Many people misunderstand and/or misuse networking. They attend a networking event to get business, to make a sale, to collect business cards then spam and/or otherwise hound people into purchasing their product or service. The problem with that is that it pushes people away, not only from the networker, but from the network, as well; and it is patently counter to the intention and spirit of networking.
Many networkers lack a vision for their networking, too. With no vision there is no plan, no objectives, and no strategy.
Lastly, many networkers lack commitment and consistency in their networking efforts.
So, how do you run your networking into the ground:
- Go to a networking event to work the room, collect cards, and hound the people from whom you have collected cards into buying your products and services
- Engage in random acts of networking with no vision, plan or objectives
- Hit all the Meetups/networks without choosing 3 – 5 to commit to, and attend regularly
Plain and simple: Networking is about building relationships! It takes time, commitment, and consistency. It is a way of “business life.” It must be scheduled into your regular business activities just like client appointments, and other important activities and tasks.
A Brief History about networking: The rise of the Industrial Revolution, and doing business across countries brought a need for collaboration and alliances in business. Good Old business Boys would get together and share information, resources, and “hook each other up.” Finding the value in networking, networks evolved over the years, and have remained a crucial part of business, and business success.
The curse and gift of networking: The quality of your network depends on the quality of your connections, and relationships. Plain and simple, building relationships takes time—time that many people claim to not have. Good, quality networking also costs money. The payoff, on the other hand, cannot be measured. Relationships are built, personally and professionally that pay untold dividends over the years in many ways that go beyond just the money. Friendships are born, deep bonds are fused, and thousands upon hundreds of thousands of dollars are “traded” through networking and referrals.
But, it all takes time: At the heart of a good connection is trust. That takes time to build. It starts by showing up, finding rapport then building on that rapport. As we build rapport we open our heads, hearts, and eventually our rolodex’s to each other.
One last thought: Ivan Misner, founder of BNI, the largest international business network in the world, maintains that with just 4 – 8 well-trained, active, referral partners an individual can sustain a steady flow of clients, and have a profitable business. Where do you find those referral partners, in your community? In your networks, of course . . . So let’s get NETWORKING!