I always try to get my points across by relating to an experience that everyone is familiar with. In my opinion, business networking is a lot like dating. Remember the first time you went to a networking event, with a stack of business cards in your pocket and you had no idea how to do all this. With sweaty palms you tried your best to connect. If you were lucky, someone more experienced joined you and was able to get you connected and get you started in this networking game. As soon as you started a conversation with someone, you immediately tried to plug in your elevator speech and close as many deals as you could, because thats why we are here, right? Wrong!
Just like going on a first date, you wouldn’t talk just about you and expect to have a strong relationship. You create a relationship by showing interest in the other person and not just talking about me, me, me… If you take it slowly, act patiently, and show interest in the other persons activities and passions, you will have a larger chance getting on that second date. The same applies to business networking. You have to show interest in the other persons interests. Networking events are not about closing sales, at least not immediately. They are about creating strong business relationships where we help each other succeed. If there is a good chemistry, just like in dating, the other person will want to hang out with you and will show more interests in what you are all about and eventually do everything in their power to help you succeed.
I have been in the networking game for many years now and I have been part of several networking groups. I have been President and Vice President of a local chapter of Business Network International, the largest business referral networking organization in the world. Throughout the years I have met several good networkers, but more bad networkers. The good networkers have a lot of connections, because they take the time to build relationships and understand the value of these relationships. Good networking takes time and a lot of effort. You have to position yourself as a connector who does everything for his or her connections and is always willing to help. You also need to be willing to share all your knowledge at no charge. Just like in dating, it is the person that is considerate and willing to give, who has the most success. The ones that are selfish, have a short term goal in mind are not going to build many long standing relationships and will mostly go home empty handed.