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Have I been doing networking all wrong?

 

For years, I’ve attended networking events in the hope that I will meet someone looking for public relations or social media services.

 

I’d get up early and head off to the city for a business breakfast with a pocket full of business cards.

 

Sure, I’d talk to lots of people and never gave it the hard sell.

 

I’d then head back to the office and duly follow-up with emails to names on business cards outlining my services and asking whether we could meet for a coffee.

 

Most of the time I received a polite reply but never a diary invite.

 

But I’m starting to take a different approach.

 

This is thanks to a book I’ve been reading: Bob Burg’s Endless Referrals. The first few chapters have been enlightening.

 

Burg’s approach to networking is not to talk about your services but to ask others about theirs. The real trick, though, is in the follow-up.

 

Burg cautions against sending people emails about your services or products. Instead, simply write to your new contact with a promise to send business their way if you can.

 

I put this approach to the test the other day and it elicited some great responses.

 

One person wrote back immediately saying they would connect with me on LinkedIn. In doing so they discovered that we had been to the same high school. What then ensued was a friendly conversation about happy childhood memories.

 

Now, what do you think the response would have been had I sent a salesy email about my public relations services?

 

I don't think there would have been a LinkedIn request. And I’m certain I wouldn’t have learnt anything else about this person and they wouldn’t have learnt about me.

 

What I gained from the exchange is a knowledge that my new contact isn’t in the market for public relations services at this point in time, but they do now know someone with whom they have something in common who does public relations. All this from a non-pushy approach with an offer to give something rather than take.

 

It may be the case that they will never be in the market to buy public relations services. That’s fine. But if they are, I believe I stand a better chance of being on their agenda than had I given it the hard sell. And potentially if someone they know is looking for public relations support, then that person might be referred to me.

 

Burg is clear that this approach to networking rarely results in instant wins but he's certain that it will over time.

 

People go to networking events in the hope that they are going to win new business and are trying to sell rather than be sold to. If you go to an event and offer to help people do this, you begin to stand out and start to develop relationships. This is incredibly powerful.

 

I’ve certainly had my eyes opened to a new approach, thanks to Bob Burg.