The Self-Conscious Networker

by Steve McCann

A few years ago, I was contracted to provide training to a group of twenty-two government research and litigation attorneys. Their responsibility was to review every lawsuit filed by a government employee.

I was brought in to address some of the issues that they were having through a full-day motivational training program covering, among other things, the psychology of optimism. Things weren't exactly peachy in our nation's capital. Little did I know I was to receive a gift, albeit wrapped in barbed wire, but nonetheless a very powerful gift from this gut check experience.

Fear gripped me when I began projecting how I would be received by this group of critical thinkers. As I started my presentation the mood was silent and a bit stoic. Thirty minutes later I was still not invoking any type of communication from them. I was intimidated and full of fear.

A few minutes before the mid-morning break... it happened. I felt this inner guide telling me to stop. In mid-sentence, I became silent. I closed up my notes and walked around to the front of the desk and leaned against it while looking directly out to my audience. I kept quiet and acknowledged my fear, feeling every painful second of it. I could tell my audience grew tense and uncomfortable, yet I didn't feel a part of it. I was emotionally detached from the experience although all eyes were on me.

After about a minute I said, "We are done with that!" gesturing to my notes sitting on the desk. I continued, "I'm here for you today. I don't work here, and I'm more than moderately certain that I never will. I'm also not emotionally involved. I just want to help. All I ask is that we remain solution-oriented in our input. Having said that, what can you and management do to help each and every one of you get what YOU want?"

It took a little while but faces began to show emotion and bodies began to squirm. Hands began to rise and there was suddenly a flurry of involvement. For the better part of the next five hours we did what people do who genuinely want to help each other: we listened, encouraged each other to express and found solutions that worked for everyone.

After this event, I was invited back several times to conduct the same workshop with other branches of government experiencing similar issues.

My primary audience being salespeople, I was way outside my comfort zone. I experienced my greatest lesson in selling helping a group of attorneys. Go figure.

At first, my fears and self-consciousness caused me to worry about how the audience would receive me. But when I shifted the focus on them, everything changed. The minute I stepped into the role of helper, my natural abilities took over and the audience was much more receptive. I experienced that confident self that exists in all of us.

There are two types of unspoken sales approaches:

  1. The self-conscious approach. This person's inner dialogue goes, "Will they reject me? How will the prospect receive me? What do I have to say for them to be interested?" They are inner-focused, controlled and directed in a self-conscious mental approach. They don't ask good questions, talk more than their prospects and are poor listeners.

  2. The client-conscious approach. This person's dialogue says, "How can I further the interests of this prospective client, regardless of benefit to me?" They are outer-focused and directed in a client-conscious mental approach. They ask excellent questions, talk less than their prospects and are great listeners.

If you recognize that you or someone in your group is a self-conscious networker, don't lose heart. You are not alone: this segment is the majority. Follow these three tips to become a client-conscious networker:

  1. Create your list of 10
    Pick 10 prospects every week and seek to help them in some way, even if it won't directly lead to an enrollment. Actually, make it a point to put "furthering their interests" as the paramount task. Become a problem-solver, a trusted advisor, or whatever they need to help them further their interests. By simply focusing on helping 10 people per week without fail, you create a shift in mindset that can develop into a never-ending stream of new business.

  2. Think of Others First
    Remember, the shift occurs the minute you stop making prospecting and sales about your needs. Therefore, think of the person in front of you. What does he or she really need in terms of what you can offer? Lead with that one thing, be open to learning more about their needs, and you'll find more success.

  3. Timing Counts
    Always remember two key points: a) not everyone will want your help, and b) when you offer to help, it just might not be the right time for the other person. Therefore, you can't take any rejection personally. It's not about you, it's about the other person and what's going on in his or her life or business right now.
When you place your thoughts on helping a prospective business partner, you are not thinking of yourself. When you are not thinking of yourself, it is virtually impossible to be in FEAR! Apply this universal principle to your business and you will experience the shift we all seek.

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