For the most part, networking for different people means different things. For some, it is about building relationships with a view to doing business in the future. For others, it is about selling their product or services – quickly. Some, on the other hand, use networking to be able to buy whatever product or services that they need in order for their businesses to run smoothly and for a very select few it is about being a “Connector”.
Part of me being a natural networker is that I am a natural Connector. Connectors are people who do not only attend networking meetings to build relationships, to sell their products, to buy another’s products or even to have a few drinks or a coffee with someone, they like to match people up. They like to introduce people to one another.
Thursday is my networking meeting day. It is the day that I sit, from around 9.00 am to around 4 pm at “my office” at a coffee shop and I meet with people all day long. These are the people that I have met briefly at a networking event, be it at the Inner Circle, or Business Engage, a Business Masters gathering, Rachel’s Conversations that Matter or indeed, even someone that I have met on Facebook or LinkedIn. I allocate an hour for each person – some take longer, some don’t need the whole hour and strangely enough, some don’t even pitch at all!
I listen to their stories, and am often amused by the fact that many arrive at the meeting and they have no clue as to why they are there! All they know is that I have phoned them up, booked an appointment to see them (sometimes as much as 3 months in advance), confirmed the appointment the day before it has to take place, and now they are here! To them, I say – Well Done!
I digress – so I listen to their stories, try and understand what it is that they do in their business, who they need to ‘connect’ with and why. As they talk I make notes and ask questions in order to understand something in a few minutes, that they have sometimes built up over months and years. As I make notes and ask questions about the target market and the like, my mind wanders through my database and the kind of people that they should be connecting with. I start off by industry and then work on the individual in that industry.
For example, if I am talking to someone in the printing industry (yes I know we all need business cards, but there is just so much more to printing), my natural reaction would be to put them in touch with all the Training people (training manuals, course material – presentations and the like), all the Event Marketing people (banners, corporate gifts and the like), Team Building people (course material, manuals, banners), Advertising and Marketing people (corporate gifts, brochures etc) and of course the Corporate Gift people ( pens, t-shirts and the rest of the paraphernalia, that goes with that). Sure, if I hear of someone who needs to have their Business Cards printed I will send them along to you too!
Whilst listening to your story and asking the questions that I ask, I may also understand that you may have a problem somewhere in your business. You may be experiencing difficulty with your financials and may be looking to outsource your Bookkeeping functions or you may be needing someone to help you with your frustrating IT problems, or you may be battling to get the right staff – whatever that problem is, I have no doubt, that somewhere in my database there will be someone who I can refer to you to be of assistance to you. Even if they are not in my direct database, I can go to Business Masters, Inner Circle, Business Engage, or Every Woman and ask for assistance. Somewhere, someone knows somebody who knows somebody else, who knows or who can refer me to someone who knows who you need to help you with whatever problem it is that you have.
Hence the saying “There are no problems, just opportunities!” Your problem is someone else’s opportunity!
When I am connecting people (and believe me when I say it isn’t just at my Thursday meeting that this happens), I am in my element – this is the world that I love. Why you may ask, well it’s because I can add value to the people in my database (or network) by moving them from one contact to another. In this way, the networks of all the different contacts ‘cross pollinate’ so to speak and in so doing I add value to myself and also grow my Network.
You see my networking isn’t just a matter of you helping me right now or of you selling me something right now, it’s about finding synergies, from the people that I have known for years and the new people that I am meeting right now. It’s about bringing the ‘old’ and the ‘new’ together so that they can do business together.
It’s about building credible relationships, not only between myself and the new people that I meet but also between the new people that I meet and the people that I have known for years.
So what does networking mean to you?