A colleague of mine recently flew to another country to attend a sizeable social event, which was meant to be fun. At this particular function, there were many people she knew. At one point, a successful entrepreneur came up to her and started a networking conversation after quick pleasantries that lasted less than a minute.
“Do you happen to know anyone who might be interested in our service?”
“I know you’ve started to develop contacts in Europe. Did you know that our company has done excellent work overseas?
My colleague told me that she tried to end the conversation as quickly as possible, after being confused as to why the entrepreneur would be bringing up business at a social affair in such a way. There’s a time and place for everything, and this place was not the time for networking conversations out of the blue.
Some people think networking is a waste of time and they don’t do much of it. Then you have other people who believe that every moment is the right time to be selling.
Networking is an art
The reality is that networking is an art. The reason why my colleague was immediately turned off to the approach by the entrepreneur, despite the fact that she appreciated and liked his work, was because she didn’t want to be sold to––particularly at a social function!
Networking has to happen in the right place and at the right moment. It’s not about meeting just anyone and blathering on about your successes and what you’re looking to achieve. It’s about getting in front of the right people to provide value to those people and also figure out a win/win.
The right people
My colleague was not one of the right people for the entrepreneur and his industry. She did not have any contacts in that industry, and as the entrepreneur began to pitch his business and successes, my colleague wondered why she was being pitched at a party on a topic and industry she barely knew.
As I said, there are people out there who believe that networking is a waste of time, and to a certain extent, that’s true. The reason for it is simple: people do what the entrepreneur did. They are not strategic about their networking. They talk to people just to talk and then wonder why they come away with nothing. To be successful at networking:
- Be smart about the people you want to speak to and figure out how to get access to them. The reality is that you don’t want to talk to everyone about your business. You just want to talk to the right people. A couple of years ago, a piece was written in Harvard Business Review about networking, and a story was related about Davos. The author wrote about an exceptional networker who said that most of what happened in Davos anyone can research or discover for him or herself. However, the most outstanding value of Davos was the access to the right people and the development and deepening of relationships.
- Don’t look for quick results in networking. People can become disillusioned with networking because they think they are not getting the results they want. Did the entrepreneur believe that the conversation he had with my colleague would land him a new deal? I think that deep down, he knew that wouldn’t happen. The best networking comes from developing solid relationships with the right people that create winning opportunities and situations for both parties. The best networking is indeed a very strategic endeavor.
- Sometimes the best opportunities arise from people that are not your closest supporters. One of the best sales experiences I had was sitting face to face with someone and engaging with someone on a personal level as we came up with ideas. The conversation ended up turning into a significant six-figure deal, but it came from a relationship which was not yet warm. I knew this person a little bit, but there were a freshness and dynamism to the relatively new relationship. Often, it makes sense to consider networking with people with whom you have a more distant relationship.
If you’re looking for a new job, chance or to develop your business, I suggest that you do a network audit, but also take the opportunity to think about how you can have the right conversations, with the right people, at the right time and place.
Author of “Get Off the Couch: Grip & Rip and Break the Barriers Holding You Back in Life” (Free Digital Download)
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