Have you been assaulted by a business card bombardier who only wanted to sell you something? Attended one of those “grab and gab” and “tell and sell” rubber chicken so-called networking events where you left feeling violated?
Have you ever been violated by people claiming to be networking but are just out for themselves and what you can do for them? Networking sometimes gets a bad rap because of people like this. If you’ve been left with a bad taste in your mouth for networking and think it’s just for blood sucking shameless self-promoters perhaps we can share a few ideas that can put all that incorrect thinking in the garbage can where it belongs.
I have attended large networking events that the first two paragraphs of this article describe and walked away feeling like I had wasted my time. The losers are the ones who I do my best to ignore. It’s hard because most of them are in your face pitching their product or service. They have yet to learn that networking is not about “tell and sell.”
There’s also no such thing as a bad event. It is what you decide to make of it. Many times it’s not the networking event itself, but those people who have no clue on how to network. Your attitude is everything. You can always walk away feeling good that you attended if you put aside your expectations and go with the flow. Make the best of every meeting or event you attend.
Any event that has more that two life giving, cancer curing, weight losing, pyramid schemes pitching, morons complaining about the economy, time-wasters, multi-level marketing fruit juice true believers is probably going to be void of any meaningful intention to build business relationships. Plan to avoid these groups. Idiots attract other idiots, and winners attract other winners. You want to go to networking events hosted by winners. Never return to events where most attendees have what I call a seller’s mentality. These people couldn’t care less about what you do. They only care about making sales. Making sales is important, but taking the time to build mutually beneficial relationships is far better.
Look for a group the encourages people to mingle and share ideas; where members are encouraged to exchange business cards, exchange contact information and offer tips on potential business leads. In other words, sharing is the key word.
People make fantastic business contacts that advance their careers immeasurably at networking meetings and events. Unfortunately, sometimes it’s difficult to navigate around the losers that attend these events. Sadly many of these people have never been exposed to the intricacies of networking that pave the way to business success.
Here is the truth. You build business by building community. You build community by nurturing long-term business relationships and by surrounding yourself with the kind of people in your network that are of like mind; people who know the rules and who abide by them. Networking events require patience and perseverance and more patience. One of the most common mistakes people make is to go to a networking event and expect immediate results, that simply does not happen.
Networking is not an event. It is a process of building relationships. It is an exchange, not an exploitation you only use to YOUR advantage. Networking is at its most effective level when both the networkers benefit from the relationship. Once the relationship is solid, you gain the respect of others by exchanging quality business leads and offering your assistance to others in any way you can. After that, the referrals begin to flow – slow at first – but worth the wait.
It doesn’t matter how many business cards you pass out (or collect), if you do not focus on getting to know one another on a deeper level.
I share some of my most valuable secrets with others in my network once trust has been established. Many who know me will verify that. The better we know each other and trust one another, the easier it is to do business with each other, and a greater level of trust is but one of the goals. I have no secrets because I tend to be less concerned about competition than most people I know. There is enough business out there without living with the fear that someone else will get all the business if you share your assistance with others.
Networking, for most people, is not a natural skill. It can and must be learned.
Generating business through networking is only as good as the network you belong to. Look for a group that encourages you to attend periodic seminars where you can learn more about networking. Look for additional networking opportunities and educational training from other sources outside of your group that will assist you with cooking with Networking’s Secret Sauce. Scout around for networking events designed to connect savvy professionals seeking to build their networks and create opportunities.
A commitment to progress in learning networking skills is important. Most successful networkers are not born that way. They learn the skills of networking, because they know that the rewards will be increased business and connections that will help them build their business. The rewards for networking can be enormous.
If you continue to bounce around from group to group without at least learning the basics of networking. . . who’s the real loser in this situation?
If you have unrealistic expectations when attending a networking group or event, you will surely be disappointed. Unfulfilled expectations always cause problems.
It’s better to network with a clear head. Avoid alcohol. If you are going to drink – drink a soda and hold it in the hand that you don’t shake hands with. The condensation on the drink that you are holding causes your hands to be wet, cold and clammy when you are shaking people’s hands.
I’ve actually heard people say, “I’m always nervous before I go to these things. I’m scared of approaching people, I’m scared of saying something dumb, I’m scared of sitting in the corner alone like a weirdo.” Here is another truth: You can’t act like a wallflower at a grade-school dance and expect to build relationships. You must get better acquainted with the people in your network.
So. . . who are the winners? They are the ones who fit the pieces of the networking puzzle together by getting up some courage, holding out their hand, saying “hello” and introducing themself to someone new. The winners for me are the ones who are still lingering for 20 to 30 minutes after the event ends. They are having meaningful conversations and some are expressing an intent to get together outside of the meeting to learn more about how they can help each other. They focus on being up-to-date with the latest networking strategies. They go out on a limb. They are willing to network out of their comfort zone.
Larry’s note: A special “Thank you!” to Sarah Michell, CPS for sharing a few ideas for this article.
Copyright © 2011 – Larry James. Larry James is a Professional Speaker, Author and Coach. Larry James presents networking seminars nationally and offers Networking coaching; one-on-one or for your Networking Group! Invite Larry James to speak to your group! His latest book is, Ten Commitments of Networking: Creative Ways to Maximize Your Personal Connections! Something NEW about Networking is posted on this Networking BLOG every 4th day! Visit Larry’s Networking Website at: “Networking HQ!”
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