What NOT to do when networking

I was at a networking function the other day and was reminded of the humorous and not-so-humorous things that people do when they are at networking events. Here is a quick list of things that you should avoid the next time you are out at a networking event:

  • Talking about the traffic or weather is ok, but it is a conversation killer if it goes on longer than 45 seconds.
  • If you are not a salesperson DO NOT SELL. Remember, networking is about building relationships.
  • Don’t be an excessive name dropper. Name dropping once or twice in a conversation can be beneficial as you work to identify mutual relationships, but be careful not to name drop in excess as others might find it annoying.
  • It is proper etiquette to wait until you understand what someone does for a living before you exchange business cards. It also keeps you from looking like you are more interested in collecting cards than building relationships.
  • Limit your drinking; a good rule of thumb is one drink per hour. This keeps you sharp and ready for the next conversation.
  • Don’t give someone that you just meet a brochure. It makes you look like a salesperson rather than a future friend. Brochures are for follow-up.
  • Finally, please don’t look for someone else to talk to while you are engaged in conversation. Believe it or not people can tell that you looking over their shoulders.

Remember that networking is about relationships, not events. Networking is not usually stressful if you are focusing on building relationships and having fun. If you are temped to “work the room” consider a new career in sales. If you want to build mutually beneficial relationships that will help your career and your company, just be yourself and look for ways to help everyone that you meet.  —  What would you add to the list?

 

Live One Life

At the turn of this year I wrote a little three word note that I thought was going to be a simple objective for the year: Live One Life. It was fairly straightforward when I wrote it down; I just want to be myself regardless of who I am with and what is going on around me.

The problem: Live One Life was a bit more complicated than I thought it would be. In order to live one life I needed to know who I am, what I stand for, and choose to be that person regardless of what others think or say.

Realistically, I don’t have all of those answers. I know what I stand for but I don’t understand how that always should coincide with my actions. Worse yet, I am a personal perfectionist. I know that mistakes are part of life; I just think that they shouldn’t be a part of my life.

Marley and Me

Several weeks into my newfound identity crisis we adopted a puppy named Marley. On a side note Marley was given a name and a subtitle (yes seriously) thanks to the book and movie Marley and Me. So if you ever meet her feel free to greet her as “Marley, the world’s best dog.”

It didn’t take long for me to realize that Marley already knew exactly who she was. It didn’t matter what type of day anyone else was having she just loved to be herself: she always greets me at the door, she is always a friend, and it is obvious that she genuinely loves just being herself.

Live One Life

Then it hit me: Living One Life isn’t as complicated as I thought; in fact it is so simple that even Marley can do it. I just needed to be ME. Living One Life means giving yourself the freedom to be imperfect and the opportunity to do what you can to make the world a better place.  It is a life focus on doing what I can do rather than focusing on what I can’t do.

Why Introverts are Great at Networking

business_people1For years I have watched with astonishment as many of my introvert friends have excelled at social/business networking. If you read most books on networking, (there are hundreds of thousands of them) you continually see information that is geared towards extroverts: how to work a room, how to effectively meet new people, and what to do at association events. The problem is that these thoughts are great, but not necessarily for introverts! By embracing who you are as an introvert and working your personal strengths you can see more success from your network than most extroverts. The secret is to focus on who you are.

Start with Who You Are

Let’s start with two obvious facts: 1) Just like extroverts, introverts are ‘pre-wired’ with a need for relationships. 2) Relationships are foundation of Networking. Based on these two facts it is easy to see that introverts should be able to easily succeed at networking, if only someone would tell them how to do it! You’re in luck, here is the secret:

Learn the key to Networking

With all that has been written on networking I am consistently amazed at how rapidly the central idea behind networking is overlooked. Networking is nothing less than focusing on and helping other people. When we help someone else once, it creates an innate and positive response. When we help someone three times, it creates a desire for them to help us in return; and when we help someone a dozen times, they have a healthy desire to help us in return. The great thing about real networking is that it creates mutually beneficial relationships where two people are consistently looking for ways to help one another. The key to this happening is concentrated effort on a specific group of people that over time develops these multiple mutually beneficial relationships.

The Introvert Advantage

Introverts are natural networkers because they have a tendency to focus on a smaller number of relationships. This same concentrated approach can be developed by extroverts, but it is very natural for an introvert to develop a strong core of relationships that can feed them opportunities and information.

Taking the first steps to start networking

To start networking as an introvert you need to take two first steps: 1) recognize that networking is nothing less than helping other people without expecting anything in return and 2) identify a core group of people (More than 10 and less than 20) that would fit well into your network. For example, if your business was marketing for an architecture firm and your best friend is an astrophysicist, they are probably not the right person for your business network. Then start networking by continually helping that group of people, you’ll be amazed at what happens as others start returning the favor.

How can I help you?

As 2010 comes to a close I have been thinking about the lessons learned since I began Cofebuz almost 3 years ago. You, my friends here on Cofebuz and throughout the world in the Design and Construction Network, have been such a great part of my life.  It has been during this time that I have realized that true success comes from relationships and that helping others is the best way to build great relationships.

