Are you Networking or just Connecting?

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Networking is a funny old thing and often hugely misunderstood. I recently heard a self-appointed networking ‘guru’ tell an audience of aspiring business professionals that had they not got business by the second visit to a networking group, to abandon it. “Move on, ” he said with a sweep of his arm, “don’t waste your time.”
Connection

Connect?

“Rubbish!” I thought. But thinking about it I guess he was talking about connecting – not networking. A connection is merely  a link between two points and can be a perfectly valid way to seek business. You identify your market and then organise, or seek, a gathering of your potential customers or introducers. Get it right, do a good job and it could generate business. If you find that there is absolutely no connection then certainly move on. But why limit yourself to just a few (or four) connections.

Networking is quite different; it is not just a connection between two points but links between many, many points. When you are networking you have to recognise that your job is not to try to sell your product or service, rather to sell yourself. It isn’t just about the people in the room, it’s also about all the people that they know and, indeed, all the people known to you. That means that given everyone has roughly 250 acquaintances then anyone you’d like to meet is only five contacts away.
A Network

A Network

Only after a period of time (i.e. more than two meetings) do you start to develop deep relationships with people who you like as you get to know them better. Once you have established a good level trust others become confident in you and thus more likely to introduce you to the folk in their network. And, of course, you become actively excited to seek opportunities for them. This inevitably takes longer to develop but instead of a one-off sale from a connection (if you are lucky), you’ll find yourself involved with a network of friends and referrers that will deliver business, yes, but also information and support for years to come.

And then we come to the other thing that got my goat about this ‘guru’s’ talk – he said, “Networking is about one thing and one thing only… Business.” Really?

What I do know is, that like many people, if I meet someone who focusses purely on pitching their product or service I metaphorically “run a mile” (I could just about manage it literally but it would be terribly inconvenient.)

Had I been training that room of fledgling networkers I’d have said completely the opposite. That networking is NOT just about business. It’s NOT about selling or badgering people about your business nor is it about putting people on the spot. If you do that then please don’t come back for a third meeting – you’ll not be welcome  – you’ll need to find somewhere else to go!

People buy from people that they know, like and trust, so that’s the primary objective of networking, surely, getting people to the stage where they know you, like you and trust you. Once you have established relationships and given of yourself then a whole new world opens up: you find new suppliers, you meet new friends, you get free advice, you get market intelligence, you get useful information, you gain support, encouragement, feedback for your ideas, solutions to your problems, the list goes on.

IT’S NOT ABOUT GETTING BUSINESS AND MOVING ON IF YOU’VE GOT NONE IN TWO MEETINGS.

There, I’ve got that off my chest.

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5 Responses to “Are you Networking or just Connecting?”

  1. Andy Lopata Says:

    Great blog, which is more than I can say about the advice given by this ‘guru’! Who gave them that title I wonder?

    As you rightly say, networking is about building relationships and, through those relationships, developing trust with people who will support you where and when you need it. That support comes from your network, not networking.

    Where you do need to network for new business, remember that you should be selling ‘through’ people you meet, not ‘to’ them. Which fits perfectly with your blog.

    Thanks for publishing this.

    • Ken Norman Says:

      Thanks for stopping by Andy,

      I completely understand how people get it wrong when they first go networking. What amazed me was to hear a speaker talking/advising in these terms. It just piles on pressure – the folk that follow his advice won’t stand a chance out there!

  2. Andi Holbrook Says:

    Very pertinent blog for me at the moment being a relative novice in the networking world. My initial perceptions were that a networking group was a bit of a hunting ground where you were searching around for potential direct business. Having attended a few sessions, my thoughts now could not be further from that perception and completely concur with your blog.

    I have learnt that it’s about building relationships and getting your name out there. You can’t expect in a room of 15-20 people to have someone instantly interested in your service there and then. It’s more about broadening your horizons beyond the people you may meet in the normal working day. And hopefully, a few meetings or months down the line, someone may sub-consciously remember you and either pick up the phone or refer you on to someone looking for your service.

    Thanks again (and good to meet you!).
    Andi

    • Ken Norman Says:

      Good to meet you too, Andi. The 4Networking model is certainly more conducive to relationship building than most “subscription” based clubs. Thanks for your comment. Look forward to getting to know you.

  3. Are Rain Makers born or are they made? « New Tricks Training’s Old Dog Blog Says:

    […] For other blog posts on Networking see How to remember People’s Names and Are you Networking or Just Connecting […]

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