networking-post-imageHave you ever had a coach give you great tips?

What would you think if the coach then told you to forget what you’re doing?

  • Would you think he or she was a little crazy?
  • Or at least a bit misguided?

I bet you think business networking is great marketing strategy. I agree. But, what if I told you I think it works best when you forget what you’re doing?

Call me crazy, but let’s see if I can convince you.

Defined Networking

Think about business networking. Now, imagine you’re the head of a sales team. How would you define the marketing strategy to a sales newbie?

Need some help? The following is the Business Dictionary’s definition.

Creating a group of acquaintances and associates and keeping it active through regular communication for mutual benefit. Networking is based on the question “How can I help?” and not with “What can I get?”

That last part is what I’m getting at.

Doing it Even When You’re Not

Not So Absent Marketing

Two posts inspired this one. The first one was from writing colleague, Lori Widmer.

Lori’s blog, Words on the Page, offers advice for freelance writers. Her practical pearls work for any business owner.

In a recent post, Lori confessed she had not actively marketed in the past year, yet she is busier than ever. How can that be?

Because Lori forgets that she never stops networking. It just doesn’t feel like networking. I’ve observed Lori’s networking first hand.

  • Staying in touch through social media
  • Sharing good information
  • Interacting regularly

See? Business networking. And that’s good marketing.

Not So Traditional

That brings me to the second post. It is a LinkedIn Publisher article in which Allan Collins professes he has stopped networking.

If you read the article, you’ll find that Alan has not really stopped networking. Instead he has moved away from the “traditional” mindset of networking.

  • Going to industry events/having dinner with a prospect
  • Exchanging business cards
  • Talking about yourself
  • Following up with email
  • Pitching your need (to secure a job, sell a product…)

Sound familiar? Alan’s advice?

“Stop networking and start…helping!”

Making it Second Nature

How do you know when networking has become second nature? That point when you forget you’re doing it? Here are a few signs.

  • You’re truly interested in what others are doing or saying
  • The thought, “how can I help,” beats out the “what can I get” reflex
  • You share something because you want others to enjoy it, too

Your network understands your intent, perhaps better than you do yourself. Let me give you an example.

I receive regular emails from a LinkedIn connection. We share common business interests and I find his insight fascinating.

However, I’ve noticed something he does that is off-putting. I receive an email each time he publishes a new article. The emails are engaging and typically end with a variation on an invitation to let him know if there is anything he can do for me.

I responded to that invitation once. I asked if he knew someone who would benefit from my business writing services, that he’d keep me in mind.

His response? Silence.

  • No acknowledgement (not even – I sure will keep you in mind)
  • More emails, each time he published an article
  • The same invitation to let him know if he could help

Does that sound like his intent was in helping me? Or himself? The invitation sounds good. It loses all meaning when a response is met with silence.

However, I continue to share his articles because they’re worth sharing. Call it an effort to practice what I preach.

How about you? What networking stories would you like to share? Are there any you’d like to forget?

Please share your thoughts in Comments.

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BigStock Photo Credit

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