The underlying reason that networking is effective is that, by making efforts to help your networking partners, you build your relationships. We all prefer to interact with people we know, like, and trust, in business, as well as in all other areas of our lives.
Mistake of the Month: Uncomfortable Introductions
“Hi, I’m Joe. I sell stuff. What do you do?”
People who begin a conversation this way at networking events are uncomfortable and don’t know how to start a conversation. We all feel some pressure to take advantage of the opportunity to meet people. This opener is actually a great opportunity to calm things down and make a good impression. Answer the question if you so choose, but the point is to get to know people, not just what they do. Rather than looking for clients, you are looking for relationships, so change the conversation to something more personal. Take time to get to know them and they will immediately become more relaxed. Try to always remember that, at networking events, you are building relationships, not looking for clients.
I run into uncomfortable people at networking events all the time, and it is usually pretty easy to calm them down. They are nervous and don’t know how to walk up to a stranger and start talking. Talk with them about the weather, the Giants (or Patriots), the coffee being served there, or any other topic other than business. They will be grateful to you for helping them relax. This will give you both an opportunity to get to know one another on a personal level and eventually build a networking/referral relationship. And remember, you will not end up working with everyone you meet; some people won’t be a match for your intentions or values. Relax, move on, and have some fun.
Networking Partner and COI
The people you want to meet are either networking partners or centers of influence (COI). A COI is an individual who has influence in the decision making process of others. They are respected and consulted by clients, friends, and others, and will directly refer clients to you. A networking partner will introduce you to COIs. Virtually anyone you meet could be a COI or networking partner. Choose people you want to work with, surround yourself with people you enjoy, and build the relationships as deep as you can. We all prefer to interact with people we know, like, and trust. Let networking be the process by which you surround yourself with people you like and respect. Business will be a joy.
How Do I find a Networking Partner or COI?
They are well networked, and they share your area of interest and commitment to service. They are usually easy to find. At any event, figure out who appears to be getting a great deal of attention. Then, ask them who is a good person for you to know. Many such people will point you in the right direction.
Unsuccessful Networking Groups
“I’ve been in this group for over a year and I have not received one referral.”
People who say this about their networking groups are probably going about the process in the wrong way. They think that the people in the group are going to be their clients, or send you their clients. Most likely, that will not happen. The people in your networking group are usually networking partners and possible COIs. Ask them for introductions to your COIs and they will most likely be able to help you. If they do not have connections to your COIs, ask for connections to other great networkers. Everybody knows one. Sometimes, it takes 2, 3 or 4 steps to finally get to your client.
Never tell people that “everybody is my client.” Unless your job is to give out $100 bills to people, “everybody” is not your client. People come into networking groups because they are interested in networking, even if they do not know how to do it. Help these people help you. Make it easy to help you. When people ask for your list of COIs, either tell them or email it to them, so they don’t have to write it down. It’s also important to help other people as soon as possible. Ask people in your networking group or at your networking event this question: “Please let me know what types of people you consider good referrals, or referral sources, so I can listen for potential connections for you as I meet new people.”
Begin to practice these relationship building techniques.
Report on your progress here, on the blog.
Edited by Meg Buck