What’s the one thing that all networking events have in common?
This is a good thing, because people are pretty necessary to the whole networking process. If our purpose is to create long-term, mutually-beneficial, give-and-take relationships, that’s really hard to do without other people to have the relationships with.
So, who might we meet at the next Chamber lunch or Association meeting? Let’s take a look, because the next person to whom we say “hello” could be our next:
- Mentor. Whether it’s formal or informal, whether it’s for the space of this conversation or for the next thirty years, this person might contribute the advice and direction you need to succeed beyond your wildest dreams. They have information and wisdom that they are willing to share, if only you ask.
- Mentee. The flipside of the coin. Maybe they need advice about their business or about who they should meet while they are visiting your group. Or maybe they want to know how to do this who networking thing (because you look like you’ve got it all figured out). At any rate, be willing to share your experience. Your generosity will come back to you.
- Client. You will not sell at the networking event. That’s not a good way to establish relationships. It may happen, though, that someone, upon hearing what you do, may decide they want to buy. It’s rare, but it does happen.
- Supplier. Again, this is the flipside. You may meet someone who can update your logo or your website. Maybe you happen to run into the financial planner you and your spouse have needed or perhaps it’s the contractor who can renovate your home. Whatever it might be, you should be aware of your own needs, just in case.
- Hero. No, not Superman (that would be a superhero). In this case we’re talking about someone you look up to and admire. Maybe they’ve started a movement or stood up for a principle or won the big game. Often they are the reason for the event, but sometimes they might be just another attendee. I experienced this at the National Speakers Association convention when I ran into Bob Burg, one of my personal heroes. It was quite a thrill just to chat with someone whom I hold in such high regard.
- Connector. These are the folks who know everyone there and a lot of other people besides. My friend Cheryl O’Brien of Benz insurance falls into this category. They look for opportunities to bring two interested parties together. If you run into one of these folks, count yourself as fortunate. The more people like this you know, the more powerful your network will become.
- Friend. As with many of the other categories, this isn’t necessarily mutually exclusive of the others. These are the folks who, while they might never be able to budge your bottom line, they are still just good people to know. You can share a coffee or a meal or even just an enjoyable conversation. These are the relationships that make life fun. Of course, just because they are a friend, don’t discount how they might be able to help you in whatever your ultimate goals might be. After all, what are friends for?
- Employee. As the networking starts to pay off for your business in the number of clients that start showing up at your door, you may discover that you don’t have the capacity to take care of everyone. So, what’s the next step? You’ll need someone to help. I’ve noticed a definite increase in the number of event attendees who are currently “in transition”. Even if they can’t fill your needs, there’s a good chance that they’ve met someone else who might.
- Referral Partner. This often happens when you both serve the same target market and don’t compete. Suddenly, you can each keep an eye out for opportunities for the other. Of course, you first have to develop the relationship to a point where you are each comfortable referring the other person. Hint: that’s usually what happens after the event is over.
One of the challenges we face when attending the event is to have our blinders on and be focused entirely on one class of possible connections. In reality, by widening our focus, we may find a potentially beneficial relationship with almost each and every person we meet.
And it’s the relationships that lead to all the other benefits we might hope to gain.
Greg Peters, president and founder of The Reluctant Networker, LLC, is a business networking specialist. He has worked with businesses and associations, entrepreneurs and job-seekers to create a world of better connections and greater opportunity. Find out more at www.TheReluctantNetworker.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
© Copyright 2013, The Reluctant Networker, LLC
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