When I hear the word “networking” or someone mentions a “networking event” I have visions of vultures circling a dead carcass on the freeway.
I don’t like feeling like I’m being “sold to,” nor have I ever liked, probably to my detriment, “selling myself.” Rather, I feel if people get to know me, know what I’m passionate about, and what I have to offer my friends, colleagues, and customers, they’ll let me know if they need me.
Okay, all salespeople are cringing right now, but I admit it, I’m no salesperson.
However, I do realize if I want people to get to know me, my passions, and what I can offer, I’ve got to get out there and meet them.
Yesterday afternoon I had the pleasure of having lunch with two dynamic women: Monique Spence of Spence Staffing & Coaching Solutions and Sandy Adams of Sandy Adams Photography. Monique is a performance coach specializing in career, business, and personal development coaching. She’s one of those people who is always on the lookout for “growth opportunities” for her friends and colleagues. She felt that Sandy and I just had to meet because we had mutual goals and interests.
It took her several months to find a time when we could all get together, but we finally did. We had a great time and learned quite about each other’s personal and business goals, strengths, and passions. I don’t think anyone walked away feeling like any other person was “hard selling” themselves. Instead, it was an opportunity to create a bond. I know if I ever have a friend or client who needs either woman’s services, I’ll put them in touch!
I asked Monique and Sandy to add their thoughts to mine about the benefits of this type of non-traditional (I hate to call it) networking– casual events with five or fewer business people.
Here are the benefits we discovered:
1. Helps create a personal connection with no pressure to produce or “sell”
2. Less structured approach provides a freer flow of ideas
3. Each person has more time to share themselves with the group, therefore you learn more about each other and are more likely, and able, to help each other achieve your goals
4. Small groups are more focused on the exchange of ideas, not just business cards, which translates into a greater learning and networking
5. More likely to get referrals because others get to “know” you better than a 30 sec spot or 5 minute rushed sell at a traditional networking event
6. Better opportunity to brainstorm ideas to help each person grow his or her business
7. Impartial feedback on your ideas from people you trust
8. Helps ignite shared passions/interests as well as identify opportunities for teaming up on projects
9. Gain advocates, and even better, friendships with substance
10. Potential for doing business with people you trust truly want to do business with you, rather than a relationship based on trying to reach pre-set quotas
Bottom line, especially for self-employed people, job seekers, and career changers– you’ve gotta get out there. You can’t sit at your computer all day, no matter how many e-resumes you submit or posts you make to Facebook, LinkedIn, or other sites.
Human relationships are still the key factor to successfully achieving your goals!