Trey McAlister, a certified trainer/coach with the Referral Institute and a BNI director in Northern California, was commenting to me the other day on a huge BFO (Blinding Flash of the Obvious) he had about how and why professionals often become disillusioned with networking. Trey said he realized that many professionals go into networking events ignoring one of the principal “commandments” of networking, either by having the wrong goal in mind or not having one at all, and they therefore end up leaving disappointed. It is extremely important to set a goal before you go into a networking event to give yourself a sense of purpose and direction.
Now, another thing that Trey and I both know is that the two main reasons people might not enjoy networking events are that they 1) feel like everyone is trying to sell them (which many times may be true) and 2) they go to the event hoping to find either hot prospects or a bona fide client. The problem is that when you combine numbers one and two, it creates a recipe for discomfort and dissatisfaction. Trey pointed out that if people actually take to heart the definition of networking I suggested awhile back, “Networking is helping others as a way of growing your business,” they would go into and come out of networking events with better focus and have a much better and more productive time.
When Trey mentions this BFO in presentations, he reminds members of his audience that if they are truly “business” networking, then goals are a must. “Whether it is the number of people you want to meet or the types of people you want to include in your ‘contact sphere,’ ” he says, “you will be more productive and satisfied with your efforts if you set a goal.” Also, if you make sure to focus on others and not on yourself when you participate in networking events, you will be paving the way to start building relationships, you won’t appear to be selling, and you will be more enjoyable to talk to.
One of the last things Trey mentioned was something he said he remembered from being mentored by Tom Fleming (master trainer for the Referral Institute). Tom taught him to always go into mixers with the business networking attitude as opposed to the social networking attitude. If you go into a mixer ready to socialize or chat, you might as well leave the business networking for another time. By deciding to go into a mixer with a business networking attitude, you’ll undoubtedly improve your chances not only of feeling more satisfied when you leave, but also of having a happy networking experience.