We also get similar questions like; can I Network at a Wedding? In other words, can I Network at a non-business gathering. Before I answer that, let’s look at what Networking is. Our “Focused Networking Workshop” defines Networking as: “The process of building and maintaining personal and professional connections that helps you meet clearly defined and measurable goals and objectives”. Yikes, even though it may be accurate and complete, it really is a very long thought.
I prefer something brief and more personal. My definition of Business Networking is: “Building Business Friendships”. To me, this says it all. People like to do business with friends and that should be what Networking is all about.
So, back to our question, is it OK to Network at non business events, and the answer is a resounding YES! Why? Because Networking is not selling, it is building business friendships and what better way to do that than in relaxed, social situations.
If you are novice Networker, you may be wondering how to go about Networking at a Holiday Party. Let’s look at what makes an expert Networker? After teaching and learning about business Networking for the past 35 years, over and over again, experts exhibit two distinct traits. And these traits can be easily implemented by anyone with a bit of practice.
#1 It’s not WIFM, it’s HCIHU. As human beings we can tend to look at opportunities using the What’s in it for me model. This is valid and important in many of the business decisions we face on a day to day basis. Not so in Networking though. If you remember the “Building Business Friendships” definition of Business Networking”, then the right way is to approach people is with the spirit of: How can I Help You?
For example, you are at your spouse’s company holiday party and you are meeting people there. “What do you do”? A good conversation starter may be; what are you doing for the Holidays? Then just start listening, that is all there is to it. Maybe they are going on a ski vacation and they mention they are having trouble finding the right hotel in Lake Tahoe. Boom! Now you can help them by referring them to a trusted Travel Consultant you know. Or maybe they are lamenting that they may not be able to take a vacation because they don’t have anyone to house sit their dog. Boom! Now you can help them by referring them to your trusted Pet Sitter.
It’s just that easy. Now those two people in our example could become new friends who appreciate you for helping them solve a problem. Sincerity is key, and with that, you are on your way to making many new friendships that you can continue to nurture. Be on the lookout for more on that in a future communication.
#2 Become known as the referral source. When you become known as the person who knows everyone, your friends and colleagues will automatically contact you when they need a product or service. Most of us prefer to do business with a person or company that has been referred or vetted.
It’s not just face to face either, think about how millennials network. They often reference Yelp or Google and find referrals that way. At our Leads Cub meeting just this morning, two people had Leads for their fellow Members from social media resources. One was from Facebook and the other from NextDoor. .
Regardless of your age, as business people today we can successfully network on and offline. If you are serious about Networking it’s critical to embrace both. For the younger ones among us, it may seem strange to talk face to face with strangers. For those not raised with a computer in the palm of their hands since the age of 10, the power of the social media world may not seem as immediately evident.
To wrap up, Networking can be enjoyable and effective when you remember that you are building business friendships. It’s not selling; it’s helping people solve problems. It just feels so good to help our fellow man/woman. Why not be someone’s hero?
Please take a moment and share a networking experience you’ve had in a social situation.
Cheers and Happy Holidays!