NLP Networking | Richard White

Richard J White is a leading speaker, writer, and trainer/coach and thought leader in Soft Selling – a sales approach for consultants, experts, and people who hate selling. Soft Selling is a powerful approach to business development based on relationships and trust and ideal for those selling expertise and know-how.

The majority of Richard’s business comes from networking.

What is networking?

For me networking is about connecting with people, primarily for business but also for social reasons too.

I think of my network as 3 circles; an inner, middle and outer circle.

In the inner circle there is a high degree of personal trust and regular contact. I may speak to people in my inner circle on most days.

With people in the middle circle there is a mutual admiration and you know each other reasonable well. I will speak to or meet these people every month or so.

The outer circle is made up of people you know by name but do not have a very strong connection.

I mainly use email and Ecademy to stay in touch with people in my outer circle, through my Soft Selling club, through blogging and email. I am always looking for people to add to my middle and inner circle.

For me networking is more about what happens after you meet someone rather than the act of meeting. The key to networking is meeting people on a one-to-one basis and getting to know them better.

The things that make networking work are ’emotional connection’, ‘giving’ and ‘advocacy’.

To me there are two styles of networking; networking for customers and networking for connections. The approaches are totally different. The first is about selling directly and the second is about relationships for mutual benefit.

I find that when you stop networking for customers you are more likely to find them as people do not like to be sold to. I work on the basis that one advocate is worth at least 10 customers and anyone I meet could potentially introduce me to the ideal customer and make the whole sales process so much easier.

Who we meet is not as important and who knows who we meet. Until you get to know someone, you never know who they are connected to. As well as being a great way to find clients, networking is also very useful for providing an effective learning and support system around my business activities.

When and when do you do it?

I network both online and offline although I find most of the value-added networking happens offline. Online is good for making the initial introductions and for building a reputation. Offline is good for getting to know and trust people and developing relationships.

On-line, I mainly use Ecademy, particularly within the Blackstar community.

I also have a profile on LinkedIn, openBC and Soflow but these are done more on a reactive basis. I like the Ecademy mindset of relationships first, business second and the combination of online and offline networking.Off-line, I regularly attend Ecademy BlackStar events, NRG lunchtime meetings and BNI breakfast meetings.

I am also a member of the IoD, Federation of small businesses and the Institute of Sales and Management.

I find the BlackStar club on Ecademy is very time effective for me because it has a very high proportion of quality networkers who are givers and who seek to collaborate rather than sell.

I find that it is a great way to quickly develop a network of advocates and most of the people in my inner and middle circle are in the BlackStar club. I’ve found BlackStar an extremely efficient way to network.

Ultimately I’m building up group of advocates who will recommend me and I am comfortable recommending to others. I am also raising awareness and building my reputation by giving freely of my expertise through things like my Soft Selling club. This helps people to remember me and have confidence in what I do so that they can recommend me when the time is right – even though they may not know me personally.

I give without expecting anything in return in the knowledge that if I help people win more business they are likely to tell someone about it. I do prefer to spend most of my time networking with people who like to give too, as I find the benefits occur much faster.

What specifically do you do?

I talk to people and look for some form of connection and rapport. I take an interest in them and my conversation is normally a little light hearted. I am nosey and want to find out about them and so I ask lots of questions and discuss their business.

If there is a connection then I am looking to see if I can connect them with people I know. I often make observations and suggestions in the area of business development if appropriate as this is my area of expertise.

I assume that people will be more interested in me if I am interested in them and visa versa. I always take responsibility to start the conversation off and keep it going and I always begin with some small talk before asking them about what they do.

I wait for them to ask me about my business and I am not concerned if they don’t ask me about my business. The people I am looking for are interested in me, so it just tells me I have met the wrong person. If I feel we have a connection then I will suggest we exchange cards and meet for coffee. I don’t hand out my business card unless asked for one.

I seek to understand their target audience and proposition and who would be a good contact for them. If I can, I will seek to connect them with someone I know who would be interested in making contact with the person, although this would rarely be a client until we get to know each other better. I pride myself on making quality introductions for both parties. I will only make a connection if I can sense there is some form of rapport and mutual trust between us. If I do not get on with them then my contacts are unlikely to either.

