Networking: Acquired Skill, Born With It or Maybe Both?

The Women’s Leadership Council at Oswald focused on Professional Presence and Confidence in our educational and event activities in 2016. For 2017, we are taking what we learned and applying it to making ourselves better networkers. Time and again, we witness women in our circles attending events and clustering around the couple of people they already know. I get it. There is safety in what you know.  Meeting new people is hard. How is it that some seem to network effortlessly? There must be something in their genes, right?

For me personally, this year has meant owning a new opportunity. I find myself in a role that requires me to meet new people. My very professional existence is tied to being good at creating new connections. Now, those that know me can attest that I do have a gift for gab, but is being able to talk enough? Is sales success reserved for only the outgoing and the “master” networkers?

I have had the pleasure of attending several different workshops and sessions over the course of the year and can say that one stood out as challenging that very ideology. Recently, InForum hosted a Learning Lab on “The Art of Networking,” led by Denise Roberts, President of Sales Partners. It was billed as “a fun, fast-paced experiential workshop that catapults your attitudes and actions…(and) demonstrates an easy four-step process that teaches you how to communicate what you do in a way that has others wanting to know more.” Denise’s core philosophy is that anyone can be an effective networker. Whether you love making new connections or would rather be in the dentist’s chair, there are simple ways to conquer your anxiety by preparing yourself in advance. If you knew you had to give a PowerPoint presentation to a client, you would certainly prepare ahead of time. Knowing that you’re going to have the chance to make new business connections is no different. If you think about and actually practice how to introduce yourself before you’re in a networking situation, then you’re ready for it. Anxiety eases when you know you studied for the test, trained before the 5k run, or prepped for the meeting.

I did enjoy the session and had fun role playing with strangers and building my own self-introduction, but I think the most important take-away from the day was Denise’s big secret. Introverts can be master networkers, too, because they naturally do the one thing that can set them apart: they listen. In the end, the ones who listen, whether outgoing or introverted, have a leg up on making a connection. When you listen, really listen, you have the opportunity to make the interaction more meaningful. You get the chance to ask the questions that will take that chance encounter to a new level. As American marketing specialist, Guy Kawasaki, puts it, “The mark of a good conversationalist is not that you can talk a lot. The mark is that you can get others to talk a lot. Thus, good schmoozers are good listeners, not good talkers.”

As I have heard Denise Roberts say (more than once now), a person might not meet your target profile, but before you dump them, take the time and listen to see if their network includes someone that does. A warm introduction is the best kind!

So can you be a good networker no matter your personality? I think the answer is yes. If you were able to learn how to tie a shoe or ride a bike, you can learn to network. It takes practice and sometimes a workshop or two, but anyone can do it and learn to do it well.

About the Author:

Catherine Kosin, Senior Vice President, Market Leader

For close to 20 years, Catherine L. Kosin has provided strategic risk management and personalized insurance services to clientele across a broad range. As a Senior Vice President and Market Leader at Oswald, Ms. Kosin specializes in the large line Risk Management and Middle Market Brokerage segments, with a primary focus on casualty and international risks. She brings a high-touch approach to client service that has allowed for long-term relationships, earning trust and respect from both clientele and the marketplace.

In addition to her practice, Ms. Kosin is a member of the Women’s Leadership Council at Oswald. The Council was created to inspire, engage, and advocate for Oswald Employee-Owners, in support of professional and personal development, and an inclusive environment that advances the success of women and the organization. Connect with Catherine on LinkedIn.

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