Last weekend I was playing in a golf tournament to raise money for a local charity. I was playing with two of my friends, both well connected and master networkers. We were set to be a three-man team when the organizer of the event approached us to ask if we would like a fourth. Of course, we said yes.
Our fourth turns out to be a nice young man, early thirties, a big smile on his face, and he jumps in the cart with me. I immediately introduced myself and started asking him questions. Where are you from? What do you do? How long have you been playing golf? Eventually, I got around to asking why he was playing in this tournament. It turns out he worked for a financial institution expanding into our area, and he was attending to make connections and identify business opportunities. It sounded like a smart move to me as there were several professionals and business owners playing in this event.
We hit the first hole and turns out our new teammate is a ringer. Good thing, we need him! As we head to the second hole, his smartphone vibrates he takes a moment to answer a message. This is where the story goes downhill. From that point on he was pretty much connected to his smartphone more than he connected with me or with the golf team.
Now, I was a little insulted and a little frustrated, because our new friend thought he was networking. His boss told him to show up at this tournament, play in it, talk to a few people and in his mind, he did all that.
However, that was far from networking. He happened by pure luck, to be put on a team with three people whom I would argue between us pretty much know everyone, not only in our area but in our entire region. Especially my two teammates – well connected and well respected. If he would have put the smartphone down and engaged in conversation, his results from this networking event would have been much different. It would have led to a follow-up, more connections, and business. By not networking he missed his short-cut to business and career success.
When he was not glued to his smartphone, I asked him lots of questions. I had a good feel for whom he needed to meet. A number of those connections were at this tournament, and others were people I could have easily referred him to. In all the time we spent together he never asked me a question. Never asked for my card or gave me his.
“If you’re not networking, you’re not working.” – Dennis Waitley
This is a great example of why so many people don’t like, don’t see the value or gain the benefit of networking. You can’t just show up. To do it effectively you have to be present and spend the time building relationships.
Employers, don’t send your associates off to network without giving them the skills and setting the expectations of what you want them to accomplish. Networking is expensive – there are fees to enter tournaments, costs to attending events, not to mention you are losing production time.
I still believe networking has one of the highest rates of return on investment. Had our “new friend” been taught the skills he would have walked away from this tournament with three new friends willing to help him open the doors and expand opportunities.
So how do you strategically network?
1 – Set A Goal – networking is about getting out of your comfort zone and using your time wisely. When you network, you should set a goal for the number of people with whom you plan to connect. Setting a goal of three or four people for each event will ensure you use your time wisely and make networking effective.
2 – Invest First – networking is not about you, it is about getting to know the other person. So, you need to focus your energy on asking questions and listening.
3 – Expand – networking is the new cold calling, and it is just a first step to getting business. It is the beginning of the relationship building process. Keep in mind that to make networking work, you need to take ownership of expanding the relationships that you want to grow.
You invest a lot of money in sponsorships, golf tournaments, and charity events. Investing in learning to network will ensure you get a strong return on your investment!