Networking Fundamentals

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Over the years many folks have offered observations and suggestions regarding the format for our monthly B2B luncheon.

  • Add a guest speaker,
  • Give us more time to promote our businesses,
  • Have a 5 minute presenter,
  • etc.

I have contemplated these suggestions and would like to share some thoughts. 

 

So, a moment on the method to my madness.  Our format is simple: come to lunch and bring a guest to introduce to someone else who will be there.  Do it to help your guest and do it to help others at the luncheon.  When we get there, we chat, find someone to sit with so we can chat some more, eat and chat.  We do a very brief introduction of ourselves to the group: name, rank, and serial number.  Then people usually hang around and chat some more and make appointments so they can get together later.  This began over 4 years ago when Lynn Blackburn and I wanted to make some personal introductions (a “10” on the ScoreCard) and thought having a regularly scheduled time to do so would be easier than trying to coordinate everyone’s schedules.  Plus, it put the onus (I love that word) on each of us to make the invitation and get someone there because we didn’t want to show with no one.  Not very complicated, I admit, but it works surprisingly well.  Successful introductions are made every month.

Networking has come a long way in the past 5-10 years.  People have learned many of the basic elements and are becoming more successful at it.  But because of the abundance of referral groups, mixers, and networking opportunities, we have come to expect certain “networking activities.”  We may have even come to depend on them.  Show up and follow instructions.  We’ll do the networking thinking for you.

Networking is an activity that is meant to lead to the initiation and/or deepening of relationships, usually for the purpose of gaining business.  Meeting new people and gathering names is an essential part of building a network.  But that is a first step to getting referrals.  Building mutually beneficial relationships is required if you expect to consistently receive quality referrals.  Having lunch and getting to know each other is an easy way to do that.  In fact, if we wanted to really get into it, sharing a meal has traditionally been a very meaningful, intimate expression of relationship.

Going to various events is essential to building your business through relationship, or referral, marketing.  I don’t attend as many events as I used to, so I want to make my time at those I do attend pay off.  And having a good time while I’m at it doesn’t hurt either.  Having a purpose for attending these events and a method to your madness (read: have a plan) helps to make the investment of time in networking pay off.

Brings to mind something that old sage, Dr. Ivan Misner often says, “Learn to execute the fundamentals flawlessly.” Having lunch with someone and making introductions are a couple of those fundamentals.