Networking has evolved leaps and bounds in the last 10 years. Though Facebook and LinkedIn have helped all of us in our ‘networking journey’, the concept itself has changed. What is the paradigm shift in networking? I don’t see any. The purpose has been the same since its inception. But what has changed over years is it’s power to degrade the value of people’s time. There weren’t many forums available before 2000. Yes, the international forums like Rotary, Lions, BNI, JCI, etc. of the world existed before; but predominantly there were more community based ‘programmes’. Jains used to conduct their own programmes so were the Vysya community for their internal development.
I was part of many programmes that were conducted by my father at Rotary and my mother at Inner-wheel club respectively. Yes, they were community based programmes, and run on a social cause. Should I call them networking then?
Networking is ‘a group of people meeting together to build relationships‘. Is this what we follow in today’s day and age? Or, are we meeting to just sell our products & services?
Someone recently said that ‘the best way to find right people is, to enable yourself to be found by them.‘ Absolutely. Sales is all about changing perceptions and if you want to do that, you need to build the relationship first. When you go to a forum, look for people who you would like to build a relationship with. Selling can happen later, in a big way.
I wonder how people mis-use networking forums to sell. Just sell. Sell more. Sell all the time… Trust me, it’s not going to work. You might sell a product or two (if it’s a low value product), but you haven’t created the best impression by doing so.
Effective Networking doesn’t mean you should take membership in as many networking forums as possible. It means, you need to be part of only the relevant forums so that you spend quality time with people. If it means just one forum, so be it. Even if you meet one guy, make sure you build a strong relationship/ connect with him. One in hand is always better than two in bush.
The above blog has captured rightly all the important aspects of post-networking activities. And I firmly believe that all these are part of ‘purpose‘. If your intent is to be part of as many forums as possible, the very fundamental element is missing. What’s the point in being enthusiastic or sincere, if you don’t even have a purpose?
What do you do if you have 5000 connections? Send bulk email? Bummer. You have wasted everyone’s time, including yours. The very purpose of building these strong relationships is to leverage them for a better purpose. Build strong communities where you can drive purposeful engagements. Drive interesting initiatives for the betterment of society or the community. The purpose is more important than the turnout. Many multi million dollar deals happen over coffee by a small group of people, because they would have spent quality time and built that relationship over a period of time.
The next level of networking is to make your network to work on its own. That’s when you have completed the loop. This reminds me of another interesting article relating networking to a bicycle wheel and a spider. It’s a good analogy and also asking you to introspect as to what do you want to do with your network? Do you want to make these relationships just work for you, or do you want to enable them to work for everyone? #BNI is a great example of this analogy.
The very reason why I put the wrong spelling of network in the heading is to show how people are mis-using the purpose of a ‘network’.
Stay focused Stay purposeful Stay limited.
Less is more!