“Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain. It’s not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you haven’t learned anything.”
– Muhammed Ali
The common view of business networking is that it is a numbers game. It must be. Many people have told me that with great conviction. And yet I am not convinced.
So, what happens when you approach it as a matter of numbers? You go to one event after another at the chamber of commerce and professional associations. You follow the standard custom, handing your business card out to as many people as possible and collecting theirs. You get home, and what do you have? A pocket full of cards from strangers! Who are these people? How long do you keep their cards? Many of us discard those cards as soon as we remove the jacket we wore to the meeting. At the same time, we have the stunning realization that our cards will have the same fate – tossed in the trash within two weeks if not sooner! And this kind of “networking” was a good idea?
This experience is a superficial “hit and run” encounter with too many people. It may have been data overload as well. There was no leveraging of the opportunity – no depth.
What is the antidote to this insanity? How about setting an intention before each networking event that you will seek out substantive conversations with only a few people so that you will actually have a fighting chance to remember who they are. Know whom you are looking to meet. Listen carefully to learn about them and clearly articulate what you have to offer as a business or social connection. Write notes on the back of your card when you present it to someone else and add notes to theirs. Request a follow-up meeting when you find someone you want to know better. Schedule it then and there!
As you gain from each new friendship, remember that you can also become a valuable resource for others. The benefit goes both ways. One good contact can lead to the next and the next and the next. As you do this intentional building of your network, you will gain “bench strength.” Treat each encounter as the beginning of a relationship that could be for a lifetime and you will set a positive, productive tone. From personal experience, I can tell you this works. Enjoy!
“Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence. True friendship is a plant of slow growth, and must undergo and withstand the shocks of adversity before it is entitled to the appellation.”
– George Washington