So You Don’t Like to Network…

Why is it that so many people don’t like to network? When I tell my clients that I expect them to attend at least one business-networking event each week, there is an audible gasp. It’s as if I’m asking them to do something terrible.

Part of the reason for this anxiety is that there are so many people who network poorly. They shove business cards at you and want you to do referral marketing for them. They are loud and pushy and don’t understand about business referrals. That’s not what referral networking is about.

Build Your Business Referral Network

Think of networking as building your Business Referral Network. These Business Referral Networks are the contacts you develop because you attend networking events regularly. You not only attend, but you become involved. Every organization needs and welcomes volunteers. Think about what you can contribute. Even if it is just a small amount of time, you will develop lasting relationships because others will know that you do what you say you will do and keep your time commitments.

Once you get to know people and they get to know you, you will find many opportunities to provide business referrals. You might refer someone to a potential client, alliance partner, or to a person in a similar business. You might even have a personal referral-to an accountant, banker, or mechanic-a resource that will help another person. We become referral-marketing sources for others, and others do the same for us.

Although historically referral networking has inspired analysis and dread, in the end, it’s really about building relationships and being genuine. You network to make friends, sell a product, promote your company, find a job, find new clients, learn the latest from others, or gain more visibility in the business community. Business networking opportunities exist everywhere-meetings, professional associations, alumni groups, sports groups, community groups, weddings, parties, and any place people come together.

Expand the Reach of Your Network

During the holidays, we have an exceptional opportunity to meet new people at a very social and happy time of year. You have many networking events to attend at this time of year. Invite someone you’d like to know better to go along with you. They will have a chance to meet new people, and you both win.

Remember Woody Allen’s old adage: “Seventy percent of success in life is showing up.” Showing up counts. The more often you show up, the more visible you become, and the more people will get to know and recognize you and your referral network will grow.

Set Real Networking Goals

Your goal should be to attend at least one event per week at which you’ll have an opportunity to meet potential referral sources. In fact, this is a non-negotiable part of my referral marketing strategy. You can attend a breakfast, lunch, or evening networking event-or all three.

I have four goals when attending a business networking event:

1.       Meet interesting people

2.      Learn something

3.      Get new clients

4.      Have fun

If I achieve at least three of these goals-and I make a point to do so-I am thrilled! You will be, too. So go out there, build your Business Referral Network, and have a great time!