Thursday, March 15, 2012

Relationship … that’s the thing

When I say relationship, I’m not talking about romantic, familial or even friendship, I’m talking business today. I know people who love to network. They attend lots of networking functions with lots of ‘networking professionals’. I have attended a few of those events and decided that ‘networking’ wasn't a prudent use of my time … at least the way it is currently done.

Basically, it goes like this. You attend a ‘networking function’ … half of which are happy hours that are labeled ‘networking.’ You make sure you have a stack of your business cards and normally, you have a goal to give out XX number of your cards.

As you approach people, you patiently wait until they are done giving their introduction, so that you can give yours and at the end you can exchange cards. Now, you are one person closer to your goal. This goes on all night and at the end of the evening, you have a stack of cards. That was some successful networking!

If you have a newsletter or engage in any email marketing, you will quickly add all of these people to your list. Otherwise, you will friend them on Facebook and blast them with every event you are having. I’ve actually unfriended people who were absolutely relentless in blasting me, sometimes several times a day, with their information. 

I’ve tried unsuccessfully to try to connect with many of these people after the event by sending them an email and trying to initiate a real conversation and make a real connection, without much success, so I stopped attending these functions.

What I do now is more personal. If I come across a blog, a speaker or a professional I am interested in, I contact them directly and start a conversation. Without the pressure of collecting business cards, it works much better. When I come across something that might be interesting to that person I send it to them. If they are local, I invite them to lunch or to coffee. I actually get to know them and allow them to get to know me. 

There is an old saying in sales that people buy from people they like. I think that is true. I also think it’s true for networking. People refer people they like. So give people the chance to know you, that is the only way they can ever like you. 

A business card, no matter how beautiful will never convey who you are and what you are about.

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