First of all, if you say the words, “I can’t help you, but I know someone who can,” it assumes that you subscribe to my definition of business networking and that is, to help others!
“Networking is using your creative talents to help others achieve their goals as you cultivate a network of people strategically positioned to support you in your goals. . . expecting nothing in return!” ~ Larry James
It seems to me that the more networking groups I visit, the more I find that most people participate in networking to see what they can get for themselves with a very small emphasis on reaching out to help someone else. If you are one of these people, shame on you.
Yes, we all have a hidden agenda when it comes to networking and that is for us to get business leads, ideas, etc., for our business; to get support from others to help our business grow. The sad news is that the agenda of “getting” doesn’t work very well unless you focus on others first.
When you are well connected you will be able to help others by suggesting someone who “can” help them with their business or personal challenge almost all the time. The old adage that help is as close as 5 phone calls away is shrinking for those who are well connected.
Sometimes we forget that helping others is not always about business. At a recent networking meeting I heard someone complain that the reason she was late for the meeting was because her toilet backed up and she had to clean up the mess before leaving for the meeting. After the meeting I gave her a lead to a good plumber. Others in the group let that opportunity slide. You know more people than you think, not just in business but friends who love to help others.
“Show real interest by asking good questions. Even shy people like to talk about themselves, so encourage people to talk. Use open-ended questions that can’t be answered with a yes or no.” ~ Connie McKnight
Effective networking is not something that should be rushed. You must stop and really LISTEN for that special moment when someone expresses a need for assistance. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to be efficient and focused, but hurried, emergency networking is not conducive to building relationships for mutual support and benefit.
Networking is about “being in service to others,” not just about giving and receiving quality business leads. Please remember that. Knowing this is another good reason for watching for ALL opportunities to offer assistance. It is another great reason to be asking open-ended questions when we are talking to others in our network. Those kind of questions brings out the kind of answers that often contain an opportunity for you to “refer someone who can help them.” Networking is mostly about getting to know people; who they really are, what are their needs and how you can help.
“Promote others rather than yourself. Always be quick to put in a good word for others who warrant it. Speak kindly and positively of other people, and use your own resources to promote them when appropriate. You’ll gain a terrific reputation as someone on whom others can count.” ~ Rachelle Gardner
Your network is bigger than you think it is. It includes all of your family members, friends, neighbors, co-workers, colleagues, and even casual acquaintances. Perhaps it would be a good idea to make a list of these people. Think about people you know from former jobs, high school and college, church, your child’s school, the gym, or your neighborhood.
Also think about people you’ve met through your close connections: your sister’s co-worker; your best friend’s boss; your college roommate’s spouse; friends of your parents; your uncle’s business partner. Don’t forget to include people like your doctor, wedding officiant (wink, wink), landlord, accountant, dry cleaner, or yoga instructor. A list like this can help you evaluate the quality of your network and help you be more prepared when an opportunity presents itself. You may want to invite some of these people to become active members of your networking group.
“You can get all you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want.” ~ Zig Ziglar
Perhaps we need to adopt a special networking lifestyle – a lifestyle of connecting and helping others in good times and bad. Opportunities are always abundant. AND you have to be looking for them to be able to step in to help.
The truth is: By helping others… you help yourself!
BONUS Article: How Can I Help You!
Copyright © 2012 – Larry James. Adapted from Larry’s latest book, Ten Commitments of Networking: Creative Ways to Maximize Your Personal Connections! Larry James is a Professional Speaker, Author and Coach. He presents networking seminars nationally and “Networking” coaching by telephone or one-on-one. 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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