Friday, November 14, 2008

More Networking Do's and Dont's - Some anecdotes

Ok, so on November 13th we had our networking event at the Black Bear Saloon. (Blatant promotion: www.ProMetroNet.com). All went very well, and we hit our usual crowd of about 35-40 people. From the feedback I got so far, almost everyone enjoyed it.

However I cannot emphasize enough that there are certain things that one can do to increase the effectiveness of networking. A lot of it has to do with taking the time to get to know someone before shoving a business card down their throat. I see this all too often in networking circles, and while it might garner short term gains, it serves as the antithesis of networking's primary purpose - do develop long-term relationships. In order to do this, one must remove from brain the idea of networking being...gasp...a numbers game.

Moreover, let's face it - in the current economic climate, many are trying to get the word out there in as efficient a manner as possible. Unfortunately, efficiency and effectiveness don't always go together. Stephen Covey writes in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People about how a person in the woods was sawing down a tree, and when someone pointed out to him that he would probably be able to get the tree cut quicker if he sharpened his blade, the man said that he didn't have time for that sort of thing. So I ask you, people who think of networking as a "numbers game"...and I say this with love...if you took the time to get to know us before telling us more about your products or services, do you think you might have receive a more robust response?

Once we as networkers all come to terms with that cold-cock to the brain, it makes life a lot easier when dealing with people. Certainly we need to employ the energy, enthusiasm and hard work to put ourselves in front of suitable potential clients, to get to know them better, and to let them know (in a polite manner) how cool we and our life's work happens to be. BUT, we must always remember that most of our lives don't play out like the New York Stock Exchange, nor does it make it any more enjoyable to conduct oneself in such a manner.

Here are a few quick anecdotes regarding good networking.

My Stepfather Jim Hudick (R.I.P.) from American Management Association was the perfect example of how humans should relate to each other. He was kind, considerate, and most of all took a genuine interest in other people. The funny thing was...he was also kind of quiet. You had to ask questions to learn more about him, but each time you walked away from Jim, you got a really good feeling inside - that he was genuinely interested in you. At his funeral, you should have seen the out pour of emotion for this very fine man, who spent much of his life caring about other human beings.

Vincent Blehl from Green T just gave me a call, and he brought up an excellent point; while you are speaking with people, make mental notes of who in your current circle might be good contacts for him or her. In that way you are an instant service to the person, and although you may not reap the rewards immediately, you can be sure they will appreciate it and perhaps reciprocate in the future. Multiply that by the number of people you meet, and you have built a network of people who want to get to know you better...and are more likely to do business with you.

Kevin Kearsey of Montvale Mortgage saved me last night. While I was doing my 60-second infomercial at the ProMetroNet event, I suddenly paused in a manner worse than when former NY Attorney General Jeannine Pirro announced her run for Senate (“does anyone have page 10?”). Kevin subsequently used a few moments of his own presentation last night to do a quick rescue, endorsing me and letting the audience know that Rockland Web Design is working on his company's new website. Very classy move, Kevin; thank you.

There are so many more points that can be made here, but you're busy. Go back to work - but remember that networking should not just be about you. Remember the other person to whom you speak. If you see eyes roll over or attention wander as you are talking, ask a few questions of the other persons that help you to get to know them better, and don't make it about your product or service. Maybe it should be about the Jets game, or that lovely purse that someone is wearing, or something that makes it more enjoyable to speak with you, and remember you.

And to the number-crunching networkers out there...if you are reading this and think I am trying to offend, please don't feel that way. As a matter of fact I really am trying to help. I truly hope to talk with you again at the next meeting - and here's an icebreaker for you - my favorite band of all time is Led Zeppelin. What's yours? :-)

Tom Ossa
Rockland Web Design
(845) 271 - 4488

P.S. Check out some additional resources:

The Art of Networking - A Tutorial
What Makes Business Networking So Important
Small Businesses Turning to Social Networking

Also, feel free to comment on this article below.

3 comments:

Craig Nugent, DC said...

Tom

I couldn't agree more with your observations. One of the things that I have learned is that we were all created with 2 ears and 1 mouth. The reason....we need to listen twice as much as we talk. Listening and asking really good questions allows you to learn more about others (and if you are in sales - you must know it's all about others!). The more you get to know people, the more you can identify a need and hopefully present yourself (with love and service) as the solution....not because you want the sale, but because you genuinely care about the person and want to help.

Hope this helps....great blog!

Craig T Nugent,DC
New Life Chiropractic
www.ExperienceNewLife.com
845-517-0520

marc said...

Tom, A good friend passed your blog link along dealing with social networking. I found your analysis to be right on target. As a LinkedIn user I note those who have over several hundred connections. This flies in the face of logic for me. How much attention or interaction can an individual devote.
I am a recently out of work technology management consultant and during these times I have gone back into networking, more actively than I feel comfortable doing; as I had been employed for many years and opps found me; no longer the case.

Like your blog!! Will check in every so often.

Marc Hurst
845 942 8254

Tom from Rockland Web Design said...

Marc,

Thanks for your comments. Yes I sometimes scratch my head when I see so many friends on a single individual's network...especially when the real core of social networking has to do primarily with relationship building.

One time a good friend of mine had a contest where we could see how many friends we could make on MySpace in a week's time. (I know MySpace is sooo 2005) After we accomplished our supposed goal, we realized that we didn't know what to do with these people, because we had nothing that connected us, save for a relational database that was used by MySpace to associate us with those people. In short...now what?

The answer to quantity vs. quality question is one that must be addressed before any in-depth networking can take place; online or offline. I feel quality is more important - from this quantity follows. Therefore I would suggest to do the following:

Week 1: Spend a week on either LinkedIN or Facebook, and learn more about what the friends in your circle have as interests...hobbies, sports, favorite movies, etc. Try to devote 1/2 hour a day.

Week 2: Communicate back with these same people regarding any similarities you may have in common. Just leave little comments. Don't talk business. Just be interested in them as humans. Just a 1/2 hour a day.

Week 3: Continue to leave comments, and every once in a while add a small mention of your core competencies (but don't call them "core competencies") so that people know you a little better. Keep it at 1/2 hour a day.

Week 4: Check your return commentary. You'll see people will now be observing your profile more often. Analytics and stats will help you with this endeavor. I recommend Google Analytics depending on the Social Network you are using. Resist the urge to spend more than a 1/2 hour a day. Trust me you'll know by the end of week 4. :-)

Now that you've gotten an interchange going, set a strict schedule of 1/2 a day (at a specific time) just going to people's profiles and commenting on their interests.

It sounds so simple, but it very much emulates the words of Dale Carnegie, who famously stated "...if you would win a man to your cause, first convince him that you are his (or her) sincere friend." It is so true. I was fortunate to have a living, breathing example of such a man; my late Stepfather was always more interested in other people. He was loved for this quality...and he benefited in his business life as well.

In conclusion, begin first with learning more about your friends. Talk with them about them. Add some information about yourself when appropriate, and maintain a good dialogue. Finally, set a fairly rigid schedule to ensure you don't neglect the other components of your business. If you follow this formula, you should see some logical patterns to your online and offline social interactions.

Incidentally, we'll be posting once a week now, so feel free to subscribe or check back regularly. And please pass the word along.

Very Sincerely,

Tom Ossa
Rockland Web Design
(845) 271 - 4488