There are so many misconceptions about business networking. It is often a misunderstood concept. 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? The purpose of business networking is to forge meaningful relationships that you can rely on – and that can rely on you – for introductions, collaborations and referrals. In this article, checking out the myth-information about networking will help you get on the right networking track!
“Developing a strong network requires making connections that will sustain more than a simple introduction. Those connections, and the support required to maintain them, are the necessary ingredients to developing a network.” ~ Sherri Edwards
Myth #1 ~ “There’s no strategy to networking – you’re either good at it or you’re not.”
WRONG! If networking doesn’t come natural to you, you better learn the networking tools that the professional networker know. Anyone can be good at it – it’s whether or not you have a desire to learn all you can about networking and then use what works for you.
Myth #2 ~ “People who are shy and are introverts are horrible networkers.”
Networking will bring you out of the shy rut if you are smart about doing it. The tool great networkers know is that more than 50% of a result oriented networking interaction is not talking about yourself – it’s opening the door to a conversation through questions about the other person. Shy people can easily progress quickly when they know that the person asking the questions is in command of the conversation.
Myth #3 ~ “A large networking is a great place to find customers to sell to.”
Horribly wrong! People only do business with people they like and trust. The truth is you must develop the relationship first before others will refer business to you must less buy anything from you. Building relationships takes time. There is never enough time at a major networking event to even consider building a relationship.
Myth #4 ~ “Networking is about giving your business card to as many people as possible.”
Someone once said, “Handing out your business card like it’s free Halloween candy guarantees one thing – you’ve given people something to pick their teeth with after lunch.” I never ask anyone for their business card unless I feel there is a possibility that I might be of service to them or I feel that there is an opportunity for us to support each other in our networking efforts. I never give my business card to just anyone I talk with. I wait for that moment when you know you’ve made a connection worthy of pursuit.
Myth #5 ~ “You must have the persona of a sleazy car salesman to be successful in networking.”
Are you kidding me! Those are the kind of people who are aggressive as heck and after turning everyone off, generally fade into the distance complaining that networking doesn’t work. Trust! That’s one of the keys to networking success. Building trust takes time. Be patient.
Myth #6 ~ “Networking stops when the meeting is over!”
Not true. It’s actually the beginning… the beginning is called “follow-up!” Many networkers miss that point. It’s crucial. I say it’s extremely significant. The follow-up is when you begin to build the relationship. It’s the time when you take the time to get to know each other; exploring all the possibilities of working together in the future. Follow up with a phone call, an e-mail, regular mail, or a meeting over breakfast or lunch. The greatest mistake people make in networking is not having a well-developed follow-up plan.
Myth #7 ~ “Networking is about getting business referrals and leads.”
That’s pure folly! Effective business networking is about giving! It’s not about asking others for referrals and leads, it’s about giving others referrals, leads, ideas, etc. Sometimes it’s clipping a newspaper story or copying an idea that may help others by sending it my snail-mail rather than e-mail. It’s true that preperation of snail-mail takes more time, however it also signals that you thought what you sent is special. Send a hand-written note. When you network, you must always to looking for ways to “give” to others in your network of support. By the way, there is a big difference between business referrals and leads. Read: “Is It a Lead or a Referral?”
Myth #8 ~ “Networking about being a schmoozer or smooth talker.”
Have great communication skills certainly helps, however being a good listener is key. You can never learn much about the other person if you are doing all the talking – especially if all you talk about is you. A schmoozer is a person skilled in the art of ingratiating small talk – talk that is business oriented, designed to both provide and solicit personal information AND who avoids overt pitching of their product or services. Unfortunately many schmoozers have earned a reputation that has people looking at them as people who overtly pitch their products or services without allowing time to learn anything much from the person with whom they are talking. Focus on asking sincere questions and on being a good listener. Networking is a dialogue in which both people should contribute. If you want to call attention to yourself, you must pay attention to others!
Myth #9 ~ “Networking takes so much time. I don’t have the time to network.”
Think of business networking as marketing and promoting your business and brand, meeting new people (who may become customers in the future) and cultivating new relationships. Networking is a reciprocal relationship. You never have time to do the things you don’t want to do. Networking should be a part of everyone’s business plan. The people who skip around from one networking meeting to the next, and attend four or five events each week would do well to network with a plan or strategy. They become exhausted and have no time or don’t take the time for follow-up or are in it only for what they can get out of it. Your time is precious. To me the very large groups are all about social networking and in many cases the people who attend know very little about the collaborative etiquette of networking. Pick and choose one group, and stay with it. I hear people leave groups because they don’t get any referrals. My first question to them is, “How many referrals did you ‘give’.” Networking events may be in themselves intimidating or misleading. Calling a large event a “networking opportunity” may create unnecessary pressure for the inexperienced networker. Attend a large group once in a while to keep your conversation sharp, to visit with friends and have a soda. Attending one “highly targeted” networking event makes a lot more sense than going to 10 generic networking groups or events.
Myth #10 ~ “Networking is all about who you know.”
Networking is all about who knows you, who likes you, who trusts you and who respects you. Pete Leibman once said, “Before working with you or referring you to someone else, a successful person is consciously or subconsciously asking himself, ‘Do I like and respect this person enough to put my reputation on the line by working with her or by introducing her to someone I trust?'”
Myth #11 ~ “You have to memorize an elevator pitch.”
Memorize? No. I will say that knowing how to tell others what you do in a creative way helps. The “elevator pitch or speech” (I call it a 30-second connection), is especially good when you are at a networking “meeting” (not a large event) and are asked to stand and introduce yourself. Attending a large networking event and randomly rattling off your 30-second connection to everyone you see is not the right time or place. There is a time and place for everything. I wouldn’t suggest that we should “kill” the “elevator pitch” altogether. Perhaps we should kill the word “pitch!” The purpose of crafting a 30-second connection is to help you be totally clear on your core identity and message. Clear in a way that could fit easily into the time it takes to go from one floor to the next in an elevator AND it should never be a pitch. A pitch has a negative connotation that rarely arouses the interest of the person you are talking to. Once you decide what your 30-second connection will be, play with it. Be flexible. Learn to adapt it to any situation you may encounter.
Networking is such a popular contact sport that you would think that after a few unsuccessful events – meaning: no significant change in business or no one seems to be wanting to contact them – that they would learn from the errors of their ways and seek some support from someone who knows the ins-and-outs of business networking or, at least, stop and observe how the winners are doing it. Yet, they toil on, soliciting business, collecting business cards and hoping at the next event things will improve. That’s insane!
“I believe your [networking] goal is to #1. Show up authentically; #2. Know your value proposition (what do you have to offer?); #3. Be able to articulate how your experience relates to the goals and needs of others in your network; and #4. Have a clear follow-up strategy ready to go after the event.” ~ Lida Citroën
Business networking is about “giving!” Professional networkers give to other networkers whenever they can because it causes them to feel good to give, not because they expect to be rewarded later.
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
One of the most common places you express your personal brand, your values, and your style is in networking. Whether you’re at a business event, job fair, or standing in line at Starbucks, there is always in a potential opportunity for networking. Networking doesn’t just happen at business events. Opportunity is everywhere! Be prepared to take it! A robust and well-curated network is the most powerful tool in your professional arsenal. Don’t let bad advice and the preconceived notions of others stop you from using it to your fullest advantage.
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8 Steps To Build Relationships After A Networking Event
NEVER Start a Networking Conversation With, “What do you do?”
Networking Events — Which Event Or Organization Is the Right One for You?
Copyright © 2014 – 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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