The movie ’21’ is the fact-based story about six MIT students who were trained to become experts in card counting and subsequently took Vegas casinos for millions in winnings. It was a very entertaining movie with a great cast that featured one of my favorite actors, Kevin Spacey. Those capable of actually counting cards consider it a skill which is their right to utilize. Casinos on the other hand, consider it a form of cheating and look to ban card counters.
When it comes to Vegas I have no opinion either way. When it comes to networking, I’m opposed to card counting and want it banned!
I’m very active in a St. Louis association which is dedicated to the success of entrepreneurs and the growth of business. The organization’s mission is “…to provide a means for investors, entrepreneurs and business advisers to make mutually beneficial relationships, designed to drive new business formation and growth through networking, education and information exchange.”
The linchpin in this statement is “…to make mutually beneficial relationships…”
So, why do I mention any of this? A while back another member of our board of directors asked me to connect with one of our members which I gladly did. We agreed to grab coffee after our organization’s monthly breakfast. That gentleman has been successful in business for some time and providing career guidance is part of what he does. Over coffee he mentioned that he had sent three clients to the breakfast with the instruction “Don’t leave until you have at least 10 business cards.”
Networking is NOT about counting cards. It is about creating and building relationships. Why? Because “All things being equal, people will do business with, and refer business to people they know, like and trust.” In my opinion networking should more aptly named connecting.
Here are some tips for more effective networking:
Use a system:
There are quite a few systematic approaches to networking which have been proven effective. The system I base my networking on is Bob Burg’s “Endless Referrals.” Simply put, this system works to provide an ongoing referral source as the result of building relationships. Its basic principles are clearly evident in Bob and John David Mann’s best-selling book The Go-Giver. Regardless of your preferred approach, make sure it’s systematic in order to most effectively build and continue the relationships which you make while networking.
Know your brand:
This may sound obvious and overly basic, but all too often people attend networking events without having given much thought to how they are going to engage and what their message will be. Have clarity of your brand, your message and the benefits you deliver. Know what you can and want to deliver. Almost as important is to know what your non-negotiables are – those things that may seem attractive but will derail your focus and strategy.
Network with a purpose:
Effective networking begins before you ever step foot into the event. Take the time to identify networking events whose attendees are most likely to be relevant to you. Many groups publish their attendee list prior to the event. This presents a tremendous opportunity to identify specific people whom you would most like to meet.There are several ways to be proactive in meeting those specific individuals and I’ll address those in a later post.
Be interested and then be interesting:
I first heard this line from a friend and colleague, Frans VanOudenallen. It is simply brilliant. A key to initiating and building relationships is to be interested in the other person. Be eager to learn about them, their business, their goals and their message. Pay attention. Think about who you’ve met or know that might be a good connection for them. Virtually everyone enjoys talking about themselves. There’s a very good chance that person will consider their talk with you to be the most pleasant and engaging of their evening. Remember, it is about building relationships and getting people to know, like and trust you.
It is imperative to follow up with on the connections you’ve made and strengthened. Determine what communication will be best to reach that person. “Endless Referrals” suggests that an ‘old school’ handwritten note may provide the most impact. Some people may prefer the convenience of an email while others would respond best to a phone call. Regardless of which method you choose, be sure to follow-up. Everyone should have some form of CMS which they use to manage their contacts. Do your research to find which system works best for you.
So, if you’re looking to network effectively, don’t focus on achieving a card count. Take the time to establish a system that works for you. Understand your purpose and know your expectations from networking. On the other hand, if card counting is your thing, head to the casinos and all the best to you…but watch ’21’ first. 🙂