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I recently asked for feedback from my audience after an afternoon of teaching “Creating Endless Referrals The Go-Giver Way.” I often get comments about networking strategies and systems or how to be more open to receiving and there were several comments along those lines. But this comment really stood out to me:

“The information is great and well presented but, (there is always a but) you talk about being authentic. How can I be real when networking and working the room is just so not who I am? I abhor salespeople and people who seem fake. I need more info on how to network and still be me.”

Translation - “How do I learn to initiate relationships MY way?”

I was reminded again of this comment while I was having a conversation with Bob Burg, author of Endless Referrals and co-author, with John David Mann, of The Go-Giver. He and I were recording a session about blasting thru the brick wall of “style” for the “Dynamite Dialogs – Blasting Thru Brick Walls” audio learning series and how that type of barrier relates to Law #4 from The Go-Giver which is the Law of Authenticity that this attendee is referring to in his comment. (Find out how you can get the session with Bob and get $50 off when you pre-order the entire series.)

Have you ever watched someone doing something you really want to be good at doing and thought either, “I could never do that that way so I can’t do it at all,” or “I would never do that that way so I can’t do it at all?” That’s what I call the “brick wall of style.”

I often use Bob as an illustration of how we say “I can’t” and create brick walls around “style.” As most of you know, I’ve been teaching the Five Laws of Stratospheric Success from The Go-Giver for over two years and now also speak on the system for networking your way to success that Bob pioneered in Endless Referrals. If I said “What I really want to do is help people be stratospherically successful by using the Five Laws and the Endless Referrals System,” I might very easily follow that by saying “But I can’t because I can’t present them the way Bob Burg does.”

If I had to be LIKE Bob in order to teach his materials I would definitely have a problem. Fortunately, helping people achieve Stratospheric Success using these fundamental laws and systems doesn’t require that I adopt Bob’s style, I can adapt the materials to my style and even adapt those aspects of Bob’s character that I so admire - such as his graciousness, attention to individuals, sincerity and generosity - to my personal style as well.

Bob and I had a great conversation about how to create a winning personal style by adapting (though as he is quick to add, NOT adopting) what you see and admire in role models and mentors and mindfully cultivating important character traits, but I kept thinking about this comment. What if you want to be successful at something and most of the people you see doing it are setting examples you don’t WANT to model? What if you not only can’t do it that way, but you just simply won’t?

First, let me suggest that for every “I don’t wanna be THAT guy” example there is an example of someone being successful in that role that you would want to model. They might just be going about it so quietly they’re hard to notice for all the commotion being made by people you don’t want to imitate. Pay closer attention and find those people.

The question of how to “work a room” without being that “fake glad-hander” is a good example. I know from extensive experience in networking situations and in coaching networking and relationship building, the “glad-hander” you’re thinking of is usually well-known, but seldom well-respected. So let’s not even think about figuring out how to be “that guy” (or gal.)

But what if circulating at an event still isn’t your style? I don’t think this person was suggesting that everyone who is good at working a room seems fake, only that for him to try to imitate their style would be fake and he abhors fakeness in sales people (and honestly don’t we all prefer authenticity in everyone?)

Perhaps the most important thing I can say to this person, to all of you, and to myself is that in networking, or in anything else, being anything less than authentic is a dead end. That road might end for you the minute someone shakes you hand, it might not end until you have a retained client who slowly begins to realize that you are not the person they thought that you were. But it WILL end.

As that pertains to networking (or what I would prefer to call “initiating relationships”) it is important to remember that you aren’t at an event (or online as the case may be) to meet a LOT of people. You are there to attract people who resonate with you, people who will like you and trust you once they get to know you. You don’t need to “glad-hand” to do that. You need to smile and say hello. You don’t need to be an extrovert, you need to be friendly. You don’t need to be the most interesting person in the room, you need to be the most interested person in the room. And if you aren’t authentically interested in them, why would you want to work with them? (And why would they want to work with you?)

A few tips to those who are a little shy of even going to events, initiating relationships or exchanging business cards.

1.)    Use the “buddy system.” If you attend with a person you already know you won’t be left standing alone until someone returns your smile. And you can introduce them, and have them introduce you, which is easier than introducing yourself.

2.)    Just make eye contact and smile. Some people will glance away, maybe they are also shy, don’t take it personally. Many people will return your smile and shake your hand. Yeah, you just initiated a relationship.

3.)    Ask for their card and only offer yours if they request it. Tell them you’d love to keep in touch and, if you have a presence on line ask if they use any of the social networking sites to stay connected.

4.)    Remember that you aren’t there to sell, and neither is anyone else there to buy. You’re there to get to know PEOPLE and give them a chance to get to know you. Even the next time, or maybe the next time, you connect with these people you aren’t “selling” anything except yourself. ONLY when you have established a “know, like and TRUST” relationship should you have a conversation about what you sell or who you’d like to meet.

I have found that ANYONE can use those four pointers to improve their comfort and ability to initiate relationships. Now take that and apply it to what you “really want to do.” Have you been trying to do it in a style that isn’t comfortable, natural or maybe even advisable and coming back with “but I can’t because?”

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