What is Networking?

September 4, 2007 at 9:12 am | Posted in Networking | 5 Comments

The Fall “networking season” is upon us with evites to events, seminars, summits and more. But really, what is networking? I’ve been told that I am an excellent networker because I am pretty much always looking to connect people, be they clients, prospects, vendors, friends, relatives and so on. But then, I always did this, way before the term networking hit our consciousness and became some sort of business building mantra.

I know that many people think they’re good networkers, but in actuality, they are not. I know this because they admit to looking at connections in an entirely linear manner and do not see the advantages in “circular” introductions. They are comfortable when there is a short-term “need” and then they can make an introduction or referral if you will. It is when the need is not clearly defined and more creativity is called for that they back off and do not engage in the networking dance.

There are definitely “natural” networkers and I am certain that they engaged in this sort of activity in the school yard, at camps, in classrooms, in their clubs, sports teams and more. They see the endless possibilities that come simply from people knowing people and undertand networking as nothing more than building relationships one contact at a time with no need for immediate business gain.

The key word is relationship and as soon as metrics are applied the word loses a bit of its luster.

Agree?

5 Comments »

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  1. Adrian:

    Agreed, emphatically.

    Good networkers are “connectors” (as Malcolm Gladwell terms them), continually seeking to introduce and link together people who might be able to help each other, either as direct prospects (not only prospective customers or clients, but also those who might need a speaker for an event or who might publish an article or provide some other benefit), or as further connectors to others who might be good prospects.

    Not-so-good networkers, on the other hand, look only to WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) for the present moment, behaving in a waaaaaay-too-transactional manner, and fail to realize that the more benefit one can confer on others, the more that may bounce back to them.

    It’s become a bit cliche to say so, but it’s true: It’s all about the relationships.

    And they take a bit of time to build and cultivate, but ultimately, anything worth doing does seem to take a bit of time and effort. The eventual result is that much more valuable and long-lasting.

    You can’t readily quantify the “value” of good relationships, because there are so many intangibles. I personally value among some of my best business relationships those with whom I’ve never done a direct business transaction, because there are so many other things we are able to do for one another, often benefitting each other more than if I’d represented them in a legal matter or if they’d sold me a widget or provided some business service to me. But if someone outside looking in tried to quantify the value of the relationship, they might miss the point entirely, if only focusing on the dollars and cents.

    So yes, when you try to force “metric” analysis onto relationships, it not only loses a bit of the luster surrounding the concept — it indeed deprives the relation of its best context: the fact that it exists without need for fiscal analysis because intangibles often outweigh the seemingly more concrete dollars.

    And that’s just my 2 cents….

    Congrats on the new blog — it’s gotten a great start, not surprisingly.

    Best regards,

    David Abeshouse
    L.I., NY
    http://www.BizLawNY.com

  2. Quite simply, the easiest way to be a good networker is to first give before you try to receive. If you do that, you build the social capital for a favor when you do figure out what your need is.

    But I think a lot of people don’t get off to a good start when networking because they choose the right venue. Personally, I won’t think about a networking event unless someone highly reccomends it AND can give me a strong idea of who will be there.

    In the shameless promotion department, feel free to hear what people said about the small business awards at http://www.nyreport.com/awards. Hope to see you there.

  3. Hi – yes, agree.

    The problem with “networking” as it is widely understood and practiced, is that it creates the habit of viewing people as commodities. It’s essentially dehumanizing and arguably a kind of psychological violence. To reduce someone from an authentic human being to a widget is not a friendly thing to do.

    Often, however, two robots are networking ‘each other’ and so neither pays attention to how they’re feeling during the interaction. If they did, they’d notice that it just doesn’t feel good. It feels scary — frenetic. Heart rate rises. Fear, anxiety and craving rush in in such subtle levels that it’s hard to detect unless your very aware (or just weird, like me).

    How can something so ugly lead to ‘success’? The fact that it ‘seems’ to work — that business seems to develop from such metallic exchanges — is not the whole story. Look at the cost in terms of basic, everyday kindness? Who can even calculate how destructive this is in the long run — when you can’t even MEET someone anymore without automatically evaluating their ‘usefulness’ to you?

    Adrian, the difference I’d encourage you to keep making, is helping people understand that networking is a result, not a cause. Networking isn’t even anything – it shouldn’t even be a verb, but it is for convenience I guess (or laziness, which I guess is a kind of convenience).

    Is this thing on?

    Adrian, when you help people meet other people as ACTUAL people, then networking just happens — it’s natural. That’s probably what you’ve been doing all your life. Don’t (please) get sucked into thinking that you’re a “Networker” — it’s people like you who have the daunting task of forcing people to redefine what networking means, and what it is about.

    Networking isn’t something to impose on another person or a situation, it’s a by-product of being human.

    Please help people become more human.

    There’s a cookie in it for you.

  4. “There is no such thing as strangers- only friends we have not met yet”.
    If you use this perception with ‘people skills” networking will become more of a hobby than a task. At business events or e-mail introductions- I can always ‘spot” or sense” a ‘what’s in it for me” type of person – if I know you. This is the person who lacks the so called “networking” skills. It all starts – with what Adrian mentioned- BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS- with honesty & integrity. Once trust is established-lots of doors open!

  5. I enjoyed the emphasis on establishing relationships and just looking for a “quick hit” when building a network. When you build a professional relationship with a person, you get connected, if not introduced, to that person’s entire network. Now, that’s a fast way to build a robust network! Who you know is important but who they know may be even more important.
    Nick Moreno
    Founder, Head Sales Training Coach
    The National Sales Center
    http://Nationalsalescenter.com


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