Real Networking

What do you think of when somebody brings up networking? The dreaded Opt-in
mailing lists, never-ending Newsgroups, or maybe it's those virtual or
tele-meetings with other professionals?

The main idea behind networking is to gain the respect of other businesses
and individuals for the contribution you and your company can make. You
rarely gain any alliances from an Opt-In list that is made up of different
businesses or individuals trying to push their products or services onto
each other. It's nothing but a nameless, faceless barrage of ads. And, for
all the virtual legwork required in newsgroups, the very few connections
that you might make there are far outweighed by the time you will spend
doing it. I do have to admit that with the different types of electronic
meetings that are available today, they are comparably better than
newsgroups or opt-in's, but still cannot compare to Real Networking.

Here in a simple form, is an example of my networking:

The scene: Local Health Club. Admittably, a good place to meet other
individuals who might have a chance of being in the position to be a part of
a successful network cycle for me.

I see Don working out on the stair stepper. I know Don to see him here, but
have never really held a good conversation with him. I know that Don repairs
computers for a lot of the small businesses in the area. I am myself am a
web designer. The first part of initializing a network partner is getting
that line of communication open. I go over jump on the stair-stepper next to
Don. I begin striking up a (non-business) conversation with Don. I
eventually ask him what business he is in. Don tells me just what I expected
to hear. He owns his own computer repair business and does a lot of work
with smaller local businesses. I tell him that I also work with the same
type of businesses in the Web Design field. I then ask Don if when the
session is over may I have one of his business cards, and when the occasion
arises, would he mind if I referred any of my customers needing his
services. Well, unless Don was already so overwhelmed with work, he would
certainly not mind getting some new business. Please remember this. One
keynote of networking is not to expect something in return. What you're
looking for here is a future network contact, not your next meal.

Don and others like him are my Real Network. If the occasion arises I will
send Don some work. (Note: Be cautious here. From other sources I already
know Don's capabilities and business tactics. He's experienced and fair. Do
not risk other network connections by referring them to someone who is,
shall we say less than reputable). But whether I send any work Don's way or
not, I've opened the door to a whole new network of possible contacts. This
conversation alone will stay with Don. I am talking to him as a friend,
willing to do him a favor if the occasion ever arises. For which in turn I
am hoping, not expecting Don will do the same. I have measured the chances
and thought that Don deserved my attention and a place in my network. If I
am successful, Don will feel the same.

Well, it's been a little over a year since then and my association with Don,
which still is limited to talking and joking around at the health club, has
netted me, or Networked me 7 new clients. 3 of which Don referred to me
directly, and 4 which were referred by his referrals. That my friend may
seem like small potatoes to you, but never the less is Real Networking.

About the Author

"Wild Bill" Montgomery
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/"Wild Bill/" Montgomery