Fast Company

Networking for a Living

Not long ago, Networking resource center Keith Ferrazzi offered his ideas on the future of networking. Now Effective Networking Inc.'s Diane Darling shares what she considers the top 10 professional networking trends for 2005. Wo whit:

  • Quality vs. quantity The number of people you know does not matter. It is the quality of your contacts that does. (Shades of David Teten and Scott Allen's recent column!)
  • Slow down No one gets married on their first date. Business relationships take time too!
  • Go low tech In some cases, a quick phone call can be more efficient than many emails. Email is excellent when sending documents or directions -- don't overuse it.
  • Diversity The old boy's network is alive and well -- but so are many others. In the financial community, a diversified portfolio is preferable. The same is true with your network.
  • Introductions rule! This is the ultimate in flattery when someone takes time out of their day to make the effort to introduce you. This separates name droppers from the genuine networkers.
  • Practice 3rd party networking Take the time to introduce two people so they can benefit from meeting each other. You get to reconnect with someone when you don't need anything -- become a "networking node."
  • Zen Make 2005 the year where you include positive people who add value to you and your network while keeping your distance from those who distract and de-energize you.
  • Avoid 911 networking When the economy tanked all of a sudden people discovered "networking." They called people in a panic asking for referrals or job leads. Today, build relationships before you need them.
  • Make random "hello" calls When someone comes up in a conversation or comes to mind, make a random "hello" call. You don't need to have an agenda or reason, simply share that they were in your thoughts and you wanted to connect.
  • Unlearn shyness Research shows that we learn shyness. If shyness is a challenge for you, start a conversation with a stranger in the elevator just before you have to get off. Too often shyness is misinterpreted as indifference and you don't want to send that message -- think friendly.

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8 Comments

  • Sandy

    The problem with "networking" is that it promises too much, and delivers too little. In return, people at networking events go there expecting to get something, not give something.

    I've found at most networking events in the past that I either bump into people who are a) looking for a job or b) looking for a sale. I have yet to bump into someone looking to buy, so I stopped trying. (adding to Kirsten's point)

    Instead, I spend my new found time doing the things that I enjoy; going to a friend's BBQ, making a quick phone call to catch up with an old coworker, and going to the gym. And guess what, I ended up making a deal from the BBQ a few months later. And with this, I agree with Hans, all I did was live my life.

  • Hans Henrik

    Sales comes from networking comes from relationships comes from saying “Hi” comes from daring comes from living…….

    Best Regards
    Hans Henrik

  • Cliff Allen

    Networking is not about sales. Networking is about building and nurturing relationships.

    In many business situations it's important to really understand the person you're dealing with. The more valuable or important a decision is, the more important it is to reduce the risk of dealing with that person.

    Relationships reduce the risk of anonymity -- the uncertainty of knowing whether someone is reliable, truthful, and ethical. We reduce this risk by getting to know that person. And we do this by nurturing the relationship.

    While business networking is not about making sales pitches and closing orders, it is the start of a process of meeting people who could become friends, business partners, and, yes, clients and customers.

  • Jack Quinn

    gg's "Networking is not a one-dimensional.." is the best and most intelligent comment here. Other posters should go back and re-read it. Study the difference between a class act and amatuer career climbing. Not trying to make points is the way to make points; remembering others is the way to be remembered. The obvious networker out to make personal connections is an instant turn-off, like the "lend-me-twenty" buddy who never remembers to pay you back (with anything)....unless you lean on him.

  • gg

    Networking is not a one-dimensional buyer-seller interaction. These chamber of commerce meetings are certainly not networking.

    Also, a buyer is not a buyer all the time. She's a human beibng, who could benefit from help in other areas, other than as a buyer for your product.

    eg: As a salesperson, maybe your friend is an electronics wholesaler and you help your client buy an iPod at a discount. Or maybe you know a really good mechanic, who can fix up her car. Your network helped you get in the client's good books. Then this client becomes part of your network. Maybe she tells you abt a good job opp, or helps you make a better sales pitch.

    Heck, as a seller you should "network" with other sellers. Maybe they can give you a good lead, or tell you about a career opp, etc.

    Kirsten/Tim - an event might be called a networking event, without being about networking. Maybe you've been to too many such events, where the objective was just hard-selling rather that networking, and thus have a very wrong definition of networking. No buyer likes a hustler, by networking, you can avoid in image of being a hard-selling hustler.

  • Tim

    Joe, I also like the list, from a theoretical point of view. BUT, I find that Kirsten's comments are real world, the way it is right now. Sorry, but what she says is how its done. Maybe you don't like it, but "buyers don't want to be there. They don't HAVE to be there. Their time IS increasingly valuable and they don't want to be bothered with insipid pitches. Buyers don't network." Other people try to network with buyers. Buyers have the world on their string. Because everyone now is in a position that THEY'VE got something to sell - - -to the BUYERS!

  • Joe

    I find Kirsten's comments ironic. I wonder if she's one of the quota-crazy salespeople.

    Networking is about more than selling your company's products. It can also be about selling yourself. Everyone networks, and you don't have to attend chamber of commerce events to do it.

    I liked the list, especially the last item. At networking events, I'm the wallflower who doesn't know how to walk up to strangers and start conversations. I need to get past that.

  • kirsten

    Big yawn. Buyers don't network. Oh - they used to network. Back in the good ol' boy tech days everybody -- their mother, lover, and brother -- was out "networking." They'd hang out and hold hands and sing kumbaya, posture about their businesses and share leads.

    But today if you go to an event -- Chamber of Commerce, NAWBO, Fast Company Circle of Friends, practically any business networking event -- one thing is clear. The buyers aren't there anymore. All that's left is a room full of quota-crazy salespeople stumbling over one another.

    The buyers don't want to be there. They don't have to be there. Their time is increasingly valuable and they don't want to be bothered with insipid pitches. Buyers don't network. According to Michelle Miller over at Wonderbranding blog, women buyers particularly dislike networking.

    More:
    http://reinventioninc.blogspot...

    Kindly,
    Kirsten