Networking… It is the biggest “buzz” word in business development. Let me be honest – I can’t stand that word. That word feels desperate. Going anywhere with a sole purpose of wanting to know anyone just to get their business completely defeats the purpose of starting any relationship. I get emails of people organizing “networking” events and I always want to respond, “Why don’t you just call it sharking?”
I’ve never known any really successful entrepreneur that finds big business opportunity at these events. Face it, everyone there is looking to get more business, not give you any. The self-serving nature of “networkers” don’t drive sales or long term clients. REAL relationships do. You want someone’s business, then build trust, let them understand your personal and business brand and let them organically decide if what you do is a real need or benefit that will enhance their organizations growth strategy. If not, you have added to your friend network and I guarantee you the word of mouth opportunities that will come from that relationship are far more important than trying to be “Jaws” at a monthly networking luncheon.
A post from Harvard Business Review popped up recently that talked about successful business development. The author, Dorie Clark, related it to the concept of inbound marketing. Successful inbound marketers create content that is available to its target audiences and utilizes that content as a way to establish relationships with new business prospects.
She recommends applying a similar approach to building business relationships with people you want to work with, referring to it as inbound networking. Clark’s best advice, “Make yourself interesting enough that they choose to seek you out.”
Here are her three ideas:
- Identify what sets you apart.
- Become a connoisseur.
- Become the center of the friend
Translation – be someone people want to know, not just do business with because you have something in common with them, are an expert in something (and not necessarily what you do for a living) and you are available to create an environment others want to be a part of.
According to Clark, “the world is competing for the attention of the most successful people . If you want to meet them — and break through and build a lasting connection — the best strategy is to make them come to you. Identifying what’s uniquely interesting about you and becoming a connoisseur and a hub are techniques that will ensure you’re sought after by the people you’d most like to know.”
We are so used to being hit up strictly for business that getting invitations from strangers where there isn’t an agenda seems so foreign, suspicious and strange. I, for one, want to be a part of reversing that culture.
I recently asked someone I knew had an interesting story to lunch because I wanted to know how he built what I perceive to be a solid brand. He responded back asking for information on my company. I think he was surprised when my email back to him was to explain what I did, but emphasize I didn’t care if we talked business, I was more interested in talking about his story and insights into surviving a rocky economic climate. We are having coffee next week.
It’s not what you do, it is who you really know. Invest in people and the business will grow, organically.
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