Stop networking. Start connecting.

Stop networking. Start connecting.

The Entrepreneurial Ecosystem”, a bi-weekly blog…

I CAN’T STAND NETWORKING.

To me, it’s inauthentic. If someone is trying to “network” with me, I usually find they’re only looking out for themselves and how they could sell me something. That’s no way to develop long-term client relationships.

How to spot a “networker”? Here are two dead giveaways:

Their opening line is: “What do you do?” (this is even before asking me about something let’s say, like my name. Go figure.)

Or without prompting, their business card is shoved in my face, while I’m juggling a beverage and a carrot stick with drippy ranch dressing from that store-bought vegetable crudité (you event veterans know what I’m talking about.)

If you’re that person, please stop networking and start connecting. It may take longer, but in the end, you’ll grow a stronger foundation of loyal customers based on a relationship of mutual trust.

Here’s my 6 tips to start…

  1. Understand the concept of connecting. The dictionary definition means “being joined.” It takes time for most humans to join together. For me, I usually make a connection based on trust. Does a person the invest time to get to really know me and my wants?
  2. Show up early. If you want unrushed time to get to know people, arrive at your event 20-30 minutes early. (Yes, that means less sleep for that breakfast meeting.) Quite often, you’ll have the opportunity to help put things out for the gathering, but in the process of being in service, you can learn something about a person on a deeper level.
  3. Choose a better icebreaker. To me, the first person that asks: “What do you do?”, loses. How about these instead: “Have you been to this event before?How long have you been a member here?What part of town do you live in?” Those are the type of questions that get real conversations going.
  4. Observe good business card etiquette. First, actually bring some cards. I recently had several young professionals state: “I don’t carry cards. They’re so old school.” Well, guess what dude? That’s unprofessional and an obstacle to people following up with you (just saying.) And like my ol’ southern sales manager Jean Fisk used to say: “Don’t give out your card, unless someone asks for it. No sir.” Her theory was that if a person is really interested in your service or product (meaning they’re a good prospect), then they’ll ask for your card.
  5. Help others first. At the appropriate time, while meeting someone new, ask: “How can I help you?” You’d be amazed how this simple question can be an authentic differentiator in establishing a long-term connection.
  6. Keep showing up. Mike Brewerton (pictured) is one of the few people in our city that goes to as many events as I do. He shares, “Consistency is the key. You cannot show up to an event one time and expect great things.” Mike and I believe the same thing: Making connections takes time.

Are you ready to stop networking and start connecting?

“The Entrepreneurial Ecosystem” is a twice-a-month 500-word blog by Thomas Heath that explores the world of business from an entrepreneur’s perspective. Its goals are to educate, enlighten and get conversations started. Join Thomas with a Share or Comment, he loves to respond. And be sure to follow him here on LinkedIn or Twitter and Instagram @AskThomasHeath.

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