I Hate Networking...(but it works as a business growth strategy)
We have all been told, time and time again, that if we want to grow our business we need to network. It is an important part of the CEO's job. People work with people who they know and trust. So, you need to get to know your potential clients and prospects.
What is Networking?
Creating a group of acquaintances and associates and keeping it active through regular communication for mutual benefit. Networking is based on the question "How can I help?" and not with "What can I get?"
I was at the annual meeting for the NJTC . I recently joined and know very few people but the group is very active, has lots of technology companies as members. I like to work in that sector so it is a good group for me. Many inventors and developers of technology are not particularly good at marketing strategy and implementation so they may benefit from the type of work I do. They develop a great product and need to get people to notice and buy that product. That is where Chief Outsiders comes in.
But, Back to Networking.
People come to the meetings to meet and get to know new people who might help them in the future. As you can see from the above definition, however, you are not supposed to be thinking “WIIFM”(What is in it for me?) and rather be concentrating on helping others. Eventually, people who you help, help you. I have certainly found that to be true in my life and I suspect you have too.
So, you are here (or there) to network. That is the objective. Most of us don’t like going up to strangers and introducing ourselves and starting a conversation. This is when you need to remember …
The Common Denominator of Success
The common denominator of success --- the secret of success of every man (or moman) who has ever been successful --- lies in the fact that he formed the habit of doing things that failures don't like to do.”
But if they don't like to do these things, then why do they do them?
Because by doing the things they don't like to do, they can accomplish the things they want to accomplish. Successful men (this was written in 1940 by Albert E. N. Gray so think people, not men) are influenced by the desire for pleasing results. Failures are influenced by the desire for pleasing methods and are inclined to be satisfied with such results as can be obtained by doing things they like to do. Successful men(people) are influenced by the desire for pleasing results.
I think we agree that most of us want pleasing results. Most people don’t plan to be failures. But many of us do fail to plan. So, if we are going to a networking event-to network- then it is important to plan it out. Unless you fall into the small minority of the population who is naturally extroverted and has never met a stranger.
Some tips on what not to do
- Sit with the other three people from your company at one luncheon table and talk to each other
- Forget your business cards
- Find an old acquaintance and catch-up in the corner
- Only talk about your business and not ask questions and listen to the person you are talking to
- Look around when you are talking to one person to see if there is anyone else more interesting nearb
Some tips on what to do
- Know what you want to accomplish. At most networking events, there are no guarantees that you will meet with anyone who will do business with you in the future. But if you are at an event where the right target group of people is present, there are possibilities. There is an absolute guarantee that you won’t meet anyone if you don’t speak to anyone.
- If you are uncomfortable, adopt the “buddy system”. Remember that from when you were a kid. A buddy protects you and keeps you safe. He or she makes you look good. So bring a buddy. But only one. Agree with the buddy on what you will say to people about each other. For example, if you have invented the next great medical device, have the buddy say to people, “He has just finished the prototype on the greatest medical device for arthritis."
Then people will ask you questions. And if your buddy is an attorney, mention what excellent work she has done for you. It is so much easier when you buddy touts your success and you are not “puffing” yourself. And it is easier for you to talk about her.
- Plan out what you will say. Practice it. Make your buddy look good. Positioning is a key part of success.
- Set a goal. Meet six new people. Get three new business cards. Sit down and eat with strangers. Whatever it is, establish the goal and stick to accomplishing it.
- After the event, follow up. Send notes suggesting a coffee or lunch meeting. Send an article that might be of interest. Connect on Linked-in. Studies show that you need to have five-six contacts with people before they remember you.
Networking is simple. Simple but not easy.
These tips will help you get the most out of a business event. And remember, most of the other people there feel the same as you do. They will appreciate that you try to make them comfortable. And the more you help others, the more they help you. Even if they never do, it does make you feel good.
Please share your experiences with networking below:
Barbara M Fowler is the Northeast Managing Partner and CMO. Contact her at 908-956-4529 or email@example.com. @barbfow50.
Chief Outsiders' blog is written by top CMOs and executive guests for CEOs looking for business growth strategies, current thinking on effective leadership skills, and ideas and insights from real-world marketing strategy implementation.