Monday, July 26, 2010
Okay it seems like time to raise an issue that's been on the periphery forever but never seems to be brought into clear focus or get a mention. Networking is about more than just following people, or getting on their mailing list or showing up as a connection.
Networking - For What Purpose?
There is really only one reason that people network. To enhance their business opportunities. Yet the reality is that a lot of what passes for networking is about swapping cards and telling people about what we do. Often... and I might say most often... to people who are not there to advance your opportunities, only their own.
You see the problem.
Without a willingness to be of value to others, we are pretending to be networking. If we are not genuinely interested and willing to find some way to add value to those with whom we are networking, then we are really impersonating networkers and that leads us to being little more than networking imposters.
Imagine a network or an event for networkers... where 90% of the people have no plan or strategy for helping other members present.
What would you call that? I call it a waste of time. And it is happening at network after network, at event after event.
Lots of glad-handling. Lots of talking big. Precious little actual energy going into taking some proactive steps to advance the relationship in a practical way.
I don't know the reason for this lack of action but I have a hunch that for many, the reason is that there is no clear strategy for people to take to do something useful to advance their networking relationships.
Even in highly structured networking groups, where we are called to remember to "give first" this can often play out as "You give first" and that's really not the intention.
There are some myths that get trotted out too, from time to time.
A favourite Grand Myth, is that of "The Big Opportunity"
People love to tell you about their wonderful plans and how you can be involved, and you can be part of it too... Just spend your time getting involved in helping them to bring their grand plan to life and you'll be there in the thick of it when it comes to fruition.
No you won't.
And the chances are neither will they.
There will probably be nothing come of this and in the meantime you'll have wasted untold hours putting effort in to someone else's dream for nothing.
If what you do is valuable, then it is worth getting paid for. Something.
There is no business that you need to support above your own business.
That's the first rule to set for yourself.
Business Or Charity?
If they have nothing to pay you, in money or in kind that is valuable to you, then consider this a donation to charity.
It will be your donation to charity, and if you think this worthy to donate to, then go ahead, but don't for a moment confuse it with business.
Or expect a return on your investment.
And of course, this applies to you too. Don't expect people to work for you on a promise. Be better than that. If your business or your idea needs help to get going, pay the money. That's just a cost of doing business.
Of course I would... BUT
Perhaps the greatest networking myth of all is this one.
"I have to get to know you before I can refer business to you."
While that is true to a point, we don't want to refer people to known crooks, it is also a great excuse to do nothing.
How do you really get to know how good someone is?
You do some business with them or introduce them to someone who might be a good connection for them or might need their services.
Until you do that, it doesn't matter what you know about them, you won't know how they handle that situation, till you give them one to handle.
Until you do that, nothing happens.
When you collaborate effectively and with full intention, and actions to match and when you all do that... nothing can stop you.
What strategy will you use?
Considering Business Coaching?