I don’t consider myself a networking specialist. In fact, I would kind of hate to be viewed that way, or even called “a networker.”
Nonetheless, I find myself in a town where I need to “get out” to get work. I’m in a town where people won’t hire you if they don’t know you. I probably attend at least four or five networking events a week, from coffees to lunches to organized events.
Yet, when it comes to networking and marketing, I would much prefer more collaborative terms: perhaps “socializing” for networking and “attracting followers” for marketing.
Still, networking vs. socializing are more commonly accepted terms.
“Socializing” and “attracting followers” are much closer to what it takes to generate excitement about you and/or your product(s) or service(s), and much closer to your target audience’s need for excitement in order to purchase a product or service.
Case in point.
The other evening I was at a socializing event at which an organizer exclaimed to the entire group, “You know what? It would be great if you could chat with five people you haven’t met before.” Game on.
I was immediately tapped by a Networking Woman who introduced herself and then launched into a monologue about her business. Sure, I asked questions, which kept her fueled. But after 10 minutes or so, she finally came to the realization that I was a human being. “So, what do YOU do?” It felt very wooden.
This isn’t socializing, or even networking. Would you approach someone at a cocktail party and deliver a speech about yourself? (OK, some would.) But, in general, you’d engage, entertain, and have a good time visiting with friends and getting to know new friends. There would be, or ought to be, something new and exciting you learn each time.
The same should be true of business socializing. Business socializing isn’t about “pushing.” It’s about pulling. Attracting people to you and creating a sense of excitement and trust. Otherwise, why talk to people at all?
In an ideal world, Networking Woman might have approached me this way: “Hi! You’re my first of five people to meet tonight. Have you been to these events before?” Or “Do you like meeting new people?” Or “Haven’t they done a great job putting this event together?” In other words, a way to strike up a conversation, not to preface a speech or elevator pitch.
If Networking Woman had done this, we might have had a chance to have a conversation and get to know each other. Sure, eventually she might have asked a question like, “So, have you had good experiences with home inspectors when you’ve bought and sold homes? I’m always interested in how people perceive my business.” (I am replacing her real business with another.)
This kind of question would have drawn me out, and would have engaged me with real memories and feelings. It also would have given Networking Woman some real feedback. As it was, she learned nothing from me.
And, as a result, I can’t even remember her name.