Monday, January 30, 2012

How Important is Showing Up?

Woody Allen once said that “80% of success is showing up.” Given the alternative, the same could be said of business networking. You can’t succeed if you don’t engage.

We’ve all had times when we struggle to find the motivation to attend networking events. You’ve had a long day at work and the drive to your house is about the same distance as the drive to the evening event. In the afternoon leading up to the event, you find yourself beginning to form the “why you didn’t show up” excuse...”you had another event,” “you had to work late,” or “some friends unexpectedly came in from out of town.”

When you don’t show up, how may new relationships do you begin?
Not many. How much does your knowledge expand? Not much. How many like minded people who will inspire you do you meet? Not many. How much do you grow and get closer to the goals that you’ve set? Not much.

Showing up is fundamental to networking success. Expand your comfort zone, engage new and interesting people, and take a great step towards achieving your important goals.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

How is Networking Like the Card Game Memory?

Do you remember the card game Memory?

A deck of 52 cards is laid face down on a table and the game is to flip two cards over at a time to see if you can find a match. If no match is found then the two cards are returned to the face down position and the next player takes a turn to see if they can make a match. Each match that you make is worth a point. The winner is the person who makes the most matches.

So how is this like networking? Well, what level of knowledge do you have about the value of each card at the beginning of a game of Memory? Absolutely none, right? Sounds just like entering a room full of people who you don’t know or entering a new community.

Success isn't built by what you get, rather it is what you give that builds your value. Making matches in networking happens when you engage with and learn about the people you meet and then connect them to people who they would likely benefit from knowing. You gain points, goodwill, when you make valuable matches for both parties.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Big Challenge #3: Most Networking is Random

Compass & Map

Last week you will remember that we discovered how to overcome networking’s second major challenge by moving relationships from superficial to intimate.

When you get in your car and pull out of the driveway, how frequently do you know where you’re going to stop? If you’re like most people, your answer is 95% or more. Many of the first borns respond 100%. If you don’t normally get into your car and drive around aimlessly, then why would you be so random when you network?

When you have a destination you are empowered. Think about what you do before you get into your car. You take time to get turn-by-turn directions or use a GPS to make sure that you travel the quickest and best route. This is certainly not random.

Successful networking takes focus. The move from random to focused requires that you identify the key people in a group who are your potential centers of influence. Normally only 5-10% of the people in any group are centers of influence for a given individual. The power of this realization is critical. By applying this principle, you can shrink a room of 100 people down to a room of 5-10 people in a minute.

When you do this you will move from waiting to win the lottery to having the golden ticket!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Big Challenge #2: Most Networking is Superficial

Last week you will remember that we discovered how to overcome networking's biggest challenge: inefficiency.

Welcome to part two of a three part series about the major challenges in business networking and what you should do to overcome them.

Most networking today is superficial. The process of people getting together on a weekly or monthly basis does not generally lead to meaningful relationships. When our knowledge of each other does not extend beyond the 2 to 5 minutes that we spend with any individual at an event, then our relationship never really has the opportunity to mature. The barrier to passing higher quality contacts or advocated introductions is the absence of real knowledge of and trust in the competencies of others. Unfortunately, these brief interludes do not lead to the depth of knowledge or intimacy needed.

Would you jeopardize your best and most coveted relationships by connecting people who you barely know? 

So what’s the cure? Go beyond your name tag understanding and pick one or two people to meet with after each event. These are not sales meetings, so look for people whose products and services are complimentary to yours and learn about them. Get to know their background, what they’re doing now, and what their goals are. The more that you invest in learning about and helping these people the more you will begin moving your networking relationships from superficial to intimate.

As intimacy is built you will gain momentum not only from how the contacts that you are making help you, but also from what the community buzz is about you. If you invest in others the community will invest in you.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Big Challenge #1: Most Networking is Inefficient

Dead End

Last week you will recall that we identified the three stakeholders in networking: the person with the Problem, the person with the Solution, and the person the Connects them.

Welcome to part one of a three part series about the major challenges in business networking and what you should do to overcome them.

Most networking is inefficient because most business people are focused on passing leads. You know what this looks like, you have a friend who is looking to build their business (Solution) and you (Connector) open your database and pass them a few names of people who might be interested in buying (“Problem”). The word “Problem” is in quotes because we perceive that these valuable contacts from our database might have a problem that this friend of ours can solve. So what happens, our valuable contact gets a call from someone that they don’t know about something that they don’t perceive that they need. It’s a dead end! The worst part about this is that our name was used to make the connection. Ouch!

The inefficiency can degenerate further…A few years back, on my way into a networking meeting; I observed something that shocked me. It was the groups weekly early morning meeting and were at the normal restaurant. The group had a rule that compelled each member to bring at least  three leads each week for other members of the group and to distribute the leads at the meeting. So what did I observe…On the way into the restaurant I just happened to be following another member who as they were passing the business card fish bowl at the cash register reached in and retrieved the leads that they would be passing out. Why bother to network if this is what you’re going to do. You might as well open up the phone book and start dialing…it is just as efficient. Another dead end!

Each of us has invested too much time in our communities to have our reputation squandered by making poor introductions.

So how do we turn this runaway train around and make networking efficient? It is really very simple, stop passing leads! Focus on finding out what problems exist. Become interested in those people in that database of yours. Find out how they’re challenged, what their hopes are, and what problems they are looking to solve. When they disclose a gap and before you introduce a Solution ask them, “is that something that you’re looking for help with?”

Networking becomes very easy and efficient when we are Problem centered.