Are those LI invitations to connect from people who are offering their services, the best way to network online? My reaction to them is an automatic “no thank you”. I find that the introduction is followed by a sales pitch including an offer to continue the conversation or receive some freebie. But what is missing is the lack of regard to who I am or what I might need. Although they each describe the sender’s business, they are obviously canned and I toss them quickly.
When they first began to come into my mailbox I actually agreed to speak to a couple of LI members who’s product intrigued me. We spent a ½ hour on the phone and this time they did listen somewhat. I even made a referral in one case and know from the person I referred became a client. The LI member never let me know or thought to say thank you.
Big mistake. When I find out that this “networking” is viewed as a one way street, I drop out of the game. The last one I spoke to, when we ended by his asking me for referrals and I suggested he might remember me as well, his suggestion was that I could fill out the profile in the group we share membership.
If all of this sounds like complaints, that is not my purpose here. I am simply appealing to everyone to learn about proper networking to make it worthwhile for you and for everyone.
Many people have the idea that the purpose to networking is selling. The quickest way to lose my attention, is when you start by telling me what your services are. In person it’s the equivalent of shoving your business card in my hand with the desperate look of send me referrals. Seriously? Why would I. I don’t know you, but more importantly you have demonstrated no interest in knowing me.
The purpose of building a good network is much more than a basis for getting new clients. A network of connections, which has been built over time, is a source for many things, such as career management in general, a resource for information and even valuable friendships. It is not an overnight way to get new clients. .
The main feature of a good network is that it is mutually beneficial.
Despite the way it is commonly done networking is not an elevator speech nor an exchange of business cards in the hope they’ll become or refer a client. Networking is a sincere interest to learn and understand the needs of someone else with the purpose of your being able to help them now or in the future with a referral, some information or other helpful gesture. Obviously you hope for reciprocity.
Effective networking assumes that you have good communication skills that enable you to listen well to what other’s need and to articulate clearly what you do and how you can be of service. However, a conversation which includes talk about hobbies can be much more engaging than one limited to business and more memorable.
When you get the hang of networking, you will note that it takes place everywhere, not solely on LI or in professional and business groups. How surprised I was to find that the owner of the gift store where I was making a purchase was a formerly practicing lawyer. She gave me two possible referrals on the spot when our conversation led us to talk about our career paths.
The maintenance and nurturing of networking contacts is as vital as making it in the first place. Renewing them through follow-up emails, holiday greetings, sending interesting articles, periodical check ins, coffee, invitations to play golf, referrals, etc. are all important parts of the picture.
Trade in your negative ideas that networking is a hard sell of you and your services in exchange for the idea that it is the practice of showing genuine interest and generosity to those you meet. Hopefully you will find the process enjoyable and enriching.