Have you ever signed up for a networking event with the anticipation of making new business contacts? You pack extra business cards and head off after a long day at work. You circulate through the room exchanging cards and making notes. In the next week, you make some follow-up calls. And guess what? You fail to make even one solid connection!
We've all been there. This type of networking is frustrating and ineffective. Networking is not about meeting people and exchanging business cards. Networking is about making a true connection with people. It can be described as the difference between "met" and "net". Many entrepreneurs avoid networking events because it has been associated with bad chicken wings -- and even worse, self-serving sales pitches.
There is a much better way to network. Networking should be about meeting someone and positioning yourself in their mind as a solution. You are their answer to a problem, a source of pleasure or progress in some way. The goal is not meeting people. The goal is building a priceless business relationship. When networking is approached from an attitude of serving others needs you will find that you make real connections that serve as the building blocks for a relationship. The following tips will help you go from "met" to "net!"
1. Define your networking goals in advance
Networking is about making connections. This is not confined to networking events. Once you have identified what you are trying to accomplish, who you need to meet and why, then you will find the best place to accomplish that objective. A networking event may have 1,000 attendees but you do not necessarily need to meet those 1,000 people. Know your target and then seek out the best place for open, face to face relationships.
2. Do not undervalue personal curb appeal
Personal curb appeal is more than wearing nice clothes and having a great smile. Of course you should wear clothing that makes you feel confident, and make sure that your breath is minty fresh. The real value of personal curb appeal begins with believing that your product or service represents progress to people. You have to believe in yourself before you can communicate that belief to others. When you have self-belief you are happy to tell others how you can help them. Why wouldn't they be thrilled to have the answer to a problem? Believe in yourself and share liberally with others!
3. Be interested in others
Many people mistakenly focus their efforts on being interesting rather than being interested. People respond favorably to those that show a genuine interest in them. Creating relationships is not a one way dialogue but a genuine intent to create a give and take. Ask questions, listen intently, and consider ways that you can help the other person. Develop a "how can I help you" attitude rather than "what can you do for me" attitude and you will position yourself for a real relationship. Your interest will also uncover information about the person that can provide a true reason for follow-up. This is much more effective than calling someone after an event and having absolutely nothing to share!
4. Earn trust.
The first time you meet someone is an opportunity to make a progress-based impression. But it takes a series of progress-based impressions to go from "met" to "net." A series of progress-based impressions will earn trust and build that priceless business relationship.
When you begin to approach networking from a helper's perspective you reap immediate benefits. You will not only create a world class, solid network but you will also experience business growth. Having somebody truly in your network, not just somebody you met... well that is truly priceless!
About the Author
Steve provides leadership, management and marketing coaching to business owners, executives and entrepreneurs worldwide. Considered the Catalyst for Change by the California Business Journal, Steve has coached over 400 business professionals to date.