or service.
David Wojcik: So the left pocket, right pocket, and then the person that really annoyed you, you would put in the bottom of your shoe like a pebble.
Linda Kern: I don’t pick it up. I don’t pick it up.
David Wojcik: Before we go to break, Linda, the biggest tip, the most important tip that you’d give somebody for networking.
Linda Kern: Find very focused networking events where your potential targets might be both end users and referral partners.
David Wojcik: And the Linda Kern website is?
Linda Kern: Thekerngroupinc.com.
David Wojcik: Excellent. Linda, thanks so much for coming in and talking about networking.