Business Networking

 You’ve heard it over and over. The only way to land that job, secure that next deal, get that promotion is through networking. We’re not talking about impersonal social networking.  No sir-ree!  We’re talkin’ honest to God sit across from that person and look ‘im in the eye and actually have a face-to-face conversation. Scared yet?

Well you’ll have to master the art of face-to-face business networking and that comes through actually getting out there and doing it. Don’t fret, it gets easier after the first time. However there can be some unpleasant moments along the way. What follows are three scenarios from my own experiences (1) My worst experience (2) what I learned to improve my approach, and (3) what I think makes an expert networker.

I hope you find something you can use in your networking activities!

My Worst Experience in the History of Business Networking

Last year a former colleague of mine resurfaced after “going dark” for several years (i.e. not responding to emails, etc); he had just been laid off from a major investment advisory firm.  I welcomed the opportunity to reconnect and share with him my seven-year journey from corporate employee to independent consultant. After a lengthy telephone conversation, we agreed to meet a local hotel well-known for its business breakfasts.  I shared an idea I was developing for an advisory service targeting Information Technology executives, which intrigued my colleague; without thinking I also gave him a copy of a presentation I developed.  After kicking the idea around for the better part of an hour, he offered to work on the idea with me with the goal of pitching it to executives in our industry. The first clue that something was amiss was when he asked me not to bring anyone else into our team and rather than both of us meet again to develop the business plan, he’d rather I send him a copy for his review.  My would-be partner did not do a very good job of concealing the one-sidedness of his approach and after we exchanged goodbyes I decided not to initiate further contact. Within a week or so, I received an email from him saying he “decided to try going it alone”. A few days later I had lunch with another colleague who mentioned that my would-be “partner” had pitched my idea to him!

What I Learned from my early experiences

What I learned in those early days after leaving the corporate world was that a successful networker must adopt a “servant-leadership” attitude. In other words, I’d approach any networking meeting with asking myself “what can I do to help this person”.  I go in to a meeting expecting nothing more than to enjoy a healthy discussion about each of our experiences, and perhaps to see where each of our areas of specialization can be of help and whether we might have contacts in our respective networks that might be of use.

I found that the servant-leadership approach produced unexpected increase in the number of productive business contacts. I found that even individuals who were never particular helpful when we worked together, became an amazing source of networking contacts and ideas.  I think when you approach people transparently by sharing your experiences and expectations and taking the time to understand their situation, they will react in kind. You will often leave these meetings with your expectations exceeded and with a PDA full of new contacts! 

How to stand out as a great networker and useful business contact

An outstanding networker in my mind has the following attributes:

  1. Is interested in my situation and goals
  2. Does not engage in horse-trading of his contacts for mine, i.e. will be perfectly happy to share contacts even if none of mine have any value to him.
  3. Always follows up on any promises made and never makes promises that can’t be kept.
  4. Is not judgmental
  5. Is respectful of my time and privacy

One Response to “Business Networking”

  1. Business Writers Says:

    I personally like your post; you have shared good insights and experiences. Its sounds exciting and it will really help me a great deal.

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