WARNING, to you, the reader: this is strictly an opinion piece. There was no grant money sent my way to do an in-depth study on the topic. Below are simply my observations about networking after years and years and years of doing it myself. So if you were expecting scientific, prepare yourself for disappointment.
For those just looking for a read on the topic, press on.
Networking: the act of asking dozens of complete strangers, “So what do you do?” All the while hoping they will return the courtesy of asking you the same question. But after your (or their) third conversation, attention begins to lag, and by five or six, the ability to comprehend a pitch is toast. That said, networking is a numbers game; the more people you meet, the better your chance someone will remember you when an opportunity presents itself. When that opportunity does arise, what networking skill will get them to remember you most – your pitch or your personality? And yes, both your networking pitch and your networking personality are skills.
Remember, this is an opinion piece, so you may believe something different and that’s OK. Stick with what you think works best. In my experience, your personality is infinitely more important than your pitch. Stands to reason, doesn’t it? You’re more apt to remember the words (or the gist of the words) coming out of someone’s mouth if you sense a personal connection with the speaker. This isn’t a love-at-first-site connection (though that does happen), but a “feeling” this person has some intangible quality that would make them a valuable business AND social resource.
An engaging personality also cuts through the inherent BS filter veteran networkers develop (takes about 4-5 events for the filter to fall into place). There are so many professions out there; most legitimate, others made up as a way station between jobs, and some are outgrowths of the new industries that spring up on a daily basis. Just two years ago it would have been rare for someone to introduce themselves as a “social media coordinator.” Now it’s passé. In either place, the BS filter would be on high alert, and your pitch would die in the space between you and your listener. But an engaging personality would bring the filter down, and your pitch would naturally make its way into their consciousness, so when their client said they had no idea how to develop a social media presence, CLICK! You become the expert and have yourself an introduction.
Lastly, while this is harsh and discriminatory, most referrals are given because the referrer feels comfortable referring the referree (not a real word but do with it). A referral really has little to do with the quality of your work or your pricing or your ability to meet a set of requirements. Those specifics are tough to know except to your firm and your clients; outsiders have to rely on their “gut feeling” about you. It’s their reputation on the line when they refer someone, so they’re going to give the lead to someone they like and trust. That is entirely a personal connection. You may provide the greatest service in the world, but if you’re an SOB, who would really feel comfortable referring you? (I’m sure there are exceptions.)
I can’t tell you how to develop a great networking personality, but you’ll know the people who have one. They’re the ones who get the business and who give the business to others. They have made the connection and they continue to cultivate those connections, because even though their contacts have no real idea what they do, they know enough to identify an opportunity and send it over the wall. Pretty sure Bogie was referring to networking when he talked about the “beautiful friendship.”
Sean is That Guy. If it doesn’t fall under operations or technology, then that guy handles it. The role actually fits Sean perfectly – keeps him from getting bored with any one element of the business. His list of duties include the internal (payroll, rent, payables), the external (sales, networking, receivables), and client work (projects and support); Sean is also the “acclaimed” author of the Syzygy 3 weekly blog and monthly newsletter.
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