…OR are you a selfish networker who only goes to networking meetings to “get” whatever you can?
I thought networking was about giving business referrals to other networkers. However, when I speak to networking groups I usually ask two questions:
1. How many of you are here to get business referrals for your business? Almost everyone raises their hand.
2. How many of you brought a business referral for someone in this group today? Usually 2 or 3 hands go up or none.
That pretty much says it. Many networkers seem to be more interested in generating referrals than “giving” referrals. Not good. The way to make an impact – and in the process – call a lot of attention to yourself as a active resource is by giving.
“We must work hard for others if we want others to work hard for us. We should lead by giving.” ~ Pamela Ryckman, author of STILETTO NETWORK: Inside the Women’s Power Circles That Are Changing the Face of Business
We may have stumbled upon the main reason that many networking groups fail. If everyone comes to the meeting hoping to receive business lead but everyone forgets to spend a little of their time trying to find referrals to give to other members… can you see the problem? Those networking groups are a complete waste of time… it becomes more of a social gathering.
The number one rule of helping people should be to find out what’s actually valuable to them. It’s important to discover what they need. If you really want to endear yourself with someone, then talk about their business and ask how you can help. This usually allows others to open up to you. Every time I talk with a client, I spend a few minutes asking them if I can help them with anything. I do my best to find a need and fill it. Often they don’t always have anything come to mind.
I let them know that I am very well connected and am willing to make introductions to any of my networking friends and that I am willing to share my many resources and all they have to do is ask. I encourage them to describe the profile of the referral they need to meet. Simply ask what they want and need. This is a simple question that many people find hard to answer. By asking a few questions I can usually find something to keep in mind when I see an opportunity later to help. The more personal you get, the better you understand the person and build on your relationship with them.
I often will carry a “card-holder” that contains the business cards of someone they may need to know. Several times I have called that person while with my client and arranged a time for them to get together.
This takes some pre-planning. You have to schedule time to see others, then make notes to remind yourself to see if they might like for you to help by referring them to some of your trusted friends. Your intention to help must be consistent. You may even inspire others to do the same thing. A big part of your intention when networking should be to become known as a “great resource” to your networking friends. It gives you expert status and builds trust. This will help keep you in the loop with other networkers. Tell them how you can help them and at some point roll the conversation back to what it is they need. Networking is about creating value for others. I am willing to share all my contacts because these are the people in my network of support that I like and trust… with an emphasis on “trust.”
When questioned, many networkers I know admitted that the only time they think about giving a lead is on the way to a networking meeting. Those referrals are seldom ever really high-value referrals. Becoming a great networker is like everything else. You have to work at it.
I hope you noticed that all through this article I refer to “referrals” rather than business leads. You can buy various leads from many vendors and online. You usually get what you pay for. What I’m interested in giving is a high-value referral – that is, a warm introduction that means my networking friend will almost certainly get the meeting, if not get the assistance they need.
Can you imagine if everyone in your networking group would actually look for ways to help others, then return to your group with several business referrals to give to others?
I am convinced that if all networkers would make it a habit to look for referrals each week, the results would be amazing. They have been for me. When you make a new commitment to actually look for high-value referrals for others, you will elevate the trust-level in your relationships very quickly and start seeing reciprocity very soon.
Always remember: “Give and You Will Receive!” (in that order!)
Copyright © 2013 – 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 Networking 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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