In the past few years, I’ve found that people either love the idea of business networking or they think it’s a complete waste of time. How is it that some people build flourishing businesses based on the power of their network, while others fail to build any sort of connections at all?
Since I’ve started running networking events, and while helping hundreds of professionals leverage business networking to build their careers, I’ve found that most struggle for a few simple reasons. If your networking isn’t as effective as you would like it to be, figure out which of the following is blocking your progress:
1. They Don’t Plan
Most people dive into business networking because they read a business book that says networking is effective or someone suggests it to them. They show up at a local networking event with no idea of who they are looking to connect with, why they should connect with them, or what the heck they are supposed to say.
Take the time to plan our your networking. Who do you want to meet? Where are those people going to be? What are you going to say about yourself and your business that makes people want to find out more? When you have the answers to these questions, then start networking.
2. They Don’t Build Relationships
Networking is about building mutually beneficial relationships – the key word here is relationships. Relationships take time and energy to create. Too many people expect networking to pay off after meeting someone once, but business relationships are just like your personal friendships, you have to invest in them over the long haul.
If you are expecting immediate gratification from networking, change your time line. It might be frustrating in the beginning, but it will be invaluable in the long-term. Spend the time following up with your contacts, grab a quick cup of coffee or even a 10–minute phone call with them. Make an effort to get to know them, and let them get to know you.
3. They Don’t Help Other People First
“How can this person help me?” That’s what most of us think when we meet someone we’d like to include in our network. And that’s why most of us struggle. Nobody wants to be sold to, and yet many professionals view networking events as an opportunity to find others who will listen to their sales pitch. And they wonder why no one seems interested?
Put your own agenda on hold, and listen to what the other person has to say. Find out what their needs are, and see if there is a way that you can help them fill those needs. Sure, it’s the right thing to do, and you’ll feel good helping someone out. What you’ll notice happening, though, is that after they’re done talking, they’ll ask how they can help you; and they’ll really mean it because you took the time to help them.