Networking is an extremely beneficial business activity, but most people just hate to do it. In fact, most people will do almost anything to get out of going to a networking event.
It often works like this. For one reason or another, you find yourself going to a networking event. As you walk in the door, you scan the room and realize you don’t know a soul in the room. You look for the bar, thinking a drink might be the best thing. You find something to drink and a place to stand. Eventually someone walks by and you strike up a conversation. You trade business cards and drift apart. This may or may not be repeated. At the end of the evening you may have a small pile of business cards that you toss on the corner of your desk. You wonder if anything will come of the event, and soon it fades from your memory.
You quickly learn that networking is a non-productive way to spend time, and fight vigorously to keep from going to another. And you are correct. Networking in that way is certainly a waste of time.
I know this is how it works because that is exactly the way I started networking.
Why is networking important?
No one individual can know all the answers, or be good at solving every problem, but, a carefully constructed network of friends and associates can. It’s only your network of contacts that will pull you out of trouble when the going gets rough.
Your ability to succeed depends to a very large degree on the rapport you establish with key individuals in your life. Think about that for a bit.
In business networking we are consciously looking to assemble a network of people that can assist us in succeeding in business. In real estate for example, an agent may band together with other agents to help each other with open houses, finding listings, or closing sales. They may also band together with tangential businesses such as lending institutions, title companies, home inspection services, and many others that may be involved in the sale of homes. Together, this group is far stronger then one individual agent.
Types of Networks
We are surrounded by a network of networks in our life. Many of these overlap and some are contained within others. Here are some examples:
� The family network – Our immediate and extended family and perhaps individuals who are not related to us but still are treated like family.
� Some of these people may also be in our social network.
� In our health network we would have our doctors, dentists, chiropractors, dieticians and anyone else who may contribute to our overall well being.
� In on our business network, which overlaps with our financial network we have bankers, insurance agents, and investment counselors and many others.
For most of us these networks grow spontaneously. The point of this article is that when we consciously design and construct these networks for a specific purpose, they will perform better for us.
Benefits to Networking
Here are some examples of the benefits you can get out of networking.
� Genuine friendship – While friendship often results from social networking (happy hour could be one big example), the people you meet at business networking events can also become close friends over time.
� Gathering new ideas and fresh perspectives – Anytime you are exposed to a lot of people you cannot avoid their new ideas and insights on business problems. If you keep an open mind and not dismiss new thought, it can be a very mind broadening experience.
� New job opportunities – Many people only network to find new job opportunities. After all, the best way to find new jobs is to know someone at the company you are interested in. But, as the title of Harvey McKay’s book states, you should “Dig Your Well Before You Are Thirsty.” Don’t wait until you are out on the street to begin your networking. Networking is not an overnight thing.
� Business intelligence – One great way to find out what is going on in your industry is to network at industry functions.
� Sales leads – One of the principle functions of networking is to generate sales leads. This happens slowly at first, since trust has not been established. But, before long, you can see your leads take off.
� Barter – For savvy networkers, barter (direct exchange of goods or service) is a clever way to get rid of unused inventory, or services. You can go through a formal barter service, for third party trades, or just deal directly with a trading partner.
The benefits to networking far outweigh the negatives. It just takes a little skill and understanding.