More Than WE Know

Women Entrepreneurs sharing Information, Inspiration and Support

What to do when Net Working is Not Working! part 1 of 3

Posted by Liz Fuller on August 8, 2007

penguins.jpg  When I ask Women Entrepreneurs about the business activity they least enjoy, I get a consistent answer, “marketing”.  And when I ask the method that they are currently employing, the most frequent response is “networking’.  It seems strange to me that so many women, who have a reputation for being sociable beings, would find networking so challenging.

The reasons they give me are:

  • it feels uncomfortable
  • it’s time consuming
  • it doesn’t pay off

In this part 1 of a 3 part series, I am going to ask you to take a new look at the way you are networking. I’m convinced that if you employ these strategies, networking will become one of your favorite, and most productive methods of marketing your business.

The most frequent objection is that networking feels uncomfortable. Women Entrepreneurs tell me that they don’t like the forced atmosphere of networking or “working a room”. It feels predatory and unnatural. The rules of the game seem to be, “Get as many business cards as possible in as little time as possible and then pester those people for business. “

I’d like to propose a new game, one that feels more comfortable to women and draws on our natural ability as social beings.  Next time you are at one of those “networking events”, instead of focusing on the quantity of connections you make, focus on the quality.

Who cares if you only speak to one or two people? One or two authentic connections are preferable to a dozen inauthentic, high-pressured and easily forgettable ones. 

So, instead of measuring the success of the evening by the number of cards you collect, measure it instead by the number of laughs you share, the number of stories you hear, and the number of new friends you make

Don’t worry about it being a waste of time – how far was that stack of cards going to get you, really?

So, at the very next event, make it a point to talk to one or two people and actually get to know them.  Ask what they do and really listenDon’t just wait for an opening to pounce on them with your expertise.  And don’t sell them your services!   Just take a few moments to listen to their concerns, their challenges, and their aspirations. Make the new game seeing how many things you can talk about before you tell them what you do. 

And when they ask what you do? Then tell a story about your day, share a laugh, maybe even suggest stealing an extra dessert. In other words, connect with that person like they’re an interesting human being that you’d like to get to know. They’ll be so relieved that they’ll start to relax. And before you know it, they’ll be ASKING for your card because they will WANT to talk to you more.

But be cautious – you’re cultivating a network, not trying to make a sale. Resist the urge to sell your services directly. Hand them your card, tell them what you do, maybe give an amusing anecdote about your job, or a funny question you always get asked. You want them to remember you when they need you, not hire you on the spot! Be sure to describe your ideal customer. Tell them if they come across anyone like that, you’d be glad to help. 

Congratulations! You’ve just expanded your network – and not just by the one person you spoke with, but by all the people that your new friend knows. As time goes on, they will be looking for opportunities to help you, to send work your way, and to connect with you again. And of course, you’ll be doing the same for them!

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