by Frank J. Kennt
Once upon a time, there was an eager, young businessman who was ready to take on the world and be a success.
The elders in his industry told him that he needed to go out and network to get clients and sales. "Beat the bushes for prospects," they said.
They taught him such networking 1.0 strategies as, "Don't come back to the office without a lead," and, "Always be closing." They had him practice his 30-second elevator pitch until he could recite it backwards. They printed up a bunch of business cards for him to hand out.
Then they said, "Go to the chamber luncheon, introduce yourself to everyone, tell these people what you do (give your elevator pitch), hand out your business cards, get the cards of prospects, then come back here and work the phones. You are on your way!"
With great enthusiasm, the young man attended multiple networking events. He told everyone what he did and how he could help them. Bouncing from person to person, he handed out dozens and then hundreds of business cards. He called everyone on his list, offering his services. He networked until he was blue in the face. His phone hardly ever rang, nor were calls returned. He grew frustrated. And angry.
He tried to think through his situation, asking himself, "What am I doing wrong?" The elders assumed he just wasn't pushing himself enough. He needed to ask for meetings. He needed to always be closing. Pretty soon, the young man, tired and dejected, determined that networking doesn't really work. He decided that networking was a waste of time and energy.
With no sales and no referrals, he began to look for other work.
Don't Do Networking 1.0
Sadly, this story is all too common. Even today, in the age of social media, many people are still doing Networking 1.0. These types of networkers often start out working hard. They attend chamber mixers, join the Rotary Club and go to church events. They go from person to person, handing out business cards and looking for opportunities to pitch. Fellows like these rarely score a solid sale today. Mostly, they frustrate themselves and ruin events for others. Get too many of them together and they can destroy even the most successful and established mixers. For some organizations, the only people who show up to events now are those looking to pitch what they sell. Of course, everyone else attending is there to do the same, so everyone goes home disappointed.
Continuing on with our story...
In a community not too far away from this young man was another eager young man. He, too, has been told by his elders to go out and network. Except they explained that he couldn't expect to get anything without giving first. They called it Networking 2.0.
"Go to the chamber luncheon," they said. "Introduce yourself to a few people. Take a few business cards with you. If someone asks, give them one while asking for theirs, but don't pitch. Ask them what they do. Inquire on how they got into that line of work. Ask them about their latest family vacation. Let them talk about their kids."
They told the young man, "Let your new acquaintances do most, if not all, of the talking. Be interested in them. Be earnest. Listen for ways you might be able to help them. Let the conversation develop. Maybe they will say they are working on fixing up their house. If you know of a good contractor, mention it. If not, don't worry about it. Just be present. Let them talk. Give them your attention."
They also said, "At the natural end of the conversation, if they ask, let them know what you do. If they are interested in learning more about it, they will ask. Try to turn the conversation back around to them and what they are interested in. Build a relationship. Then excuse yourself and do it again with another new friend.
You are planting seeds today, not reaping. Pretty soon a lot of people will know you. They will like you. They will trust you."
Finally, they assured him, "Your crop will come in once you have planted the seeds and watered the ground. If you try to harvest today, you won't get much, if anything. When they need what you have to sell, they will come to you. They will be loyal to you because you are loyal to them and the relationship. They will send you referrals.
They will think of you first when your area of business comes up. You will have an army of people looking out for you."
This young man went on to have a successful career with many friends.
Networking 2.0. Give Gifts. Be Generous.
This is Networking 2.0. Give to get. If you have failed miserably at sales, maybe you were focused on Networking 1.0 and it wasn't for you.
Networking 2.0 types don't go to networking events with a stack of business cards and an elevator pitch. They go with questions. They go to build relationships.
Questions you may hear a 2.0 networker ask a new acquaintance might be, "What do you do for a living?" That leads to, "That's interesting. How did you get into that kind of work?"
They ask questions and they listen. They don't think ahead as to what their next statement is going to be. They are present and interested.
At the end of the conversation, they may not have even said, or been asked, what they do. That's OK. Networking 2.0 type people are all about nurturing the relationship and trying to be helpful. They understand that people do business with, and give referrals to, people they know, like and trust.
As long as you have a solid product and enough relationships, you will do fine.
Continuing on in our story...
In another town not too far away, an eager young lady is ready to take on the world of business.
The elders tell her, "Attend networking events, get to know people, connect in-person and online."
Luckily, she loves social media and technology. Networking 3.0 comes naturally to her. She has read everything she could get her hands on concerning professional and personal branding. She knows what it means be a media company. She knows how to use social media to engage and build relationships. She gets digital marketing, email marketing and online community management. She also read about Networking 1.0 and Networking 2.0.
She knows that if 1.0 networkers use social media at all, it is to talk about themselves. She knows they don't last long online. They soon decide that social media networking, just like in-person networking, doesn't work. Before too long, their online platforms are abandoned.
She knows that networker 2.0 types do OK with social media. They aren't self-focused so they don't drive away their online friends. But before too long, they begin to feel overwhelmed with the enormity of the online world. So many people, so many relationships to maintain. They question when and how to do promotions that generate an ROI. It's just too much to manage.
They long for the days of just face-to-face and ear-to-ear networking.
Our heroine, she leverages technology.
Utilizing her social sites, online listening stations and a social CRM, she nurtures relationships with hundreds of people. She realizes that she herself is a powerful media company with the ability to create and broadcast helpful ideas and insights that her target market will value. She isn't afraid to shoot a quick video or Tweet out an opinion.
She is even good with just sharing a great sunset picture, because she knows that makes her human.
Between her in-person networking and online efforts, she generates massive awareness for herself and her business. She invests time and energy to translate that awareness into relationships through engagement. Those relationships convert into sales, some organically (they call her) and some through digital marketing (she runs online email and social media marketing campaigns).
Her friends, prospects and clients are all in her online community, which she nurtures and grows. She takes care of them and they take care of her (and they even take care of each other). Her success grows exponentially as her community grows. Strangers come to her, not she to them. They become friends and customers. Then they tell their friends. And so on.