Humans crave connections. We don’t do well alone. While there are several movies dealing with the effects of isolation on the human mind they are not entirely based on fiction. Several psychological studies show that loneliness is harmful to our physical and mental health. If humanity does not do well with isolation why do we think that our businesses can survive in isolation? We know we need customers but oftentimes as business owners, we don’t know how or where to connect. This is why there are benefits to networking in your community. Do you attend your local Chamber of Commerce, Small Business Association or some local networking groups? If you are not seeing any benefits to your networking efforts perhaps it is time to look at how you are networking.
3 Things Networking is Not…
Networking is not about you selling your goods or services. At least, not in a networking group meeting. One of your goals for a networking meeting should be to make connections. It should not be to sell anything to another member. Now if you are talking to an exterminator and you have a mosquito-infested pond near your home or office, by all means, mention to him that you would love to hire him to spray it.
2. Free Food
What do you do when you get to an event? You grab a drink and a snack and then sit in a corner playing with your smartphone. Or do you sit in the same spot talking to the same people every time? Put down the phone and the food; talk to someone new.
3. All About You
Don’t spend all your time talking about yourself. Ask questions about other people. Listen to what is going on with those you meet at an event. Find ways to help others in the networking group. Give referrals and don’t focus on how many refer people to you. By showing interest in someone else you may do more than build a network. You may just make a new friend.
3 Ways to Network…
Come into a networking event with a goal. It is not necessarily a numbers game (meet 10 new people, 10 referrals, 10 business cards given or gained). Instead, seek meaningful interactions. If you meet one new connection and make the conversation about more than their name and occupation, that’s a start. Seek to know not just facts and figures but people. Ask questions and show genuine interest. People are interesting. You never know what you might learn.
Proverbs 18:24 says, “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly” It is true. You will make more friends, more true connections if you show a willingness to connect and share. Be willing to host networking events, offer to help out with an event, or offer to help clean up after an event. Don’t do it in a showy way though. Just quietly offer, like a friend, not someone out to get something out of it. If you do this out of a real desire to be friendly and helpful it will help you connect even more.
3. Aiding Community
In addition to your official networking events, your charitable efforts within your community are opportunities to connect with others. From a business standpoint, every interaction with another business or with the public is an opportunity to connect. Your connecting to others is not just for your business but also for you personally as well. Growing your own community of friends will ultimately help you in your life as well as your business.