The NOT of Networking
“The currency of real networking is not greed, but generosity.” — Keith Ferrazzi
There is a lot of information written about how to network. It is an enormously successful tool if you are in job transition. If you are in business, you call it “referral marketing.” The main purpose for networking, whether you are in job transition or in business, is pretty much the same. In my book, there are two main reasons to network. The first is to build relationships and the second is to help others. They go hand in hand, for if you can help someone, you are on your way to building a long term relationship.
As I said, there is much information devoted to how to network — what you should do and how you should act. But I’d like to devote some written words to the NOT of networking. What networking is definitely not! Why, because I meet people every day who don’t know what they are doing when it comes to networking or referral marketing.
1. It’s not selling — Unfortunately, many people still use networking for the sole purpose of selling. They will not attend an event or meet someone for a one-to-one meeting unless they see an opportunity to sell their product or service. This is not networking. This is hard selling and it will backfire on you because once the word gets out, no one will want to meet with you or refer you.
2. It’s not just exchanging business cards — Do you know what most people do with business cards? They throw them away. They start by keeping a stack of them on their desk wrapped with a rubber band. They move them from place to place until the rubber band eventually breaks. Then they pick them up off the floor, look through them briefly, think about following up, and then throw them in the circular file. Then they go off to the next networking meeting and start the process all over again. A business card is a waste unless you do something with it and I’m not talking about taking a snap shot of it with your phone with one of the new apps, because that’s just putting it in a rectangular garbage can. I’m talking about follow up. A one-to-one meeting. A sharing of ideas. Getting to know the person better. Getting to know their business, their personality, their character. I’m talking about exchanging more than just a piece of paper.
3. It’s not receiving without giving — Gimme, gimme, gimme is not networking. It’s a “what can I get from you” attitude and if I don’t think I can get anything from you, then I don’t want to meet with you. This also is a short-lived relationship because again, no one will want to meet with you if they know that this is your attitude. Their attitude becomes, “Why should I help you, when you are helping no one”? Additionally, people see right through that kind of attitude and since referrals only come from trusted resources, no one will get to know you well enough to trust you and thus refer you.
4. It’s not all talk and no listening — Good networkers are good listeners. The more you listen the more you find out and the more you find out the more you discover as to how you can help someone. If you do all the talking, you learn nothing about the person you are trying to network with. And as I stated in the previous step, referrals come from trusted resources. How can you be a trusted resource when you don’t know anything about the people you just met with? How do you build trust when you have no interest in finding out about the other person? How can the other person even think that you might refer them when they know that you know little or nothing about them? Listen, ask questions, and listen some more. You’ll get your turn, but taking an active interest in other people helps to build the trust sooner.
5. It’s not, not following up — You can’t network and you can’t refer if you don’t follow up. A simple thank you for meeting. Clarifying questions. Setting up another meeting. Affirming what was discussed, especially if you promised any information at the meeting. What kind of an impression do you leave when you promise something at the meeting like an introduction, or a name, or other information, and then don’t follow up with it. Good networking requires persistence, attention, and organization to be successful. Your reputation is on the line when you network and if you want to get to the point of people being comfortable enough to introduce you to others and eventually refer you, then you need to be consistent in your follow up and follow through.
6. It’s not just face to face anymore — Just a few years ago, networking was all about going to events, mingling, introducing yourself to strangers, and doing your elevator speech/profitable introduction/”hello my name is” to dozens and dozens of people. Some of networking is still that, but now there are other ways to network. Networking events are wonderful, one-to-ones are even better, but you can only go to so many of those and there are only so many hours in a day. So now there is LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and a variety of other ways to network to the world. You can reach out, connect, share, and in some cases never even have to meet the person. Social media has indeed changed the way we communicate. For those introverted people, it has resolved the problem of having to go to social events.
7. It’s not just social media — I think that social media is wonderful. For me, LinkedIn is a means of networking to get an introduction to someone that I want to do a one-to-one with. Social media didn’t replace face-to-face networking, it just enhanced it. LinkedIn didn’t eliminate the need for meeting face to face, it just made it easier because now you can invite your LinkedIn connections to events and instead of it being an uncomfortable situation, it is now a class reunion.
8. It’s not just having a social media presence — As great a tool as LinkedIn is, it won’t work unless you use it to its fullest. Having a profile that is only half complete doesn’t help you. Having an unprofessional picture doesn’t add to your appeal. Not being active shows disinterest. Having no recommendations or endorsements shows a lack of people that support you. Not having a profile that brands your unique value takes away from the value you offer people. Not engaging and following up with connection requests shows a lack of interest in others. Also, you should be careful what you post and tweet. Remember, everyone is watching and if you want to build credibility, then you should be posting and tweeting things that people find valuable and useful. So having a social media presence is different than fully utilizing your social media presence.
9. It’s not about not being you — Whether you are meeting someone online or in person, it is very important that you be you. Don’t try and pretend you are something you’re not. Don’t tell tall tales. Don’t lie about your skills, experience, or expertise. Don’t tell people you know people that you don’t know. Don’t try and impress someone by going beyond what you are, as it will come back to haunt you. People connect with people because they have something in common. People meet with people more than once because they like them. People refer people they like because they trust them. You can’t build trust on a lie.
10. It’s not about not helping — Helping goes beyond forwarding an email introduction. It goes beyond giving someone a friend’s business card. It even goes beyond the professional relationship. Helping is going out of your way for someone who needs assistance when you expect absolutely nothing in return. It’s seeing a need and fulfilling it even if it never comes back around. It’s showing compassion. It’s putting yourself aside for the good of someone else. It’s true unselfishness. It’s done simply because it’s the right thing to do. Guess what? Of course it will come back around to you because people remember things like that. And not only do they remember, they pass it on to other people and all that does is make life a little better for someone else.
So there you go. Now you know what networking and referral marketing is not. Pull a George Costanza, do the opposite and enrich your networking and referral experience.