For some, networking is a stress; it never works out; and it takes our valuable time away from the gazillion of things we have to do. All those long cocktail hours, the compulsory meet and greets, the automatic exchange of business cards – make us want to hit the warm bed instead.
All you ever do was say “Hi” to people you would never meet again. No business leads was generated, no new contacts were made, and no partnership was considered. You want to shout out – what a boring and wasted evening! – as you head out for the door.
Guilty? Yeah, thank you most hands are raised. But you know networking should never be this way.
Sure, spending some time off your busy days networking means you’re using some time off those pressing things you have to do right now. But will another hour spent in the endless revision of that marketing plan brings in more clients? Expand your reach? Strengthen your relationships?
Maybe so but definitely not as much as a face to face meeting with a prospect or, even a new person with a lot of potential clients. You may feel like you’re too busy right now to expand your network (it’s hell week), and you will have enough time for it next week. However, those projects that feel so urgent today will not be around tomorrow, and you better find new projects to replace them – now.
The solution is to change the way we approach networking. Those long cocktail hours are done for some useful reason. If not, why is almost everyone present, just collectively wasting their time? The casual meet and greets are the first steps to establish any potentially rewarding relationship. You did not find your life-long friends and partners in a vacuum. Somewhere down the road, the initial “Hello” was offered and accepted and, if interests are mutually shared, awesome friendship usually develops.
The same holds true for any business relationship. The customary exchange of calling cards remains good business practice because they contain valuable contact information. It gives you the opportunity to call the person and talk business. But how many of us have done so?
Of course, not everyone you meet can help you directly in your business. But somewhere inside your extensive network you will find at least one person who can give you a fantastic lead. If you play your cards right, one amazing referral can often generate a whole bunch of wonderful referrals.
The thing is for you to be always human and warm to get the most value out of your networking activities. Practice a lot of empathy. Treat everyone you meet with the same high degree of respect you expect from them. Always give anyone your 100% attention as if they are waving a million dollar contract in your face. You will be surprised with the results.
Now, have you ever tried smiling at complete strangers on your way to the grocery store? They always smile back.
Try that, for a change…
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