Jun 7, 2021
Yes and no. Networking works but only if you work. For those people dreaming that they're going to go to a few networking functions and business is going to just fall in their laps and complete strangers are going to send them business.
There are numerous referral groups, service groups, chambers of commerce, and other thriving groups even in small towns. The biggest thing to remember no matter what group you attend is this. People do business with people they Know, Like, and Trust.
KNOW, LIKE, and TRUST
They know what you do and trust you. They know you and like you. You get the idea. If people don't trust you you can bet it's unlikely they'll want to work with you. If they don't know of your services how can they use you? If they don't like you that's NOT a deal-breaker. Strangely enough, I've done long-term business with people I felt didn't like me.
The whole process of networking is to allow others to develop a relationship and discover what you do (what value you bring). If they can't directly use your services they can REFER others to you (they Know, Like, and Trust you). You see the relationship building (networking) is what you need to build.
3 types of networkers..there are many more but I’ll just discuss three
1. The Card Slinger
This networker you'll see introducing themselves and immediately commence to pulling out their business card and it's in your hand before you even hear their last name. This is one of my business pet peeves. It's hard to reject the card without being rude so most people take them because they don't want it to be awkward. If people want to connect or can use your services they will ask for your information. Allow this to happen instead of just passing cards. When they ask they are giving you an invitation to take this business relationship a tiny step further. That is what you want.
2. The Net Eater
Ohhh I'm guilty of this. I'm a foodie. Is it Networking or Net Eating? I'll literally decide if I want to go to an event based on what they're serving. But, I also make it a point to show up early. 20-30 minutes early so I can talk to other professionals before the bulk of them get there. Occasionally I'll eat beforehand so I'm not focused on the food. You should be taking the opportunity to meet new people, not eating. Unless it’s BBQ, that may be your only exception. Also, be wary of alcohol. It's alright for some to consume alcohol, but there are individuals who when drinking become obnoxious or "less-endearing", their comments and behavior could be a little too lively for a business function. Beware of drinking more than you should and if that's a problem just wait till later.
3. The Adonis
This networker has a way of making other professionals feel inferior. Making you feel like you're not on their level or what you do is of no importance in comparison to theirs. They may come off as arrogant. This diminishes the whole networking process because everyone's there to get acquainted with other professionals. Having this persona will make you miss out on great opportunities and relationship building.
At many networking functions, there are many opportunities to give away swag. There may be speakers gifts if your presenting, a drawing/raffle, a gift basket. These are all great opportunities to give away promotional products. A few common promo products I've seen at some events are journals, writing pens, lip balms, and mugs. You can be as creative as you like with these. Good promotional products always leave and get put to use. Hosted events are another great opportunity for marketing, for instance, the business expos, tradeshows, and summer events local rotary groups and chambers of commerce hold, picnics, and parades. Any event that allows you the opportunity to have a booth is a great marketing opportunity and you need to put those good ol' promotional products to work. Lanyards, stickers, drawstring backpacks, and screen cleaners are popular expo promotional items.
Over the years I've cultivated some very unique friendships through networking groups. MLM or multi-level marketers aren't everyone's cup of tea because some individuals may come on too strong. BUT, I've befriended many multi-level marketing professionals that I initially thought "I won't use the services, but I always remember...hold on I know someone who very well may. Some MLM business professionals are very very good at what they do.
I have a friend who sells Mary Kay, but she's no ordinary Mary Kay director, she's been selling for over 30 years, has over 100 dealers under her, and does it leisurely. She created her own newsletter just to send to her dealers and has a weekly luncheon so the local ones can brainstorm with each other. The amount of knowledge, experience, and creativity she has is valuable. I would have missed out on that if I had been too arrogant to listen and build a relationship with her. We've become great friends.
I have another friend that helps with organization. Some may just say she sells Tupperware. We were talking about my challenges with working with getting an introduction to a doctor's office I wanted to work with. She chimed in that they were customers. What? She got us an introduction and the doctor's office became a client. My point of contact there moved on and went to assist her husband in their law group and The law group became a client. To this day they are one of my favorite clients and a personal friend. The point is to never underestimate the networking process. Great opportunities come from unlikely places.
So networking does work, you just need to work at networking!