In the previous post I talked about how easy it is to get lost in the networking shuffle. Like technology, the abundance (and diversity) of networking opportunities has left my head spinning. There was a time when I might attend 3-4 events each week. I got so caught up in it I figured that not being there was a negative reflection on me and my commitment to being in business.
I do believe in building and maintaining relationships, but for all the time spent building I could have devoted a considerable amount of time growing as well. I started to feel as if I am missing something and maybe you have too. It all comes down to intention; said another way- why am I networking in the first place?
For the majority of business folks the easy answer is I network to get more business (e.g. clients, sales). If this is the intent of our networking there are two approaches that we may employ, either alone or in combination.
With the relationship approach we promote appeal and attraction; we seek to galvanize and sustain our reach and hold over our clients and prospects. It is not so much about our products and services, it is about the relationship between us and our clients and prospects. Maintaining a sincere connection to these people and building their trust is a vital part of our plan.
The sales approach places the emphasis on the goods/services themselves. It is ultimately our goods and services that will be purchased so we must find a way to ensure that clients and prospects know what we have for sale.
When viewed in light of the traditional definition of networking- [the process or practice of building up or maintaining informal relationships, especially with people whose friendship could bring advantages such as job or business opportunities] it would appear that the sales approach puts us at somewhat of a disadvantage. In practice however it is as much a part of networking as the relationship approach. There is no right or wrong way- in fact a hybrid approach is the most useful.
The key to successful networking is to be clear on your intentions and to be familiar with the approach that serves you best. Establishing your intention is the foundation upon which successful networking is built. In the next post I will look at various networking venues and media formats.