Why would anyone voluntarily walk themselves into a room full of strangers and put themselves at the very real risk of being rejected? It’s just not natural for anyone to do that.Humans are creatures for whom it is instinctive to be wanted and to be accepted. We are ‘herd’ animals. In times of crisis it is natural that we come together. Despite that we have huge fear of being rejected by others and we run the very real risk of that happening within any networking environment.
Simple - because today networking is not an option, it is a business necessity.
Why? Because in a world where it is getting harder to reach prospects and clients through traditional approaches of cold calling, email, sales letters and corporate brochures – a business professional’s personal network of referral contacts – is a very valuable asset indeed.
All the more so because when we are being referred into a prospect by another professional contact or client, then we carry the personal credibility and trust that the referrer has with the potential prospect – and that is what opens doors that may remain otherwise closed.
In addition, networking – unlike cold calling - can provide us with the two most important aspects of modern business development and sales – access and
Professional networking provides real access to key decision makers and the means of getting their attention for a defined period of time - without interference from ‘gate keepers’ and other distractions. That kind of access just can’t be bought - it has to be earned in the networking arena. It is increasingly recognised that business people who can leverage relationships wield greater power in a world where information is king and therefore these ‘connected’ people become the people in most demand.
Proactive networking can also provide one with a host of benefits. Market or business profile, position, credibility, market knowledge, new sales, client retention and the many other benefits of being able to work comfortably and consciously within a room full of other professionals, prospects and clients. However having to “work the room” can be an uncomfortable and even fearful feeling for many of us. We associate ‘good’ networkers with being brash, over confident people, who can handle any rejection, muscle themselves in anywhere and take over a conversation to suit their own ends... But that’s not networking – it’s hijacking!
Most of us would rather hug a wall, cradling our coffees or drinks until we have waited the allotted time and when we can mercifully escape from this room of people who all seem to know each other. We are often living what I term the ‘10-Minute Syndrome’ – looking around us trying to see who we can connect with while at the same time thinking to ourselves ‘if nobody talks to me in the next 10 minutes I am out of here….’; However the problem with that approach is that it leaves all the responsibility for and the power of networking in the hands of others. Proper networking is about strategy and everyone can learn the strategy.
The first thing about that strategy is to understand that networking is not about “selling yourself” or your company – it’s all about the other person. The second thing we need to know about networking is to understand that it’s all about asking permission.
Networking is not about us, it’s always about the other person and a good networker spends time asking questions and actively listening to what the other person has to say. Not only that but they will have reached this engagement stage by having first gotten the person’s permission to talk with them.