Networking: The right way (for construction marketing, in fact everything)

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Yesterday afternoon, Mike Christian,  senior account manager with TFM (Today’s Facility Manager) Magazine called me on reference from Michael Jeffries. His initial inquiry:  to see if he could do anything for me.  My response:  I wanted to know what I could do for him.  Neither of us expected to sell anything to each other — we were simply seeing how we could connect and possibly share some useful resources with each other.

As it is, I knew about the major Construct Canada/PM Expo Trade Show in early December, an event of direct relevance to his business.  And  company’s businessfacilities.com – whose market is largely economic development offices at various municipalities, states and provinces, has a truly useful directory/listings, of direct relevance to a project we are currently working on with our Ontario-based publications.

Mike Jeffries, meanwhile, had practiced the art of networking by connecting us:  We certainly wouldn’t know each other and might have reason to be cautious about communicating in our initial conversation without his referral.

I don’t expect any dollars will trade from these communications.  However, the value of this type of networking is far greater than any form of blind cold calling or (gulp, because my business earns most of its revenue by selling it), paid advertising.   All three of of, of course, “get it” when it comes to effective networking:  The goal is to think less of what we can sell the others than what we can do to help them in their business, without worrying about any form of reward.  We aren’t selfless in this process:  We aren’t shooting darts in the dark in developing these networking relationships; they have some relevance to our business, life and mutual interests — but the process of successful networking is always outward rather than inward-directed.

Here are the basic rules of effective networking:

  • At networking events in every conversation you have, think primarily about what you can do to give value to the other person.  Don’t think about selling anything.  If your services have immediate value to the person you are speaking with, you might get the opportunity to communicate that fact, but your number one priority is to help the other person out.
  • You can apply the same principals of giving and respect outside of formal events.  Listen to the needs of the person you are speaking with (and I think networking to be effective requires at least a phone conversation or in-person meeting — you aren’t going to get too far with simply an email exchange) and then see if you can offer some value to that person.
  • “Value” depends on the situation.  You might know someone who would be an ideal client for the person you are speaking with.  If your connection with this individual is through a reference from a trusted networker, you would then have little trouble (or risk) in making the networking referral.  More likely, you’ll be able to share some knowledge, information, or mutually relevant contact information.

Of course, if you worry about “what you will get in return” for this giving, you lose points.  The value of networking occurs, always, when your frame of reference is selfless.

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