Businesspeople unfamiliar with referral networking sometimes lose sight of the fact that networking is the means–not the end–of their business-building activities. They attend three, four, even five events in a week in a desperate grasp for new business. The predictable result is that they stay so busy meeting new people that they never have time to follow up and cultivate those relationships–and how can they expect to get new business from someone they’ve only just met? As one of these unfortunates remarked to me, “I feel like I’m always networking but rarely getting anything done.”
I certainly agree that meeting new people is an integral part of networking, but it’s important to remember why we’re doing it in the first place: to develop a professional rapport with individuals that will deepen over time into a trusting relationship that will eventually lead to a mutually beneficial and continuing exchange of referrals.
When meeting someone for the first time, focus on the potential relationship you might form. As hard as it may be to suppress your business reflexes, at this stage you cannot make it your goal to sell your services or promote your company. You’re there to get to know a new person. A friend of mine told me something his dad always said: “You don’t have to sell to friends.” That’s especially good advice when interacting with new contacts.
By Ivan Misner