Networking is a misnomer. It leads people to think that all you do is go out somewhere, make contact with other people, and then transactions will start to flow, and you’ll be in business!

Have you ever been to a “networking event”?  Did you find that you readily met people who needed exactly the goods or service that you were offering, and they were just waiting for you to show up so they could give you all of their business?  Yeah, probably not.  Because this is not how networks work. The real verb should not be “Networking” it should be Relationship-Building.  And like all relationships, they take time and effort.

Let me give you an example.  I recently came across a great quote, “Talk to yourself, don’t listen to yourself.”  There is a ton of wisdom in those few words.  I found this quote on an episode of the Success Champions podcast with Jon Gordon.  I really enjoy this podcast and it’s becoming one of my regulars, but how did I come across it, and this great quote?  Well, it goes something like this:

  1. The host of the Success Champions podcast is a guy named Donnie Boivin down in Dallas, Texas (I’m from the Seattle area).
  2. I met Donnie several months ago (May, 2019) when we were both guest panelists on a video panel discussion done in the UNleashed and UNlimited Facebook group.
  3. That group was created by a guy named Brad A Milford who I got to know pretty well in the first half of this year (2019) as I hired Brad to coach me through some business topics.
  4. I first met Brad in the Spring of 2018, through my friend Melahni Qualls Ake (from Indianapolis) who was also a member of Brad’s Facebook group. Melahni had come out to the Seattle area for a work trip, and we met up for dinner with another contact in the area that she knew.
  5. I met Melahni one evening in a restaurant and bar down in Orlando, Florida at the end of the February, 2018 International Maxwell Certification event. Melahni just happened to be in town and was meeting with other friends who were attending the IMC like I was, and we all happened to recognize each other in the restaurant. Melahni had talked about her new podcast, Everyday Leaders and so after the event, I checked it out and connected with Melahni through social media.
  6. The reason that I was in Orlando is that the IMC was a key event for me, the culmination of several months of study, as part of the John Maxwell Team.
  7. I had joined the John Maxwell Team in May of 2017 as part of my own personal growth plan, because I loved his books, live talks, and overall teaching approach on the topic of Leadership.

I could go on, tracing my introduction to John Maxwell back more than a decade, and all of the improbably links that got me to that point. But the main point here is that the above was the evolution of relationships over the course of years. Not some 2-minute introduction in the speed-round of a “professional networking event”. Real connections that pay off take time and effort.

Am I against networking events? Not at all! I encourage you to go to different events; to get out of the office (especially you who work from home) and get around other people that you don’t know.  But don’t come in with the expectation that you’re going to meet your next great client and 30 days from now you’ll be rolling in the dough.  Don’t focus on what YOU want or hope to get out of the event. In fact, try not to think about yourself or your business at all.

Instead, come in with the attitude of “who can I help here?”  As you meet people, find out about what THEY are looking for, what they are interested in, or what their ideal client looks like.  Maybe you know someone who needs what they have to offer.  But more likely, maybe somewhere down the road, you’ll bump into someone who knows someone who needs what they have to offer, and at that point, you can make a referral. But your referral is only good if you got to know the person that you are referring, and what they do, and maybe you can speak appropriately about them, because you stayed in contact with them and built a relationship where you could honestly vouch for them.  Because few people are so desperate to find a service provider that they will just take any name that you find in your giant stack of business cards that you collected at some networking event that you can’t even remember.  That is no more valuable to them, and perhaps even less so, than doing a Google search.  At least with a Google search you have a decent chance of finding some reviews to go along with the name.

So, YES, get out, go meet new people, start building relationships…it WILL pay off, but probably not right away, nor in the way you can predict right now. But it will be worth it.