As I've attended many business and networking events, I've observed a common fallacy that giving a business card is the essence of "networking". That notion is inarguably untrue and unfortunately, limits us from benefiting from countless opportunities [I would venture to say] on a daily basis!
Networking is simply the act of connecting, linking, and interacting.
Connect - Think of plugging a cord into an outlet. You intentionally take the male end and insert it into the outlet. You don't stare at it and hope through osmosis it will put itself into the outlet. In that same vein, you must get up and solicit the people around you. Your ideal customer may not find you through osmosis. It's okay to be nervous, they probably are too. Remember, the more you do it, the easier it becomes.
Link - Think of two hooks. It's not enough for two metal pieces to merely touch and not link. But by linking, those two pieces shift to wrap around each other. This is probably the most uncomfortable part of networking that most people avoid. Linking is the unscripted shift to engage relationship. This requires you to be human, and that's sometimes difficult for those who focus on selling, versus sharing [that's a whole 'nother blog post!]. It's not just about your sales pitch, but digest what the person is saying and have relative, meaningful dialogue.
Interact - Think of a phone call where after 15 minutes your input was reduced to illustrative sound effects (hummm, um hum, hmph, ooooo, gasp for air), and you weren't given an opportunity to say a word! And even worse, after you've patiently entertained the monologue, the person rushes off the phone and says, "I'll let you go now. I don't want to hold you up." In that one-sided scenario, there was no exchange of information. They dominated, then bounced! As you network, have a heart of reciprocity. Become genuinely interested in knowing more about the person and what they have to offer.
BONUS... you CANNOT stop there!
When I was in direct sales, we would often tout... The fortune is in the follow-up! You must, I repeat... you must, reengage. Within 48 hours [or maybe a week if your life is crazy like mine], contact the people you met via call, text, email, inbox, direct message, or etc. They will be SHOCKED, because so few people do this.
I challenge you to network in a new way. Connect, link, interact, and reengage as if your life depended on it and watch the positive shift in your business. Stop leaving millions on the table and become the networker you desire to be. [And yes, I'm guilty too!] *smile*
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