Networking Doesn’t Work? (Article)

networkingNetworking Doesn’t Work?

By Maria Keiser

Would you like to come to my networking event?  You are cordially invited to attend my networking event.  Come meet and network with 50 – 80 local business people.  I bet you receive an invitation such as this or one with a similar message at least once a week (if not more).  Networking groups are popping up everywhere.  Breakfast groups, lunch groups, dinner meetings, after hour socials, pick a time and there are 5 business events to attend every week.  One could say that attending networking events could be a business all its own.  So why do I hear over and over that networking is a big waste of time?  I will agree with that not all groups/events are created equal. The main reason networking meetings don’t work is because People don’t know how to do it or they are doing it for the wrong reasons.

Networking is the conduit that leads to relationships.  Strong relationships are the basis of our business and personal growth.  Unfortunately, networking has become a buzz word, so for our purposes let’s call it relationship building.  Relationship building, when done properly, is your best source for new business resources and education.

Successful Relationship building Strategies:

•    Networking and Sales are separate: Always walk into a business event with the understanding that you will never do business with anyone in the room.  They aren’t your customer.

•    Prizes are not awarded to the attendee who collects the most business cards:  The intention of giving out your business card should serve as a reminder to follow up with that individual.  The card is the tool to reconnect with that individual at a later date to learn more about their business, and build the relationship.

•    Plan your event:  Spend some time reconnecting with old friends and new acquaintances.  Also, make a point to mingle with the other guests that you haven’t met before.  Most important is to come with a purpose. Let your peers know what you are looking to accomplish.
Some examples:
1.    My bookkeeper just quit, I am looking for a referral to a bookkeeping service or a new hire.
2.    Our company has just launched a new product; I am looking for ways to market this service.
3.    My ideal customer has XX characteristics; I am looking for referrals to those individuals.

Please note the examples above are most effective once you have established some level of rapport.

•    Respect the name tag:  Name tags can be a relationship builder or breaker.  Name tags are intended to help identify who you are speaking with.  Playing the name tag snub game can hurt your relationship building experience.  Remember Networking and Sales are different.  Initially, give everyone a chance to show you who they are.

Some example questions to ask:
1.    Do you participate in any other organizations?
2.    What other careers did you have?
3.    Where did you grow up?
4.    Do you have any hobbies?

•    Pay attention/ Listen:  Many of us will give part of our attention to watching the door, or others in the room making sure we don’t miss anything.  Being in the moment is crucial to successful relationship building.  Pay attention to the person you are talking to NOW.  Perhaps you will find out the ONE you were hoping to meet is standing right in front of you.

•    Be a resource:  “It’s better to give than receive” this is a very trite, but true statement.  When building relationships, a great way to build trust is to give something away.

1.    Make an introduction
2.    Help solve a problem
3.    Share an experience
4.    Follow up

Here is the tricky part, give without any reciprocal expectations.  The word will get out, your integrity as a business owner and peer will speak volumes.

•    Affiliate yourself with a group that will meet your needs:  This is one of the most crucial factors in successful relationship building.  Enter the room as a peer ready to give and receive.  Referrals are one piece of the relationship building process.  Entrench yourself in your business organization.  Become a part of the community, take a leadership role.

We have been building relationships since we were children.  On the playground it helped us get invited to sit at the lunch table or invited to a game of hopscotch.  Later these skills helped us form friendships and find romance.  Today these skills help us enhance our careers.