Business networking is a fact of life, and some of us are not comfortable with it.
Do you remember how excited you were about me, when we met? It was a few weeks ago, at a networking event. The conversation was great and we agreed that we simply must follow up. I even sent you the follow-up information you requested. Three voice messages and three emails later, I’m beginning to think I had you all wrong. I know I shouldn’t take it personally, but what's going on? I’m always eager to learn how to improve; and at times like these, I really get charged up.
Business folks know that technical skills are merely the tip of the iceberg. People skills are invaluable, and building relationships is as much a part of good business as managing cash flow (and in many ways, vastly more important). So why do some of us choose to send signals that push prospective business away? If you choose to network, if you believe that building and maintaining relationships is important to building your business-- you should act that way.
Business networking is a fact of life, and some of us are not comfortable with it. There are no hard and fast rules; the best guideline is to recognize your comfort level and capabilities -- and then to be yourself. I imagine that most of the enthusiasts I meet (those that suddenly go away) are afraid to say “no thanks.” There's no obligation to like everyone we meet; not everyone is a fitting prospect for us. That’s the way it should be; we really do have a choice.
So, what would make me happy? Here’s my short list:
- Take the time to tell me about yourself and what you do.
- Don't try to sell me; I want to know who you are.
- Give me a chance to tell you who I am.
- Be forthright with me; if I suggest we follow-up, tell me you are or are not interested. Don’t lead me on; my time is valuable, too.
A few points to keep in mind:
- Networking is an opportunity to promote yourself and to help others; it’s not what you ask for, it’s what you have to give.
- Building and maintaining relationships isn’t only good for business; it is business!
- Everyone you meet is a potential benefactor -- you for them and them for you. Treat everyone as if they're an asset.
I know I'm not supposed to take it to heart but if you "say" you're interested in following up I'm going to believe you. For your sake and mine say what you are thinking, not what you think I want to hear. We'd both be better off for it.
Photo credit: Shutterstock / Vasin Lee