I’m usually a big believer in networking. Going to trade shows, networking events, and charity events is how I’ve met many of my strongest business contacts, and probably a third of my clients. However, I’ve been to four networking events in the last 7 days, and I’ve got to say, if this is where networking is going, it’s going without me.
Thursday night, high end bar: 40-50 professionals sipping drinks and “networking.” I introduce myself to one after another, and listen as they explain who they are and what they do. “Who are you hoping to meet here? I’ll be happy to connect you to people I know,” I offer. They tell me. And then they return to talking about themselves. Not one new connection I made in the room asks me a single question about me or my business.
What She SHOULD Have Said Was…
Networking, at it’s most effective, is not about what other people can do for you. It’s about what you can do for them. You need to lead with value, just like in any other sales relationship. Once you establish a willingness to be a resource to people, they are more likely to be a resource to you. In meeting after meeting last week, I was surrounded by people who didn’t understand that.
What About Bob?
It gets worse. One young man I met said he was a wealth adviser “to the 1%.” Earlier in the evening I had seen a friend of mine, Bob, at the event, who happens to be a multi-millionaire. I introduced the two. The wealth adviser shook hands with Bob, and then proceeded to talk about himself. He didn’t ask Bob a single question! He just talked about himself, on and on. Sadly, he will never get anywhere with the 1% crowd with no networking skill.
The Cathy Supremacy
At a different event, I bumped into another friend, Cathy, who is an expert networker. Cathy came up to me with a young woman named Jane, introduced us, and then asked me questions about who I was interested in connecting with. I returned the favor by asking her, and asking Jane.
“Jane needs to meet Joe over there, and then I’ll come back to you and take you to meet Larry. He owns a car dealership, and needs to talk to you,” said Cathy, and they walked away. I watched her make introductions for Jane, and she returned to me.
As she escorted me over to Larry, I thought about how differently she sees networking from the folks at the Thursday event. You can bet that Cathy gets my help and referrals every time I have anything to offer her. She always leads with value. She wants her professional network to know each other and succeed. And she knows that by being valuable to us, we’re more likely to invest time and energy in her.
Because of the Cathys of this world, I’ll keep networking. It’s a great way to have face time with multiple business contacts in a single evening, and to help each other keep our businesses running smoothly. Further networking events will let me meet new contacts and reinforce old ones. I just hope people will leave their self-centered monologues at home.