Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Newbie Networking

By Debby Peters

I can’t tell you how many times I have chatted with a business owner who is just learning to network or who has just joined a networking organization. Usually they call me because someone has said to them, “You need to find out how to network properly.” This comment is typically in response to the method that the unschooled person (newbie)is using when they think they are networking.

First, let’s get one thing straight. Networking is the business tool that is used to develop relationships. Relationships are the foundation from which business springs. Networking is not selling a product or service; this is where, for many, the confusion begins.

To the newbie I will often explain that the best way to develop a strong relationship is to help others. Emphatically they say, “But I am going to help them. My ____________ is going to make them __________! In other words, the newbie thinks that “helping” is encouraging their target to their purchase their offering. They couldn’t be more wrong.

When standing nose-to-nose with this new person, buying something is probably the last thing the business person wants to do. This is especially true if there is a high level of confidence needed to purchase the offering. Trust and confidence take time to develop. Instead, the newbie needs to ask questions and listen, attempting to find out what the person in front of them is trying to accomplish. In fact, the conversation might not even focus on the newbie or their product at all. Instead, the newbie’s sole offering at that moment might just be their undivided attention. And even if that is all they can give at this point in their career - that’s a huge start.

As the newbie develops into a better networker, they will begin to realize how to help others - really help - rather than just trying to sell their wares. They might know someone to introduce to the business person or they might want to invite them to a meeting they are planning to attend. What they may not realize is that the person opposite them is listening to their needs too. Because the newbie is not selling, the business person does not have to be defensive. They will have their ears open as to how the newbie can be helped. In time they may, or may not, want to make a purchase. But if not, they probably will be willing to help connect their new, and now better known associate with others who actually do need and want the product.

As time and relationships evolve, the newbie will no longer be just that. Instead, they will become accomplished networker. Others will be sent to them for networking education. The whole circle will continue to grow until the network become stronger than the individuals. Products and services will be sold, but now – thanks to this new outlook - it will be someone else helping to sell those products or services rather than the former newbie having to do it all.