The opposite of Networking is NOT working

Andrea NierenbergI typically talk about food and food related topics on my blog but for this I’ll make an exception and chalk it up to my obsession with the entrepeneurial spirit and how the woman pictured to the left embodies the concept. For all of you foodies out there who own businesses, read on.  

I think it’s safe to say that “Networking,” the “it” word of the 90’s has been maligned, misused and misunderstood.  It so often conjures up images of hungry salespeople circulating a crowded room all there for the express purpose of culling the coveted “lead.” While most people who agree with this definition of the word would think they are actually “networking”, in actuality, they are not working. 

True networking has its foundations in relationship building, and there is nobody better equipped to talk about this subject other than my friend Andrea Nierenberg. I first met Andrea at a presentation she gave and I remember my amusement when she asked (in an attempt to coax participation) the silent room of financial planners if this was, and I quote, “an English speaking group?”

In another vignette that she shared she remember meeting a colleague at an event and after a two minute conversation the colleague turned to Andrea and said, “I’m sorry I really don’t have time to talk because I am here to do some networking.” Do I need to explain the ridiculousness of that statement?

Andrea shared advice that, as she says, “is common sense, but not common practice.” My take away from her presentation? In order to build a business, you have to build relationships–a proactive, consistent approach which constantly seeks to provide value not only to your clients but also to colleagues, friends, relatives and yes, sometimes, even to strangers.  

I’ve been exposed to many “sales” presentations in my brief career as a financial planner. Too many I think.  And for all of the slicky packaged books, CDs and DVDs that exist, many either miss the basic rules or poo poo them as pollyanna.   You know the rules. Here are a few:  Send a thank you note each time. Remember your clients’ birthdays. Share valuable articles with your clients. Make introductions where you see there would be value shared between the parties.  Seek to share all you can, not because it might result in a sale, but because it’s the right thing to do.

Click on Andrea in my blogroll to get a taste of what it means to be a proactive networker and how the focus has to be on others. If you follow Andrea’s rules, you’ll soon discover the true meaning of the work “Networking.”