One of the most common “rookie mistakes” business people make is confusing the act of exchanging business cards, or handshakes, with effective networking.
Networking is not about how many people have your card. It is about how many people know you, value what you do, and feel comfortable referring their friends and colleagues to you.
This is such a critical distinction that it is difficult to over-emphasize it. Over the years, I have heard dozens of
professionals and business people say that they joined a service club or professional organization “but it never did any good.” When I ask them to tell me how they actually spent their time at the meetings, they usually say they attended, tried to be friendly, exchanged business cards with lots of people, and greeted as many people as possible.
When I ask how many referrals they made TO the people they met, I often get a blank look. When I ask about how many luncheons or follow-up phone calls they made, there’s silence. When I ask if they served on a committee or as an officer, the most common answer is “No.”
Networking is about bonding and building connections. It is about building trust. It’s about building a mutual
relationship that benefits both parties. Think about how many people the average physician, attorney, stock broker or salesperson contacts in a year. If your attorney knows and understands the value of your business and feels comfortable referring to you, he or she might make dozens of referrals per year. Most times it is those that are in the service business that seem to Network the most.
Think of networking as the art of building a solid, long-term alliance with a circle of fellow business people. A
circle of a dozen can be worth a million dollars a year in referrals. It is not the number business cards, it is the
quality of the relationship that counts.
Build your network in terms of solid, reciprocal alliances that benefit each member of your “quality circle.”