Let’s face it, networking is about…. you. Yet, that’s the problem. Every day, millions of business seekers go to networking events with one thing in mind: themselves. Don’t feel guilty; it’s totally natural. It’s also counterproductive. While you shouldn’t apologize for being a product of your baser (and selfish) instincts, you need to be aware of them when networking for new business.
Does that mean you are destined to be a self-centered, one-way, “What’s in It for Me” sponge? No! Here is some advice on how to manage it: Be Self-Aware, then Selfless, then Selfish.
Never walk into an event or enter into a business relationship without knowing what you want from it. That is not being cold and impersonal. That is being realistic. Although most people think this way, not all will admit it. It is smart business because you need a plan. This is something you need to know before you begin networking.
You really need to think about, and fully understand, what your specific target market actually is. Does the person you’re speaking to in a meeting represent your target market? Do they have the ability to connect with people who can get you to your target market? Understanding yourself and your business, and what you want out of your networking efforts, is critical to being self-aware.
This is what most of us were taught while growing up. Now that you’ve determined what it will take to grow your business, it’s time to motivate your potential referral sources to think of you when they hear of someone with a need for your products and services. The only way this will happen is if you are genuinely interested in the people you talk to and interact with.
Have you ever had a conversation with someone who hung on every word you said while making spectacular eye contact? Then every time you met them later, they did it again. Have you met someone like that? You can be like that, too. Strive to be more interested than interesting as you build business relationships.
Some people are probably anxious for a couple of reasons. Some people are anxious about time. “I am networking, I want to get business.” Others may feel, “Givers gain. It’s not about being selfish.” A little bit of constructive selfishness is good.
Have you ever given a lot of business to someone and received nothing in return? If you know what you want from that relationship and you have invested social capital into it – you’ve helped them, supported them, been there for them, then examine the reasons why that person is not reciprocating. Perhaps you haven’t taken the time to properly educate them. Do they understand what kind of referrals you would like, of what quality, how many, and how you want to be introduced? Your referral partner may want to help you and they need to know how. So, arrange a time to meet with them and provide them with the information they need to start sending business your way.
There is a rhythm to the relationship process. Ask yourself the question, “Does my business rely on referrals?” If the answer is “yes,” then understand that referrals come from people. Referral marketing, unlike any other form of lead generation, is 100 percent reliant on other people to be successful. So why put forth the effort? The answer lies in a survey conducted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce several years ago. Nationwide, business owners responded that while they closed only 2 percent of cold calls, 75 to 85 percent of referrals resulted in closed business. That makes referrals worth pursuing, worth having a system to go after them, and worth learning how to motivate people to give them to you.
Cultivating referrals takes time, patience, and a commitment to the process. Are you willing to make that investment in your business relationships? Be Self-Aware – what do you want to get out of your networking efforts? Be Selfless – how do you help others? Be Selfish – it is okay to think about yourself as you are investing in others. It is okay to ask for help to make your networking efforts worthwhile.