You go to your local networking event. While you're there you pass out 65 business cards, stumble through a few brief conversations about the awful weather, sample the food and wine, and then go home to wait for sales to pour in.
That's networking. Right?
A misunderstanding of networking's purpose causes frustration for so many business owners and professionals. That's because, for whatever reason, we've come to think of networking as selling. Then we're disappointed when it doesn't happen.
But networking does not equal selling.
I repeat: Networking does not equal selling.
Networking may, in fact, lead to sales at some point, but networking itself is not selling. No one goes to networking events with their wallet wide open, ready to throw money at you. That's not networking.
Rather, networking is building relationships. Plain and simple.
The goal of networking is to make connections and cultivate a community that becomes your professional network. Your network becomes your team of people to tap into when you have a question about something, want to refer someone, require a listening ear, or need a collaboration partner. Your network is your community of friends.
With any friendship, you must spend time together. Ask questions. Get to know each other. Care enough to be thoughtful and courteous. Learn more about each other's family members, struggles, and businesses. Follow up and stay in touch.
Be in it for the long haul. Networking is not a one-and-done event. Networking is a courtship.
To network effectively, you must:
1. Use good eye contact. Put your phone down, and look the other person directly in the eyes. Give all of your attention to that person without distraction.
2. Ask questions. Your objective is to learn about the other person, so ask things like "What do you do?" and "How did you get started doing that?"
3. Listen. Listen more than you talk. Listening shows that you care, and you don't want to miss any important details that are being shared!
4. Follow up. Get the other person's contact information so you can continue the conversation later. Send articles that are of interest to the other person, tag them on relevant Facebook posts, and meet up again at a later date.
5. Brainstorm collaborations. Someone whose work complements yours is a perfect collaboration partner. Find ways the two of you can team up on a future project.
Always remember that the goal of networking is to build relationships. Networking does not equal selling. Connect with people, learn more about them, and continue the conversations, and you'll create a community to support you for years to come.
Looking for a supportive community where you can learn more about networking and other communication topics? You're invited to join us over in our Speaking Society. Click here to join.