Monday, February 15, 2016

Avoid Becoming a Super Networker!

If you spend any time networking, I’ll venture to bet that you’ve met Super Networker or at least some variation of her (or him for that matter).  She moves faster than a speeding bullet, can leap over tables to get to the other side of the room and can collect more business cards in one hour than the average person!  Super Networker even has x-ray vision enabling her to see through the invisible wall you try to erect between you and her.

Can you picture a time you met Super Networker?  I can and in my case it was a woman.  I remember it quite vividly and specifically how she made me feel.

It was a cold day in January and I was attending a breakfast business mixer.  As I was talking to Karen, the hostess of the event, a mild mannered woman approached me.  She seemed innocent enough but yet had a look of intention.  She was intent on saying something to one or both of us at that very moment.

She introduced herself … let’s call her Clara to conceal her true identity.  After Clara introduced herself, she asked the quintessential networking question, “So what do you do?”  Briefly, I said something like, “I help business owners to practice more effective networking skills”.  Before Karen could say anything, Clara excitedly replied, “I’m really good at networking!  I’ve been doing it for a long time!”  The door was open … so I went in and asked, “What do you do that makes you so good?”

I waited anxiously to hear a nugget of advice from a true professional.  Little did I know that in front of me stood, Super Networker!  Instead, this is what she said, “Well, first I go to an event with a friend.  Then, we enter the room and size it up.  We draw an imaginary line down the center of the room.  Typically, my friend takes the left side of the room and I take the right side.  We agree to meet back in the same location to compare how many business cards we have collected in one hour to see who wins for that day!  The loser usually treats the other one to lunch while we review our stash.  It’s so much fun!  I find it’s a great way to get my cards out to so many people and to add so many new people to my data base!”

At this point, I wasn’t quite sure how to respond, so I said, “Wow!  [probably with a look of utter shock on my face] How does that work for you?”  I asked.  “Great,” she said.  “I’ve been doing it for years.  Isn’t that what networking is all about?”

Super Networker strikes again … and not in a good way!  Unfortunately, this is what a lot of people believe networking to be.  To them, networking is about collecting business cards to increase the number of contacts they have in their data base in order to spam them at a later date.

In reality, networking is about developing strong relationships that can turn into significant connections for your business.  Strong relationships don’t happen through a flighty exchange of business cards followed by an unwelcome spam attack.  Networking does not include selling.  When the Super Networker was pushing her business card into the pockets of innocent bystanders, and collecting others at a rampant pace, she was fully in the mindset of sales.  She intended to sell herself to anyone who would make eye contact.  This mindset unfortunately repels people, creating the invisible wall with a neon sign that says, “Go away!”

There are four simple rules to follow so that you don’t transform into a Super Networker:

Rule #1 - Only give your business card to someone who has asked for it.

Rule #2 - Practice the mindset of “giving” rather than “selling” at networking events.

Rule #3 - Never try to meet everyone in the room … you can’t do it and keep your dignity.  Focus on meeting five new people and spend enough time with them to begin forming a relationship.

Rule #4 - Never add anyone to your database unless they have given you permission.

If you practice these four rules at each networking event you attend, you can feel safe that your reputation will be intact when you leave, if not enhanced.  You’ll have successfully avoided becoming a Super Networker!

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