Networking - Relax!

Anyone who has been to a networking event has met business card
thruster guy. Won’t leave you alone, thrust their card in your face,
every attempt at conversation gets quickly turned into a sales pitch.
These people aren’t networking, they’re selling. Badly.

Let me share with you some of my thoughts on what puts the ‘work’
in networking. Networking is a form of marketing, and any form of
marketing is most effective when you don’t come straight out and
say “buy this!” The best marketing techniques work on building
relationships – courting trust, showing your intentions to be honourable
in what you are offering. And there are certain market characteristics

People buy people.
People work with (and refer) people they like.
People don’t like being sold to.

That’s why the best networkers aren’t the great sales gurus, they’re
the archetypal ‘people person’. They are interested in other people
and what they do. They want to help as well as be helped, not just
because it will see them get business in the future, but because they
like helping others.
And most importantly, they don’t talk – they listen.

Many networking events involve a ‘round robin’ of everyone there,
which certainly has its uses – you get to tell everyone who you are
and what you do, and if there is someone there who is looking for
the service you provide, they will very likely come up to you for a
chat. But that’s not networking, that’s hit and miss, and it’s very
important to understand the difference.

What I call hit and miss is what I just described above. You tell as
many people in one go what you do in the hope that one of them is
looking for it – the social equivalent of a mailshot, and just about
as effective.

When you network, it involves who you get to know, and who they
know, and who they know. This is called Six Degrees of Separation,
the theory of psychologist Stanley Milgram. Milgram theorised that
there was a chain of six people or less connecting us to everyone else
on the planet, and this is also where Six Degrees Network gets its
name from. This, to us, is exactly what networking is about: working
that chain, getting your details through to the person at the other end,
by getting to know people who can pass that information on.
Word-of-mouth marketing relies on this being a small world, and
networking makes it even smaller. This is also why the IT consultant,
for example, shouldn’t ignore the mechanic or the florist – firstly it’s
rude, and secondly who knows who they know?

So how do you get your name down that chain? It’s unfortunate but
true, that meeting a truly nice person is a rare occurrence these days.
People remember meeting them when they do, and they feel an
obligation to do something nice for them in return. Business card
thruster guy will be bunched in with all the rest that person has ever
met, but you, the sincere, friendly person who they chewed the fat with
for half an hour about their business, their family and life in general,
will be remembered. And if someone ever mentions your type of
service to them in the future, you get the all-important “You know,
I met a really nice guy/girl who does that called…” Just in case
business card thruster guy is reading this and wonders what my point
is here, this is called a referral. Its ok, I know you haven’t seen one
before. Don’t be scared.

About the Author

Gill Fernley and Justin Baker are the founders of Six Degrees Network, a group organising business networking events with a social slant across the UK. You can find out more at

Gill Fernley and Justin Baker