Do you know that you can network anywhere? Networking at non-traditional networking settings can be very beneficial. One reason is because not very many people think of it. You typically have the field to yourself, with many opportunities to develop strong and lasting relationships with potential referral partners.
Start with Person-to-Person
One type of a non-traditional networking setting is a party. Everyone goes to different types of parties throughout the year; holiday parties and other social mixers bring ample opportunities to network.
Some people consider this a strange idea as they think of a boorish person selling time-shares to their aunt and uncle at their grandparent’s 50th wedding anniversary or someone trying to drum up business at a funeral. But networking is not just trying to sell something, nor is it only about passing business referrals.
It is about building meaningful relationships and social capital. Master networkers understand this, which is why they are always networking.
It’s All About Relationships
Think about it – you’re already in a relationship with everybody you know. The question is: how far along has that relationship developed? Looking at it within the VCP Process® we can ask ourselves these questions.
Is it a relationship of visibility, in which you know each other but haven’t had any business dealings?
Is it in the credibility stage, in which you’ve interacted with each other enough that a degree of mutual trust has been established?
Or has it deepened over time to the point of profitability, where both parties receive mutual benefits as a result of assistance, business referrals, or other interactions?
Nowadays, it’s easy to lose that personal touch when so much of our communication is done electronically through email and text. Yet the fact is most relationships develop through one-to-one interactions, and they get stronger every time we meet face to face. Parties and other non-networking events are when we are more likely to see people in a social setting, and these settings certainly lend them self to building relationships.
However, there are important things to remember when you’re networking at any event.
Ask Others, “How Can I Help?”
Having a Givers Gain® attitude is the number one rule to remember. We should always be thinking: How can I help this person? Many of us know this and attempt to apply it to our relationships, yet we are more inclined to do it instinctively with those people with whom we are in the profitability category. How can we apply it to the relationships that are in the visibility and credibility categories?
At a social event, we usually ask somebody, “How’s it going?” What is their typical reply? Something like, “Great, things couldn’t be better.” That’s an automatic response that people give because they want to be polite and because they think that nobody really wants to hear their troubles. But that standard answer they give is not usually the whole truth.
Things can always be better. There are surely ways you can help—however, most people are not inclined to go into detail or let others know what’s going on, especially at a social event. The best way to find out is to avoid generalities like “How are things?” and ask more specific questions.
One time when I was having a conversation with someone, I asked them how things were going and got the standard answer that things were great, the company was expanding, and business was better than expected. My next question was “Are you hitting all of your goals?” Their answer: Yes, the business was exceeding all its goals by a large margin.
Sounds like this person didn’t need any help, right? On the contrary: to me it sounded like a big opportunity. Think about it, here was a company that was expanding faster than the owner projected. What kind of help might it need?
Many consider networking just another way to get clients, but when you think in terms of building relationships, a chance to help is a BIG opportunity. That help can be provided in many different forms, each as valuable as the next.
In this case I was able to make some introductions that the individual was very grateful for. But it was only after getting past the generalities that I was able to figure out their specific needs.
When you are networking successfully at a non-networking event, people won’t even know it. That’s because you are genuinely looking for ways that you can help others, and your concern for the person you’re talking with is apparent. People who are networking exclusively for their own personal gain come across as shallow and insincere.
A good networker doesn’t have to attempt sincerity. They really care about making connections for others, not just for themselves. Some people are so accomplished and successful at networking that they are able to network virtually anywhere. They find that people are receptive to them using an opportunity to share information that will benefit others, even when that exchange takes the form of a business card at a cultural celebration.
Honor the Event
This one should really be a no-brainer, and yet we all know some overzealous business people who trawl the room at a party in pursuit of a sale, any sale. They may do the same, although less blatantly, at family gatherings and other social events. This is the exact opposite of what business networking is all about. Remember, relationships are the name of the game. Social events are a great place to get visibility and credibility, so focus on building those aspects of relationships.
Your networking must be different in a chamber of commerce meeting compared to a social event. In both cases you want to be making contacts, connecting people with each other, helping others, and building relationships. You should NOT be actively promoting your business at a non-business event. Honor the event and tailor your networking strategies so that you fit in without being tuned out.
Networking is a Lifestyle
Networking is a lifestyle that can be incorporated into everything that you do. Since one should always be working on building meaningful relationships with other people, they should always be networking. However, that doesn’t mean one should always be trying to “sell” something to somebody, because that rarely facilitates the development of meaningful relationships.
Remember, business networking means developing relationships, and ALL events, including social gatherings, family get-togethers, and holiday parties are filled with opportunities to help others. And helping others provides the opportunity to build and strengthen relationships.
Do you have a success story about networking at a non-networking event?
I’d like to hear about it in the comments section.