When Julie Brown said “I’m going to build a new idea in your head about networking today” she was spot on. Brown is a business development consultant and owner of JB|BD. She does a lot of networking – attending more than 2,000 events in the past 20 years. She says networking “is more than just going to an event and collecting a bunch of business cards…networking is more about farming than it is about hunting.”
What does that mean? Brown explained that cultivating and nurturing relationships is a better way to think of networking. First, she explained why networking is important, citing statistics from a 2016 study that claimed “that 85% of jobs are filled through networking and 70-80% of those jobs are not advertised.”
In order to network with purpose, we have to do our homework. Are we attending the right events to meet the people with whom we want to engage? And then, do we know ourselves and our own goals? Brown proposed an exercise called “Listing Yourself” and showed her list as an example. By boiling down our interests and experiences to a brief list, we have something we can use to connect with others.
Brown gave the 50 women and men attending the session permission to “connect with people on a human level.” How do you do that?
- Be prepared – find out in advance some people who will attend the same event/conference and do some research about them
- Be interested and interesting – listen to others and try to connect with them on your common interests and experiences
- Be up to date – know what is trending and what people are talking about such as hot books, TV shows, sports, news, etc.
Brown quoted Bob Burg who wrote Endless Referrals: “People do business with people they know, like and trust.”
Approaching Others: Give, Give, Give, Ask
Another piece of very helpful advice that Brown offered was about how to approach others at an event, especially someone we’ve never met. She suggested using the “triadic closure” system of walking up to someone you know who is speaking with someone you don’t know. But only approach them if they are arranged like a croissant – open – versus a bagel – closed and facing one another. She also suggested speaking with people in line at the bar.
Brown offered advice on how to shake hands, how to remember peoples’ names and how important it is to follow-up after meeting someone. She even writes notes about people on the business cards they give her to remind her where and when they met and something they discussed to prompt a follow-up contact. Brown advises that every contact have a purpose – offer an interesting article, follow-up on a previous discussion, or provide a referral.
Finally, Brown explained that sometimes it can take meeting someone or contacting someone five times or more before any business or referrals develop from the connection. Her advice is to be helpful to those we meet without expecting anything in return – “give, give, give, ask.” She reminded us “the day you plant the seed is not the day you eat the fruit” – be patient about developing relationships.