My Secret to Successful Networking:How I went from a monthly reach of thousands to millions in less than a year.By: Allison H LarsenPeople are constantly asking me how I became such a successful networker. How did I, a mother of four living in small town Idaho, accomplish a reach of millions in just a matter of months? After all, I never went to business school or had any formal sales training. In the beginning I wasn’t even consciously trying to be a “good networker.” I was just being me. And it took me a while to pinpoint why I connected so easily and efficiently with others. In the end it all came down to one very important thing. One very simple skill. So simple in fact, that much like the Israelites with the bronze serpent, many have dismissed it thinking it is too easy to be the key to success. But, those who have heeded my advice are constantly calling me and thanking me for sharing my secret, having often doubled or tripled their client and joint venture base in a relatively short period of time. You too will experience greater connections if you choose to implement what I am about to share with you.What is my secret to successful networking? It is the Art of Listening.Just think for a moment. When is the last time someone was trying to sell you something and they talked your ear off? They were so engrossed in giving you their sales pitch that they never asked you about your business or your needs. All they did was talk about how great they were or how their product or service could change your life. How did you feel? What were you thinking? Did you want to listen to them or work with them? OR, were you saying a silent prayer that the fire alarm would go off or sending a ESP to one of your friends to call you, rescuing you from this person’s unapologetic sales pitch?I spend a lot of time talking with people at events or on follow up calls. The other day, I was on a call with someone who talked about themselves for 27 minutes straight before I finally had to interrupt them to end our call for an appointment I had scheduled. I literally had the phone on mute for almost half an hour. There wasn’t one question about me or my business during that time. There wasn’t even an acknowledgment that I was still on the phone. In the end, after I expressed that I only had a few minutes left to talk, the person on the other end asked me to host a webinar for him. “Do you even really know what I do or who my audience is?” I asked. “No,” he replied, “but I am sure they would love my product.” I couldn’t believe it! After the call ended I found myself wondering how this guy had ever had any success in sales. And, in case there is any question, I did not agree to the webinar.To be successful at networking you must listen to people. When you meet a potential client or partner at an event, you must first find out about them, figure out what their needs are and what they are looking for in their business before you present yourself as the solution. This is accomplished by listening. Here is a fun challenge I give myself. When first talking with a potential client of partner, I P.E.G. the person’s potential before I talk extensively about myself or my services. The acronym P.E.G. stands for Passions, Experiences and Gifts. Let me explain.PASSIONS: I ask them questions that let me know what they are passionate about. A really simple one is “So,what are you passionate about?” Easy enough!EXPERIENCES: The next thing I ask about are the experiences that the person has had that led them to do what they are doing. Almost everyone has had a life altering experience or two that has led them into the line of work they are in.GIFTS: As I am talking, I notice any gifts that the person has with whom I am speaking. For example, maybe they have a great smile or a way of talking that makes me feel comfortable. I compliment them on this.Once I have all this information I may answer some questions about myself or share a bit about what I do. Notice I said bit. This way the other person knows that I am listening but feels that they are part of a conversation and not playing 20 questions.After I P.E.G. their potential and share a bit about me, I ask where they would like their business to be in a year and what they need to reach their goals. After I have listened to their answer it is as simple as letting them know how I can help. They really feel at this point that I care, which I do. After all, I have taken the time to listen about them, their goals and their needs.Bottom line is that we all want to connect with and work with people who care about us and our business. I don’t know of anyone who is excited to work with someone who seems to care more about their own success than that of their clients. It can be so easy to get excited about talking to someone about your product or service that can improve their life or business BUT, they have to know that you care about them before they want to work with you. You have probably heard this quote that proves my point. “Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” How can you let them know you care? Practice the Art of Listening and you will have greater connections and more success at your next networking event.