Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Three “Networking” Failures – and how to avoid them …

You probably know people who believe that “networking” does not work. You may even think so yourself. You’ve been to a networking event, not met anyone of interest to your business or career pursuits and not been able to sell anything. Why do that again? It does not work, right?

Several years ago, I received an e-mail from someone who had recently attended a networking event I had organized. “I will never come back,” she wrote. “Every time I go to a networking event, I make a sale. Yours is the first event where I did not sell anything.”

This was for me a unique experience: the first such e-mail in more than a decade of offering networking opportunities. But the sentiment the writer expressed has not been unique.

Here are the three common networking failures, and what you must do to overcome them.

Not showing up. You join organizations – professional groups, referral clubs, Chambers of Commerce – but you only sporadically attend, or maybe not at all. You cannot expect business, or referrals, from people who do not know who you are, or what you do, or do not feel a connection with you. Solution: attend as many of your organization’s events as you possibly can.

Not participating. Showing up is not enough; you’ve got to participate! Serve on committees, volunteer for tasks, such as staffing an event’s registration table or introducing the speaker, or host something, e.g. a fundraiser for the organization. Solution: become known, make yourself visible, and contribute to the organization’s success. “What goes around, comes around” – trite but true!

Expecting to make a sale. Networking is about meeting people and creating relationships. It is very much NOT about making a sale! Solution: participate in conversations, get to know others in the room, ask questions, listen to answers, detect common interests, send a note in the mail, suggest a coffee or lunch to talk more about those common interests (maybe you are both runners and you discovered she, like you, had run the Peachtree the past two years and you had both been thinking about the Boston Marathon for next year). She works in HR for a manufacturing company and you work in finance for a staffing agency. Over the course of getting to know each other, she may mention to you that her company is planning to add a dozen or so temps for a special project. You get the picture?

Networking is an excellent practice for growing your business or advancing your career. Do it the right way. Avoid the failure traps, and you will succeed.

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