A friend of mine from my networking group called me to ask a question. His son is in the MBA program at Middle Tennessee State University here near Nashville, TN. The professor and his class were discussing networking. Surprised, not even the professor had a good grasp of what it takes to become an effective networker. I find most business people think they know how to network, but shortly into the conversation, I realize they do not have a clue how to network. Sadly, they do not teach networking in school not even at the Masters level apparently. Networking is terribly important to growing a business effectively. Let’s look at how most business people and sales people network with common mistakes.
The first type of common networker we see is called the “slather and gather networker”. This salesperson or business owner is on a mission to gather as many business cards as possible and get out. They just slather, talk as little as possible to people, and grab cards like they are in a contest that gives stuffed animal prizes for the most cards gathered in the shortest period of time. They use this for emails and a mailing list. What could possibly go wrong? These business people don’t remember their slather at all. Not only do they not know who the heck they are when they call, but there is no creditability in what they do. They haven’t built any type of relationship. The most common response from these “so called” networkers are “networking doesn’t work, but I go anyway.”
The next type of networker is a bit more common and known as the “spray and pray networker”. This salesperson or business owner runs around like a honey bee on steroids in a flower shop handing out their business cards and flyers to as many business owners as possible. Then they go back to their home or business drop to their knees and pray someone calls. Sometimes it is bound to work, but overall not very effective. The same issue exists as the before mentioned networker, there is no creditability built among these people. These folks also believe networking is a waste of time. I agree, these methods are a huge waste of time.
Networking is very effective if you actually take the time to learn how to network properly. Since no school teaches this, I suggest joining a BNI networking group. BNI is an organization dedicated to networking. Not only is it a structured environment to pass referral business, but also takes the time to teach effective networking skills of its groups members. A good networker goes into to the event with an expectation of helping someone else grow their business, not their own. They talk to people to find out how their business works and how they might best be able to help them, not the other way around. There is a psychological effect that if I help you solve an issue, then you will feel obligated to help me solve my issue as well. BNI refers to this philosophy as “Givers Gain”. Spend time with a select few people then build the network slowly and efficiently. There is no prize for speed networking other than a big waste of time. People do business with people they know, like and trust. Not people that picked up their business card at a trade show event.
Do your business a big favor by visiting a BNI chapter in your area. Your business growth may depend on it.
“Referrals aren’t given easily. If you don’t take the time to establish credibility, you’re not going to get the referral. People have to get to know you. They have to feel comfortable with who you are and what you do.”—Dr. Ivan Misner
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Tim Wilhoit is owner/principal of Your Friend 4 Life Insurance Agency in Nashville, TN. He is a family man, father of 3, entrepreneur, insurance agent, life insurance broker, salesman, sales trainer, recruiter, public speaker, blogger, author and team leader with over 28 years of experience in sales and marketing in the insurance and beverage industries.