Thinking About Business Networking?

) Being a hunter, instead of a farmer

If you’ve been networking even just a few times you’re bound to have met a “hunter”. They are usually looking for what they can “get” from a meeting. They also tend to pounce on you the moment you say something that makes them think you might want to buy their stuff.

How does it feel when we’re on the receiving end of something like this?

– Salesman alarm
– Hide your purse or wallet
– We haven’t even had a first date yet and now you want to marry me

“Networking is more about farming than it is about hunting – it’s about cultivating relationships”

Networking is about developing relationships, usually over time. When you’re a farmer, in the conventional sense, you prepare the ground, you plant the seeds, you nurture them and eventually you have a harvest.

It’s the same when we are networking. Meeting people, doing 1-2-1’s, giving them potential business are all about developing the relationship. At some point you will get business back, but it can take a while. Particularly if your business isn’t something that people need frequently. And sometimes the business doesn’t come directly from the person you’ve networked with.

When I’m networking I play the long game. I might miss the odd opportunity because I don’t pounce on people. But I find my strategy works well because people know you’re not pushy and they come to you or refer you when the opportunity comes up.

Karma works in the networking world.

2) Only looking at the person in front of you

Some people go to a networking meeting and look around the room and think “there’s nobody here I can do business with”. Sometimes they even avoid going to a particular networking meeting because they perceive the people there wouldn’t be good customers for them.

Aside from the fact we can also make friends and find good suppliers, we never know who they know.

“The average person in the room can introduce you to over 200 business contacts”

It may surprise you to learn the average person in the room can introduce you to over 200 business contacts. But if we pass them by or don’t have a 1-2-1 with them then we’ll never know who they know.

For example, I’ve got a lot of contacts in the property world. I’ve also got a corporate background with Santander.

And I’ve networked extensively in the area I’m based in and continue to do that today. If you dismissed me as “just a utility warehouse distributor” you might miss out on connecting with one of the people I know who could just be a perfect introduction for you.

3) Being a ME monster

What’s most people’s favourite subject?

The answer is themselves.

Most people like to talk about themselves. It’s only natural. The challenge is in the networking world (or anywhere where you want to build rapport) the other person doesn’t usually want to hear all about us. 

There’s always at least one person at a networking meeting who turns every conversation around to them. You talk about your last holiday and they top it with a story about where they’ve just been. You mention a hobby they like too, like golf, and they recount their own recent experiences.

“A good networker has two ears and one mouth and should use them both proportionally – building connections takes time and effort”

As a good networker, we focus on the other person. Asking open questions to get them to talk about them, their business and what they’re looking for. Show a genuine interest and listen intently.

Can you tell me what is an anagram or LISTEN?

That’s right, SILENT

While they’re talking we should be just nodding (three times max) and making encouraging noises (meaning? Such as? Ok).

They will usually eventually ask about you. But by focussing on them you make them feel special.

Be interested, not interesting.

4) Not paying attention to body language

People give us clues about whether they’re open to other people joining their conversation. We can also choose our body language in order to signal to people whether we want to be left alone or potentially joined. 

You can even use your body language to get someone to approach you and rescue you from someone you want to escape from.

Look for “open 2’s and open U’s” or groups of two or three people standing in an open formation – it’s easier to slide in and start talking

So next time we want to invite people in or even if we need “rescuing” our body language is the key.

5) Believing just by being there you’ll get the business

Some people mistakenly think they’re networking by just turning up at the meeting. While attending regularly is part of the picture, if we don’t have a plan then it’s often just a social event. If that’s why we’re here that’s fine. But if it’s for business then deciding how that’s going to happen and planning for it helps.

“If you fail to plan you are planning to fail”

It starts with deciding which meetings you’re going to go to. Then who do you want to ideally meet? Remembering we don’t know who they know. But, saying that, you may find some people at the meeting who would either be likely customers or introducers. Get a copy of the delegate list as early as possible to decide if there are particular people you want to meet.

Then what’s your goal for the meeting. Mine is usually to continue to build relationships with the people I’ve already met, while looking to meet and speak to at least three new people, preferably arranging 1-2-1’s with them wherever possible.

6) Scattergun networking

When I was I used to network everywhere from Heathrow to Newbury and everywhere in between. The challenge is it’s hard to be remembered everywhere you go if you’re spread too thin. You can’t do enough 1-2-1’s effectively or find business for the people you meet. Your effectiveness is diluted.

“Part of your strategy should be to pick a few meetings and attend regularly”

One of the keys is to find a maximum of a few meetings and focus on becoming well known in those groups. It’s the difference between trying to light a fire with a match here or there versus pouring petrol on a couple of places and setting that on fire.

By being focused you can have a profile in those groups and be able to look after the people you meet.

7) Thinking the meeting is where real networking is done

Often when people say they’ve tried networking and it doesn’t work for them it’s because they think the business is going to happen in the room. They come to the meeting, chat to a few people and dish out business cards. Then they expect the business to come to them.

“The fortune is in the follow up”

One of the absolute truisms in networking is the fortune is in the follow up. Whether that’s making the call we promised to make to introduce someone we met to someone else or arranging a 1-2-1, following up outside of the meeting is where we really add value for the people we meet. It can help to set aside an hour or so as soon as possible after a meeting to follow up on the promises we make.

I aim to make as many follow up calls as possible either driving away from the meeting or as soon as I get back to base.