What is an Active Networker vs. a Passive Networker?

I once had a conversation with a businesswoman who was fairly new to business networking. I was explaining that networking is a contact sport – it requires people to get out there and actively and strategically build relationships. At one point she asked, “Well, what exactly does that involve? . . . What defines ‘active’ networking?”

This is a really great question because it opens up a discussion about what it means to be an ‘active’ networker, and also what it means to be a ‘passive’ networker.

Active Networking

Actively networking with others means you invite those people to one or more of the networking organizations you belong to; you carry several of their business cards with you all the time; and above all, you refer them to others whenever you have an opportunity to do so. Active networking also means having a reciprocal relationship with the people in your network.

Think about it – we prefer doing business with people who do business with us. Why give your business to someone who’s not willing to return the favor? There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of competent, dependable business professionals in your area who provide any given product or service. They don’t have to buy something from you to reciprocate. They can join one of your networking groups, carry your business cards, or simply refer you to people looking for your product or service.

Passive Networking

Passively networking with others means that you use them as a resource occasionally but for some reason cannot actively network with them. It may be because they represent a narrow market where you have no way of assisting. Perhaps they’ve told you they’re not interested in participating in any networking organizations. Maybe they’re located too far away to refer to them regularly.

With this understanding of the difference between active networking and passive networking, you can strengthen your networking strategy in these two ways.

  1.  Identify the people who are members of your information, support, and referral network components.
  2.  Look for the voids and weaknesses in your network, and work to improve and fill them with valuable members.

Now that you know the difference between active vs. passive networking, I recommend that you strengthen your networking strategy by pinpointing one person this week with whom to actively and strategically build a stronger professional relationship. What can you do to begin to form a connection with them? I welcome your comments.

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