What networking is not


What do you think of when you hear the word ‘business networking’? A crowded reception room full of anonymous faces? Grappling with drinks and canapés while trying to make small talk? People frantically ‘working the room’ and exchanging business cards? It’s not a positive image is it? But the truth is this image continues to discourage people who know they should network but somehow never get round to it. The trouble is, our assumptions about networking misrepresent the reality. So let’s correct those negative thoughts right now!

Networking is not about:
• Attending numerous receptions and events in the hope of making a few tentative connections;
• Arrogance, self-promotion or pretending to be someone you’re not;
• Collecting business cards, connections on LinkedIn, followers on Twitter or friends on facebook.
And believe it or not, networking is not all about YOU!

I once attended a business lecture about ‘Effective Networking’ held in the Middle East. The presenter was the owner of a business club and was clearly there to promote his club as a place to network and do business. I was so dismayed by his views on the subject of networking that I wrote down what he said, word for word.

“When you are networking, do keep your face in everyone else’s and make sure everyone in the room knows who you are and what you do by the end of the night.”

Would you really like to meet someone who behaved like this at an event you were attending? Perhaps you have experience of people who take this approach to networking. Take my word for it; this sort of behaviour does not work! Of course it’s useful to attend networking events if they are relevant, and exchanging business cards on these occasions is customary practice. There are also times when it’s important to do a bit of self promotion when networking. But in my view none of these activities help to define the concept of networking.

What networking is

This is my preferred definition:

Networking is about building reciprocal relationships with people you like, admire and trust.

If you can exchange your negative perception of networking with my new improved definition then, I promise you, the whole idea will become much more appealing and manageable.

Does this description of networking really apply in all situations? Some might argue that you can’t adopt this attitude in a hard-nosed sales environment where the sole object is to get business regardless of the personalities and without any intention of building a long term relationship with customers. Well, I concede that there are some occasions in certain business contexts where we have to do business with people we don’t like. I also accept that, in some sales environments, there is no requirement or even opportunity to build lasting business relationships with clients. However, I would argue that these situations are increasingly rare. And I maintain that the general aim in networking should always be to build relationships with people you like admire and trust. If you do, you are likely to be a more successful networker in the long term.

When I look at my networks and consider the business relationships that have been most valuable to me over time, I realise that my (often subconscious) decision to put effort into building a relationship with another person is influenced by at least one of six factors.

1. I like the other person.
2. I am interested in or respect them.
3. I think I could learn from them.
4. I think they could help me.
5. I want to help them.
6. I trust them.

So think about these six factors when you network and be open to forging new relationships with a wide spectrum of interesting people.  You can be a great and effective networker without ever having to attend another drinks reception!

This is an excerpt from Jeanette’s book “No Nonsense Networking” – click here for a free download. http://jeanettepurcell.com/no-nonsense-networking-six-steps-raising-profile/

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