Last month, I flew out to San Diego to attend the Small Business Development Centers’ national conference. While I was planning what to pack… swimsuit, sunscreen, beach shoes; my thoughts turned to how to gain the most benefit and make the best connections from the trade show, presenters and other attendees I would meet from around the country. This is something I have to put some effort into because although it may come as a surprise, networking hasn’t always been my “thing”. I wouldn’t go as far as to say I’m an introvert but I’m definitely not turning cartwheels at the prospect of having to initiate numerous conversations with total strangers either.
What helps me through this process is something I learned from a friend and colleague. For about a decade now I’ve known Toni Teague*; a very kind, generous, intelligent woman who is a consummate professional and educator in the field of leadership. Toni always lifts spirits and imparts knowledge wherever she goes. Several years back I worked with Toni to bring a leadership experience to a group of high school students in the Central Ohio area. It was here that I first heard her share this “tidbit” on networking:
“It’s not what you know; it’s who you know,
It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you
It’s not who knows you, it’s who, who you know knows
And what who knows you, knows about you.”
Take a minute… re-read that a couple of times and let it sink in. This statement drives home the importance of being aware and purposeful in your interactions. Have you been networking, or in the social media world, socializing purposefully? Or have you been focusing more on who you know than on making sure those that know you, know what they should about you?
Do your business partners, clients and customers know everything they should know about you? If they were to run into someone looking for the service or product you provide, would they know enough about whom you are, what you do and what you can provide to recommend you?
Networking is about more than schmoozingand collecting enough business cards to wallpaper your office. As you go forth and mingle at after hours or Facebook, Twitter and Google + your friends, colleagues, and customers make sure to spend some time, before that next networking opportunity, in person or online, to determine:
- Who do you think would make an important and beneficial addition to your network?
- For each of the additions you identified in number 1, what should they know about you and your business?
Knowing the answer to these questions will help you be more focused when working a room or your online networks and prepare you to effectively and efficiently share the information you want your contacts to know about you and your business.
Lastly, after you’ve done all the work to build your connections don’t forget to devise a plan to regularly cultivate your relationship with them to ensure they’re there when you need them.
Have some tips for developing business relationships? Comment and share!