The term networking has gotten a bad rap over the past few years. Networking evokes an image of large conference rooms or local bars filled with people in business attire who’ve come to the event to see if they can drum up some business. Often, these people aren’t shy about trying to sell you something on the spot. They have no interest in you or your company unless they sense there’s something you can do for them.

For those who attend networking events to truly network — aka to build symbiotic business relationships — the traditional networking experience is off-putting, to say the least. Those who understand the true value of building a professional business network don’t care if they make a sale at the networking event or not. They’re there to get to know people, understand what they do, share their own business, and determine whether or not there’s a way to work together.

Doing It Differently

The world of selling goods and services can be stressful when the lead database suddenly runs dry. That’s when rookie salespeople turn to lead sources they wouldn’t otherwise consider. Some call up grandma and try to sell her something. Others reach out to friends and neighbors to strong-arm them into making a purchase. While these tactics may generate short-term sales, they’re hard on personal relationships.

Being successful in business is a marathon, not a sprint. Cultivating relationships with as many business professionals as possible over the course of your career is a much more effective route to success than squeezing the neighbors until they squeal.

Build Your Network Exponentially

The beautiful thing about knowing a lot of people is that you have a direct connection to everyone they know. And everyone those people know. Your network grows exponentially every time you create a positive relationship with someone new. Once you become comfortable with that new person, building trust and creating a positive relationship, that person is automatically inclined to help you. They won’t hesitate to refer business your way when possible.

People love doing business with those they know, like, and trust. Your main goal as a business owner or salesperson should be to build a network of business contacts that are legit. Not one that’s full of people you’ve only met once, but a network full of people you actually know. You know the name of their spouse or partner, their children, and their hobbies. You know where they like to vacation. And most importantly, you know what they do for a living and what their professional goals are.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask

It may seem intrusive to ask a lot of questions when meeting someone for the first time. And sometimes it is. It depends on the situation and the people involved. But asking questions is the best way to gather information. As long as you’re professional and positive, most people don’t mind. In fact, most people enjoy talking about themselves, so by asking questions, you’ve just opened the door to their favorite topic!

Here’s the Key to Success

Now, here’s the secret to networking success. You have to be willing to help the other person. Period. That means that while you’re getting to know someone, you’re also listening for ways you can help them. Maybe you can introduce them to a business person they’ve wanted to meet for some time. Perhaps you have a friend or associate who could use their product or service. Or maybe you can connect them to a reputable daycare provider in the area. 

The point is that it doesn’t matter whether the connection you help them make is business-related or personal. The fact that you’re willing to help them out at all is what’s important. Sincerity is crucial; people can smell a rat. But if you’re genuinely focused on helping people achieve their goals, they’ll remember that and return the favor when they can.

Make Yourself Someone People Want to Know

When you venture out to meet new people, set your intention to create positive connections. Then make yourself approachable. Walk up to strangers and introduce yourself. Introverts will find this extremely uncomfortable. But the more you do it, the easier it gets. Before you know it, you’ll have a whole contact list full of people you’ve connected with in some way or another. And when you need a favor, those people will come running.

Want to share your networking experiences? Contact me here. I’d love to hear your story!

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