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Friday, February 18, 2011

NETWORKING LIKE A PRO: The Networking Disconnect

Networking Like A Pro with Dr. Ivan Misner

I was at a networking event in Europe last year where more than 500 people were in attendance. The speaker who was on stage just prior to my presentation asked the audience: “How many of you came here hoping to do some business today–maybe even make a sale?” The overwhelming majority of the people in the audience raised their hands. He then asked, “How many of you are here hoping to buy something today?” No one raised a hand—not one single person!

This is the networking disconnect.

If you are going to networking events hoping to sell something, you are dreaming. Do not confuse direct selling with networking. Effective networking is about developing relationships. I know, I know . . . there is always someone out there who says, “But, Ivan, I’ve made a sale by attending a networking event!” Okay . . . I am not saying it doesn’t ever happen—it does. I am just saying it happens about as often as a solar eclipse. Face it, even a blind squirrel can find a nut. Any businessperson can stumble on some business at a networking meeting from time to time. However, when you have most of the people at an event trying to sell something and virtually no one there to buy something, you are crazy if you think the odds are in your favor to “sell” at a networking event.

So why go to a networking meeting? You go because networking is more about farming than it is about hunting. It is about developing relationships with other business professionals. It is not about ‘direct selling.’ This means you need to move the relationship through the VCP Process®. Visibility leads to credibility which, with time and effort, leads to profitability.

With many people, there seems to be a significant disconnect between intent and reality relating to people’s expectations at a networking event. This kind of disconnect leads to poor results, which then leads people to exclaim that “networking doesn’t work.” Well, from what I’ve experienced myself over the past the past twenty six years, along with the results I’ve witnessed with hundreds of thousands of people around the world – networking works just fine. However, one’s intention must be in alignment with the reality of the particular circumstances. If nobody at an event is looking to buy something and you are there trying to sell something – you have a disconnect. If you are there to meet people and move through the relationship networking process, then your intention and the reality of the situation are more likely to be in alignment.

Sometimes you go to a networking event to increase your visibility and to connect with people you have never met, sometimes you go to establish further credibility with people you know, and sometimes you may even go to meet a long-time referral partner and do some business. In any case, the true master networkers know that networking events are about moving through the relationship process and not just about closing deals.

I had someone recently say to me, “I’m still amazed at the number of people I run into at networking events that still don’t understand it’s not a sales event, it’s a networking event! They come to the event, try to sell, don’t get any sales, and then they’re disappointed!”

Another person told me that “There is a great opportunity to be found in connecting with people and getting to know them. We need to start seeing each other as interesting human beings as opposed to a potential sale!”

I find it ironic that so many people are disconnected relating to a process that is supposed to be all about becoming connected.

There is a paradigm shift that needs to take place before you can make your networking efforts work. That shift is to move from a ‘direct sales’ mentality to a ‘relationship networking’ mentality. If you go to networking events looking to meet new people and move through the relationship process with people that you meet and get to know, then you are working the process correctly.

Here are five things to remember when attending networking events:
  1. Don’t go there to sell, go there to connect.

  2. Have some meaningful conversations with people you meet.

  3. Follow up with people you found interesting or who you can help in some way. Don’t follow up to sell them something.

  4. Meet these people in a one-to-one setting, learn more about them, and ask them: “how can I help you?”

  5. Go for the long-term relationship, not the short sale.
Remember, networking is more about farming than it is about hunting. So, the next time you go to a networking meeting, think about how many people are there to ‘buy’ something. Then, remember to stop ‘selling’ and start networking.

Called the "father of modern networking" by CNN, Dr. Ivan Misner is a New York Times bestselling author. He is the Founder and Chairman of BNI, the world's largest business networking organization. His newest book, Networking Like a Pro, can be viewed at Dr. Misner is also the Sr. Partner for the Referral Institute, an international referral training company.

For more information, please visit Ivan's TNNWC Bio.

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