Yesterday I started discussing networking and the idea that it's time invested with no guarantee of a return on that investment. Today let's talk about networking for the regular guy.
Who do you think of or know that is a good networker? Is it a friend, your boss, a politician on TV? Picturing someone that knows everyone, smiles and kisses babies, has a contact list 2 miles long?
Some of those stereotypes are true, but not a good fit for most of us. Most regular/real people don't feel like selling their brand all the time everywhere, are a bit (or more) introverted with new people and new places, and hate the idea that we're trying to meet people only because of what they might be able to do for us. Or is that just me?
Hopefully not just me.
It's not out of the question that I'd call someone I know for some minor help, but I'd have to be starving to send an email to my contact list promoting my upcoming classes or whatever it was I was selling. There's a time when you know it makes sense to reach out, and it doesn't happen as often as I'd like (to increase my networking ROI of course!) - so let's just realize that and not aim so high.
My current approach to networking is to just meet people. I'm currently in the training business so you might argue that I've got more reason to do this than someone who is "just" a DBA, but I don't think that's true (will try to come back to that point). I don't know when I'm going to meet someone that needs training (or a DBA), or that months later will in turn know someone that needs training or a DBA.
So I just meet people and hope?
Yes, and no. Sure I hope that some of those contacts will result in business, but it's a longshot. Instead, I just take each new person as a chance to grow. It's downright rare that I meet someone that afterward I'm wishing I could get the time back. More often, they've shown me a view of something I hadn't seen before, or given me a chance to explain my thoughts and point of view - and doing that challenges my presentation skills and my thinking. We might chat about a presentation we both attended, a hobby, the event, work, family, who knows. I might visit with them for 2 minutes or an hour, usually the time is determined by other factors/distractions.
I work on listening (it's easy to want to talk) and that's about it. I don't posture, though I'm more guarded with strangers than with old friends (you gotta know me to appreciate me un-filtered at times!). And I won't be selling anything. My friend Joe Healy calls me a 'stealth marketer' because I never talk about what I do as far as a sales pitch (and he might be right, marketing is definitely a skill I need to build - but that's another post).
Next time I'll talk about 'how'. I'd appreciate thoughts in the interim!