I’m looking out for people that I naturally connect with. Its very intuitive and comes naturally. I’ve learnt that connections based on logic alone rarely work out for me. There needs to be some chemistry.

Out of every 50 people I meet I get on really well with about ten people and out of those ten I will find one who quickly becomes a true ‘advocate’ for my services. I will get leads and referrals from others too, but normally only from people where there is some form of mutual admiration.
Probably only 40% of my time is now spent meeting new people and 60% nurturing relationships with the many people I have already met. When I go to a networking meeting I seek to meet people I know as well as people I do not know. My nurturing activity is done at networking events, over the phone, and meeting for coffee and a chat. This split has changed since my network became more established.

How did you become good at it?

In 1993 I stumbled across network marketing and while I didn’t like it as a business I got very good at it. I did not want to do business with close friends and family and so I had to get good at meeting and ‘connecting’ with people, and developing relationships. To overcome my shyness, I did a lot of personal development, especially in the area of understanding people and influence. This included lots of NLP training.

When I left network marketing I had built up a large network and I am sure I walked away from a fortune but as they say it was ‘not for me’. I went on to run a consultancy practice where I had to sell consultancy and I learnt that my networking skills were invaluable for generating leads.

I especially used my networking skills to network internally to grow client accounts with companies like Unilever, First Choice, British Airways, and Mars.

I have learnt a lot from Thomas Power of Ecademy and his book ‘Networking for Life’ contains important information about the mindset for successful networking.

If you were going to teach me about it, what would you ask me to do?

Firstly be clear about why you were networking. For example is it for social, job or business reasons? Who specifically do you want to meet? and why are they likely to want to meet you?
Be clear about your target audience and your proposition and how you will introduce your self when you meet new people.

If you are nervous about meeting people then use visualisation techniques to improve your confidence.

Wherever you go, always be the first one to say hello and put out your hand for them to shake. Smile and look them in the eye and be pleased to meet them. Start the conversation going with small talk and get the other person to talk about themselves. Always talk about something fairly light before asking about what they do for a living.

When you meet people that you like, suggest that you meet up for coffee and a longer chat. Also seek to match-make them with other people you know if you think it will be helpful to both people.

Keep your focus on the other person rather than yourself and listen to what they are saying. You are unlikely to make a good connection if the focus is on yourself.

If you have a good connection then stay in touch and seek to develop the relationship.

What skills do you have that enable you to do this?

I know how to start a conversation – I always make the first move. I believe that people like to talk but are too polite to initiate a conversation.

I like to break the ice and say hello. I have a gentle manner and I am sincerely curious about people. I’ve good empathy with most people I meet and I look for ways how I can help them.

I’m good at match making people I meet.

Finally, I have a confident but humble style which makes most people comfortable to chat with me. I am very good at getting people to talk about themselves.

What do you believe about yourself when you network?

I believe that I am someone worth knowing and that I can help most people I meet in some way or another.

I believe that I am no better or no worse than anyone else and that I can hold an interesting conversation with most people.

I believe I am superb at helping people to clarify how to communicate their message and make what they do sound attractive to their target audience.

I believe I inspire many people I meet, especially those lacking in confidence by seeing the good in what they do.

What do believe about the other person when you’re doing this?

I believe that people are generally friendly and that they like to have the opportunity to talk about themselves.

I believe that people want to talk but do not like to make the first move.

I believe most people network to find more business and if I can help them get closer to their goal then it could be the basis of good relationship.

I believe that until people get to know you better they are probably more interested in themselves and if they can see a relationship with you will be fruitful they will work hard to make it work.

Do you have a personal mission when you do this. Who are you when you network?

My mission is to help people and build emotional capital. I seek to be authentic and open at all times and that includes when I network.

Being consistently authentic builds trust quickly and I seek to be trusted and respected first and liked second, although ideally all three together.

What states are you in when you network?

My main state is what I call ‘Playful’ combined with ‘confident’ and ‘excited’.

What else?

A time efficient way to quickly boost your network with quality contacts is to actively ask people in your inner circle to recommend people you should meet. A friend of a friend is a friend and it leads to accelerated trust.

Richard J White is a leading speaker, writer, and trainer/coach and thought leader in Soft Selling – a sales approach for consultants, experts, and people who hate selling. Soft Selling is a powerful approach to business development based on relationships and trust and ideal for those selling expertise and know-how.

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