If you asked my husband this question, the IT guy, he would probably give you some long answer about connectivity, systems, servers, data and on and on. But in my world it's much simpler. My version of networking goes something like this…
Networking is the art of building your sphere of influence through deliberate attempts to connect to other humans and display a definite purpose of helping others. (Notice I didn't say anything about sales, marketing and all the other things we might normally associate with networking.)
Networking in business is NOT all about perfecting your sales pitch and trying to get in front of as many people as possible to barf a sales pitch on them and hope that something sticks. In my years of experience in business networking, I have experienced far too many of these "regurgitators" who truly don't know any better. It's really too bad because most of them are genuinely nice people. It's just that, for whatever reason, they didn't learn (or weren't taught) the true meaning of networking. But, whether the person is nice or not, if they barf on me once, I'm probably not going to give them a chance to do it again.
It is a skill, business networking. So it does take some professionals a little time to mature and figure out the ins and outs. This may be because there are many different networking groups, each with their own style and philosophy of how things should be done. Someone may first be exposed to a rigid group with a long list of rules, a group, for example, that insists on members having a perfectly rehearsed elevator pitch.
While it's not a bad thing to have your pitch fine-tuned so you sound like you have a clue, I don't feel your speech should sound rehearsed. I was a part of far too many of these groups in the past and the constant pitch rehearsal bored me.
That said, I like real people. My opinion of people has little to do with how well they rehearsed their elevator speech. When you meet someone for the first time, instead of being very rigid, holding back everything for fear of rejection and hiding behind an elevator speech, why not try opening up and being honest to see what happens?
I think you will find that most people see this as a breath of fresh air and will open up to you and let you into their inner circle that much faster. When you share something personal, you also open the possibility of finding commonalities with your new business associate.
Who knows, you might even make a new friend. I like to just be me and see how people react. Some are way too tightly wound to handle this. They memorize and rehearse their pitch and that's all they know. If I schedule a get-to-know-you meeting and the person immediately pulls out all their sales slicks to put on a show for me…the show is over. Sorry! It's people first, then you can work on the sales and marketing---later, after we get to know each other.
Networking is fun
I get so excited when one of my friends comes to me and says, "Karin, I know you know everybody---who do you know who can help me with….?" It is such a great feeling to be the "connector." I get to do this a lot, simply because I have made it a habit to meet a lot of new people all the time and get to know them personally. If I have a good feeling about you as a person, I probably would trust you to be a service provider for myself or for someone I care about. Since I have a large network of trusted professionals, it's that much more likely that I can refer business back and forth.
My advice to you...
Get to know as many people as you can to hone your networking skills to make connections. This will put you in a different realm. "I see you everywhere" is a line I hear frequently. Since I have so many connections and frequently organize events to bring people together, I'm very active on LinkedIn and other social media sites. Even though I may not have seen someone for the better part of a year, they still see my smiling face online and it keeps me "top of mind." When they do have a need, I'm the one they think of to ask for help.
If you make a positive habit of getting to know many people, this will happen to you.
Involves building your sphere of influence
Is the opportunity to connect with other humans
Involves helping others succeed
Includes sharing something personal to be "real"
Includes finding people you can trust to add to your inner circle
Is all about people
Is great fun because you get to meet new people and learn from them
Networking is NOT…
A sales call
A chance to pitch
A marketing free-for-all
A perfectly rehearsed system
Karin Conway is your business networking specialist, connecting people and resources for the highest good of all. For more information on networking visit http://www.PROAlliances.com. To find out about networking events in the Milwaukee area, visit http://www.meetup.com/Milwaukee-Business-Professionals/ (PRO events).
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