Networking is a lot of fun! Business networking is when a group of like minded business people gather and help each other. If you check, you will surely find a networking group in your area. The networking group can meet as often as they wish, as is convenient for the participants.
Regretably, most people start with a networking group by looking for immediate gains.... that is, for favorable results for themselves. If this is what you are trying to achieve, you are networking for the wrong reasons and will be sticking out like a sore thumb.
Many people think that the size of a networking group makes the difference in networking. When groups start falling in size, members will say, "we have to build up our numbers." Now, what numbers are they referring to? Is it the number of participants? I would rather belong to a networking group of two people who can help each other on a regular basis then have a large group of business people not following the Ten Commandments of Networking. It is not the quantity, it is the quality.
"I haven't got any leads yet!" Well excuse me, have you given one, ever? Or, have you made a suggestion that might help a fellow member? Did you call anyone with a compliment and say, "Just wanted you to know, Jim, that your comments on the XYZ expansion was right on the money." One must be willing to put in time waiting also. It might take a while before people feel comfortable with offering you a referral.
Networking groups will come and go. To get the most out of your networking experience, you need to build a relationship with people who you want to have contact with. Not all members will be able to help you, nor will you be able to help them. That doesn't mean you should snub them! I still have strong relationships with my networking friends from groups that are long gone.
When networking, spend most of your time and effort on people who can help each other out, for the long term. That is right. This is a long term project. Countless times I have been to business networking events and have seen people actually run from person to person, with the expectations of first giving away their business card and hoping to gather the other person's. How can you possibly build a relationship with a person when your objective is to get out there, and collect cards? Some networking groups make a game out of it to see who can collect the most in a certain time. What a waste of business cards!
You will find that a highly effective networker will "work the net". What I mean is that they will go into a function with a goal in mind. My usual goal when business networking is to have the expectation that I will "meet" and "understand" only three people per event. I know what kind of person that I can help and expect that this person will be able to do the same for me. A win/win situation is what I am talking about. The highly effective networker will take the time to cultivate a rapport.
After the business networking event is when the real work begins. After all, you are only at the networking event to meet and build rapport. Follow up ASAP. Now is the time to send a nice customized card, and call a few days after to arrange a time to meet for a coffee or to have lunch. That is when you can listen to the details of what your new "friend" requires. You might even have the chance to offer your goods and services, only after listening.
If you want to gain the most out of business networking, follow the Ten Commandments of Networking!
- 1) Thou shalt drop the "what is in it for me?" attitude.
- 2) Thou shalt listen.
- 3) Thou shalt build a relationship.
- 4) Thou shalt give the first referral.
- 5) Thou shalt not tell others of the referral you require; thou shalt "show them" with a story.
- 6) Thou shalt be specific of the type of referral.
- 7) Thou shalt reciprocate when appropriate.
- 8) Thou shalt participate in the network executive, functions, and network time.
- 9) Thou shalt thank the person who gave a referral.
- 10) Thou shalt follow up on the referral within 24 hours.
Business networking is productive and fun, and that is why it will always be part of the Bigger Picture.
Mark McGregor is a keynote speaker and professional presenter with Speaking of Hearts. He is a motivational and inspirational speaker on business and stress matters. Mark is available to speak for your next Canadian and American conference, trade show or event.