Have you ever attended a networking event where someone just went up and shoved a business card or flyer in your hand?
I had a guy at a chamber mixer start talking to me about freestanding saunas and telling me that I should have one, that it was only $6,000 to buy one and all the health benefits. I kept trying to get a word in and tell him that I hated saunas because I feel claustrophobic in them. How did he know that’s where I wanted to spend my money or if I had the room? It was annoying and funny at the same time. He was just clueless.
Don’t be THAT guy!
The Achilles’ heel of networking is too many people expecting too much in a short amount of time. Marketing and relationship-building is an investment. Networking in an investment. People you meet are not ATMs. They are people craving connection. The first thing to deliver is openness, genuine curiosity and authenticity.
My friend, master networker, Kristy Rogers of Kristy Rogers Connects, teaches her clients how to be a pleasure to do business with. Every step of interacting with other people should be a pleasure. That’s not stiff, boring or clinical. It’s authentic, warm, caring. Isn’t that what we want in the human experience anyways?
Ivan Meisner, Founder of BNI (Business Networking International) , wrote recently in Entrepreneur magazine online:
Many people rely on referrals from others as a primary source of business. However, not everyone who relies on referrals is successful. Why is this? I’ve studied these folks — and those who are not successful seem to have “surface level” referral relationships.
They know just enough about their referral sources’ businesses to get by. They don’t actually know a lot about the people themselves. They tend to say vague things like: “He is really nice,” “You’ll like her; she’s a good person,” or “Well, if you just meet with him, I am sure you’ll like him.” If pressed further, they probably couldn’t tell you much more about those people — and they almost certainly have not built enough social capital with them to count on them when they really need something from the relationship (and vice versa).
Most people go to a networking event to “meet” people. So many think “meet” means get sales, failing to realize that marketing is like dating. If the guy wants to marry you on the first date, RUN! He’s probably a stalker or remaking an episode of Criminal Minds. If you don’t date like that, why do you market like that?
Before you become the Networker From Hell, consider this:
5 Do’s and Don’ts To Being A Pleasure to Network With
It’s time to have a little fun, support the group that’s running it, try out some wine, get some good food and meet people like you would at a social function…within limits like staying sober and not being obnoxious.
1) Go to network with an open heart
I had a business coach who would ask me after every event if who I met was a lead or not. I DID NOT like that. How should I know? I had met them for a few minutes, I had no idea. BUT, I did know that would meet for coffee or a chat on the phone and figure out how we could help each other. Maybe we couldn’t. Maybe they were someone who could help me or I could refer them. I just didn’t know until I talked with them more. All I’ve ever wanted to do is meet great people. I’ve learned…Don’t judge a book by it’s cover and been surprised…a lot!
2) Be genuinely curious
Ever heard this before? Act like the host. Most people don’t know what that means. To me, you just ask good, open-ended questions and pepper in some conversation extenders like:
- “What do you do?”
- “Tell me more about that.”
- “How did you get into your business?”
- “What were you doing before your current job?”
- “What’s the best part of your business?”
- “Where else are you networking?”
- “That sounds good.” “I never thought of it like that.”
You don’t have to be fake. It’s just like meeting a new friend.
3) Don’t drink too much. Stay away from hot-button issues?
Oh, regrets. I’ve had a few. Being tipsy at a business function has never served me well. So, I won’t drink at networking functions anymore. But, staying away from hot-button issues? I’ve had some great conversations when disagreeing with others. I look for people who have a strong opinion. It doesn’t faze me. Do what fits your style and taste. You may not like to be so outgoing. That’s okay. As long as it’s not insulting, I think having a different idea is good. Either way, just don’t be afraid to be yourself.
4) Commit to get deeper
Someday you’ll have to ask Speaking Guru, Lynn Kirkham of Yes! You Can Speak, about our initial deep conversation. The amount of people we had in common was astonishing! We discovered we had a mutual good friend (to both of us) and we called her from my cell phone but Lynn was speaking. Our friend was soooo confused…at first. After that, Lynn and I quickly bonded. It just took a while for us to get really deep. The more we got to know each other, the more we strengthened our friendship and business relationship, to do business with each other. Getting deep can create incredible referral sources for us and create wonderful friends.
5) Be in it for the long haul
Getting referrals, good ones, takes time. Having great connections takes time. Go to your networking knowing you want to meet quality people that see it like you do…long-term. In the “marketing is like dating”, it may not be marriage but a steady long-lasting relationship is an beautiful outcome.
See. You can save yourself from becoming the Networker From Hell and be a pleasure to network with. Just need a little gumption and commitment!