My definition of networking is: “the purpose of networking is to connect people who have a mutual interest in developing a business relationship or assisting one another”. So with that framework in mind, I invite you to consider the following ideas, which I’ve playfully named “Miller’s Maxims”.
When it comes to networking, people are the common denominator.
The speed and ease with which people can create connections has expanded exponentially. The speed and ease with which human beings accept one another has not kept pace. Just because technology allows you to snatch 30 business cards from the networking table at a Chamber event, go back to the office and issue 30 Linked In invitations within 20 minutes doesn’t mean that you should do it. Doing this cuts the “people” element right out of the equation. Human beings need time to build rapport and trust with one another. Which leads me to my second maxim. . .
The surest way to short-circuit your networking success is to take short cuts in the people process.
Savvy networkers know that creating lasting, meaningful business relationships takes time. Networking is not a get-rich quick scheme. Similarly, smart networkers don’t confuse networking with prospecting for new customers. Networking can be a means to gaining access to new customers, but it is not the sole purpose. I find that sales professionals get discouraged with networking events because “I didn’t get a single sales lead.” Nope, you didn’t, because that’s not what networking’s about. Networking is about finding business contacts who have a mutual interest in helping one another. That narrows the field significantly, doesn’t it? Speaking of narrowing the field. . .
Make sure your network is a lake, not a river: vast and deep, not wide and shallow.
Creating a healthy, productive network takes time and energy. It’s one thing to have a gazillion LinkedIn connections, but how many of those people would return your phone call. . . or more importantly, could be a positive advocate for your business or your skills? It’s not always about numbers. Yes, lots of contacts give you potential access to lots of people—but will they be interested in helping you? And equally important, are these people you have an interest in helping in some way? The best networkers I know are genuine in their attempts to help people. They work to connect their contacts to others, and they offer assistance with no expectation of anything in return. Technology makes it super-simple to stockpile “connections,” but be honest with yourself—is this a fun numbers game, or does your network provide true value, both to yourself and to others?
Sometimes, in the push to get things done, or drive more sales, it’s easy to lose sight of networking’s purpose. So when attending networking events or working to build my contact list, I revisit these nuggets each and every time.
What are your networking nuggets?
Revised and updated in 2020