As I look towards 2011, I realize that my network of relationships is stronger today than it ever has been. It is my desire to use this network to bring people together.  I want to help others build relationships where they did not previously exist and to create friendships that stretch far beyond business into the parts of our lives that truly matter. So, how can I help you? What can we do together in 2011 that will really matter on January 1, 2012 and beyond? Please post a comment here, or send me a note directly to tim-at-cofebuz.com. It is your turn… how can I help you?

Your approach matters

This morning I received an email from “Mark” (his real name will remain anonymous) requesting approval to join the Design and Construction Network (the 10,000+ person networking group I founded early last year). While I receive these emails all the time the content of this email had me taking a second look, it simply said “What benefit or contribution can I get out of joining?” 

In 10 words Mark proved that he does not understand real networking, and I don’t think that Mark is the only one. For the past 20 years we have been taught that networking is a means to generate sales, while in reality it is about building relationships. Imagine if Mark walked up to you and asked “What benefit or contribution can I get out of meeting you?” Instead of building a mutually beneficial relationship his approach would undermine any reasonable chance at building a true relationship.

How are you approaching networking? Do you proactively build relationships through your actions and interactions? The real secret to building great relationships is to help others first, the result is friends that enjoy being around you and know that you have their best interest in mind.

The Relationship Development Process

Success in business starts with successful relationships. Because of this, the relationship development process is often the guide that is used to govern the marketing and business development roles in companies. As you look at these stages of the relationship development process note that marketing plays the pivotal role of effectively laying the foundation for relationships, while business development facilitates the initiation of those relationships.

The Relationship Development Process

Name Recognition – During the name recognition phase of the relationship development process a company or an individual goes from being an unknown, to being known. This foundation sets the groundwork for a relationship as others are at least aware that you or your company exists. Name recognition is one of the primary objectives of a strong marketing department and it often takes the form of advertising, promotions, mailers, and press. It is also handled in business development and sales when a new relationship starts. A common introduction when you meet someone new for the first time often builds name recognition: for example: “I’m John Adams with ABC company.” Note: I have found that if your company is an unknown, prior to initiating a new relationship, your chances of turning the relationship into a sale are reduced significantly.

Develop Understanding – During this part of the relationship development process, a company or individual goes from just being a name, to being recognized for how they fit into the world. This stage establishes a thorough understanding of your company, the services you provide, and how others see you in the industry. Most importantly, it is during this stage that others will learn how your company can be of benefit to another individual or company. This stage should be handled by marketing at the company level and business development at the relationship level. In marketing, this often takes the form of websites, brochures, newsletters, and articles. In business development, it often happens during conversation and should include how the individual fits into the corporate structure.

Interactive Communication – During this part of the relationship development process you must begin to engage at the human level. This is no longer about facts or information, it is about building a personal relationship. Because of this, business development should take the lead at this stage with minimal marketing support.

Solidify Relationship – Relationships are solidified when you engage in mutually beneficial action. When you call someone that you have solidified a relationship with, communication is easy and most of the time you will be able to quickly find direct and indirect topics of conversation. This stage should be headed by your business development staff in conjunction with your project management staff. Often, this is the point at which new work or projects are begun with your new client.

How are you doing?

Looking at this process, you can see the importance of both business development and marketing in the sales process. Take a moment to identify the areas that you need to strengthen in order to improve the effectiveness of your sales process. Is your marketing department truly laying a foundation with name recognition and developing understanding, or are they just producing glossy brochures? Is your business development staff regularly initiating interactive communication with important potential relationships, or have you yet to identify who is responsible for business development at your company? As you think about these questions, I hope you can see the steps you need to make to improve your sales process.

My First Triathlon

I knew very little about triathlons this past November when I added the words “complete a triathlon” to my list of goals for the 2010. I knew that triathlons are considered an “individual” sport and that they push your personal limits as you compete in three sports back to back. What I didn’t know was that to reach my goal of completing a tri I would need a great group of friends.

I never have enjoyed running since a knee injury in junior high, so the idea of training for the run portion of the tri seemed next to impossible. It had been over a decade since I had even run a mile when this past December when I received a call from someone I barely knew inviting me to join him and another friend running on Tuesday and Friday mornings. (My loving wife tipped him off that I needed to get running in order to reach my goal) The next day I ran a painful 2.6 miles. Since that day in December we have been running together twice a week and surprisingly, while it has been hard, I have enjoyed it more than I ever thought possible.

A triathlon will always teach you something

I have been told by many triathletes that a Triathlon will always teach you something. It taught me about the unique paradox of life: that in order to succeed as an individual you must first succeed as a friend. In life you need true friends, the type that will call and give you a hard time if you didn’t run just because it was raining and cold.

Business is no different, if you are simply inward focused you may do fine for awhile. You might even make it for a couple of years as you push (or pull) yourself up with your own strength, but eventually you will burn out and find a loneliness where relationships should have been all along, helping you along the path of life.

If I am convinced of anything it is this: that we were designed for relationships. It is not simply a want, it is a need. How are you doing, are you focused on helping others succeed and in doing so allowing them to help you as well, or are you taking on life all by yourself?

To those that dragged me along

I simply can’t say thanks enough to my running friends Matthew Hatley and Jason Vandorsten, to my biking friends Ron Klabunde, Ken White, Brian James, and Marty Smith, and to my loving wife Mary who encouraged me every step of the way. It is because of all of you that I was able to reach my goal for the year. Thank you all, it is truly great to have you as friends.