Business networking is rapidly evolving
As I’ve become a veteran in the business networking space, I’ve seen many trends. I believe that everyone has their own style and unique approach that works for them when it comes to networking. I also believe that there’s a better way to network, which I think is a balance between what people that are new to the scene are doing and what the veteran networkers are doing.
People that are new to networking tend to jump straight into trying to sell new people they meet on their products and services right away as well as building lots of connections. The expert networkers that have stayed on the business networking events scene for years tend to focus on building fewer connections but building long term relationships with those new connections.
People tend to do business with others who they know, like and trust than someone you just met who you may like but you don’t know or trust them. Veteran networkers tend to give value to their relationships and nurture them over a longer period of time. This behavior causes those relationships to yield many times more than you invest into them.
Networking is just like a bank account
When you’re a start up company or working for yourself and just starting out networking, most people tend to have in common on the business networking scene that they are looking for a resource. There are all kinds of resources available on the business networking scene, leads for your company, job offers for you and your friends, business partnership opportunities, opportunities to build up your Rolodex of contacts.
People that start out tend to have limited resources, so things to offer others in return, but are generally very focused on getting resources they are looking for to help them in their efforts. If you’ve ever listened to Stephen Covey, Author of Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, he requests, offers and deals between people are like a piggy bank. You can give value to someone, and keep pouring value into them, and you can likely withdraw that value at a later point in time when you want to. Just like a bank account, there is a negative effect that happens if you withdraw more than you put into people.
Illustrating with an example
I was approached by a person with an energy company at a recent networking event. He approached me because he had heard a lot about the connections and contacts I have. He actually tells me this at the beginning of meeting me. He tells me that in order to grow his business he wants to connect with others that need energy and he asks me if I know of anyone.
Right off the bat, this kind of approach can be off-putting.
I do help people connect all the time through my network; however, when someone reaches into their network to make a personal introduction, their reputation is put on the line if the introduction goes poorly. This means to some degree, the connector personality takes a risk emotionally and socially when they reach into their network to generate leads for others.
This person didn’t make an effort to get to know my challenges yet they were insisting on me helping them without exploring what they could do further to help me in kind. Even if someone has nothing to offer in return, just a deep appreciation, gratitude, and an effort in attempting to help you further your personal and business goals can really go a long way in helping someone dig deeper into their network for connections and leads.
Just thinking about it, I could potentially have made this person over a million dollars in introducing him to the correct connection, but he continued to disregard who I was in the conversation, which just shows poor judgement and social intelligence and someone that shows those qualities are likely to show the same poor qualities to your connections. The correct approach when networking could offer you those million dollar connections.
What’s a better way to network?
I think strategic networking is the best way to network. This involves identifying your personal and business goals, putting yourself into the kinds of networking events that align best with those objectives. When entering a new scene networking widely to meet key connectors and influencers. Those key connectors or ‘nodes’ will introduce you to everyone else you need to know. Once you meet a node, they will be generating leads for you if you treat them well and treat them to lunches. ** Cough, treat Lani Rosales, and others like her to lunch they will be generating leads for you while you sleep. Then once you have much of your lead generation on automatic, then focus on building relationships.
When you focus on building relationships, those people you build relationships with will actually look deeper into their 2nd and 3rd degree connections just to generate leads for your business and personal goals. You don’t have to know everyone in town if those few people you do know, between all of them, they know everyone in town. If even just a few very connected people within an industry space like, know, and trust you now you’ve become an efficient and effective networking machine.
Oil your machine by treating key people that generate leads for you to lunch, ask them if there’s anything you can do to help them achieve their personal or business goals. The more you help them achieve their goals, the more they will want to help you and in some cases even feel obligated to help you achieve yours. Keep your machine running smoothly by occasionally doing wide-networking where you just meet a bunch of people and find out which of those you just met is more likely to reciprocate with less effort that you put in, then bring them into your networking ecosystem. Anyone within your networking ecosystem, make sure you call or email them monthly and even hang out with as many of them as you can.
This is the best way I’ve found to build an intelligent network that works for you.