Hello SOTGC community,
We kicked off the year by talking about Who you should network with, and last month’s blog addressed What networking is (and isn’t). This month we’ll conclude the three part blog series by discussing the final 3 Ws – When, Where, and Why.
When networking, it is important to know who you want to meet and what type of people the organization attracts. It is also imperative to know what you want to get out of the group and what you are willing to give.
You can read more about the “Who” and “What” of networking in Part 1 and Part 2 of The 5 W’s of Networking. In this third and final part, the “When,” “Where,” and “Why” will be addressed.
The “When” and “Where” of networking go hand in hand. I’ve learned through experience that if the time of day and the location are not convenient, I am not likely to attend the networking event on a consistent basis. I am not really a “morning person.” I like to spend the first hour or so of my day by answering emails, writing blogs, or doing basic administrative tasks like invoicing. This allows me to start my day with a little quiet time and knock out a few basic or mundane tasks, which, in turn, makes me feel like I’ve started my day off productively. Once my coffee kicks in, and I’ve gotten a few items checked off my to-do list, I can then be fully present when interacting with others, and I become energized from being around others. Knowing this about myself, I typically will not consider attending networking functions that only meet in the early morning. There are plenty of groups out there to choose from, so there is no need for me to pick one that meets at a time that is inconvenient for me.
One of my colleagues is an early riser and gets very tired in the late afternoon. She signed up for a class that met from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and was 30 minutes away from her office and home. Not only did she attend only two of the first six classes, but she couldn’t focus or be her best self while she was there because she was tired. Traffic patterns and the ease and cost of parking are some logistical items to consider when choosing your networking groups.
The “Where” of networking isn’t just limited to formal networking events. You can network anywhere that you interact with others – a friend’s party, your child’s soccer game, your book club meeting, etc. These are all examples of places where you interact with others with whom you have something in common – a mutual friend, a child that plays soccer, or the same book. I find that the best networking happens organically because it is genuine and not forced.
Four months ago one of my friends invited about ten ladies to get together for happy hour before the holidays. These ten ladies were close friends of hers, and, coincidentally, most of them were either entrepreneurs or held a position in business development or sales. The purpose of the happy hour was “strictly social,” but because these ladies’ businesses depended on their networks, reputation, and referrals, most of the women exchanged cards and went on to build professional relationships with one another. One of the ladies that I met at the happy hour was an interior designer. She showed us a beautiful photo of a bathroom remodel that she just completed. In my business I only deal with commercial real estate and this gal only services residential clients, so the chance of us exchanging direct referrals was fairly slim. However, we kept in touch because we enjoyed the time we spent together. Last week I met two friends for dinner. One of the gals was filling us in on her new home purchase and all of the remodeling and decorating that would go along with it. I was able to connect her to the designer that I met several months back, and she was thrilled about engaging with her. Both of these meetings were set up with a social intent, but networking and lead generation were able to occur organically because those that were involved connected in various ways outside of the business world.
The “Why” of networking is probably the most important of the 5 Ws. Why are you networking? Because someone told you that you should? Because you need more business? Because you are looking to meet new people? Your reason for networking will have a HUGE impact on your success and enjoyment level while networking. My personal belief is that if you truly have no desire whatsoever to foster relationships and connect with others, and if you are attending events solely to get immediate leads, then networking is not for you. If this is the case, you may want to either hire a business development professional that will network for you on your behalf, or implement a sales strategy that is not relational, such as cold calling or purchasing a leads list.
Successful networking is about creating relationships, not about creating a leads list or seeing how many business cards you can hand out. Be genuine, be open minded, and be on the hunt for a true strategic partner, and you will be sure to find success!
Ready to get your “network” on? Then please LIKE this post, I hope the tips have been helpful.