Stop Networking & Start Building Real Relationships – Part 1

By Robert Kennedy III

[Photo credit: Dell Networking Event – NYC]

I walked into the event and there he was, there she was, there THEY were.  You know them.  The first-timers.  The ones who feel like they have to go to networking events in order to build their business.  But, the problem is that they are scared out of their minds.  So, they get on their phones and text, scroll through social media and act like they’re engaged with something else JUST so that they don’t have to actually, you know…meet people.  The smartphone transforms from a small handheld device into a giant wall, shielding them from contact with the enemy.

While they execute their fear strategy, they fail to realize a certain percentage of the room is implementing a similar strategy.  It may not be with the phone.  It may be by hanging around the hors d’ouvres table or simply standing by the beverage cart.  I still remember events where I pretended to look for the bathroom for 30 minutes while I  got up my nerve to go meet people.

Why is it so hard?  Why is it such a challenge?  Who came up with this idea to throw a bunch of people in a room where only the extroverts thrived?

It’s hard for several reasons:

  1. You’re focused on selling – The only reason you are there is to see who you can get to buy your product or your service.  You came in to get hired and people can smell that cologne a mile away even when they are wearing it themselves.
  2. You were told that slinging business cards is the way to get noticed – Maybe you didn’t take a networking class but somewhere, somehow, you were told to order 5000 business cards and hand them out in mass quantity.  If you did this, then you were bound to get calls.  So, you whipped the cards at anyone who moved then went back to your office to sit by the phone.
  3. It seems like everyone else in the room knows each other – You see little circles of people swirling their drinks and laughing, so you feel set up.  You are the alien and the intruder.  Now you have to figure out how to interrupt without being rude.
  4. You’re desperate and you don’t want it to come oozing out of your sweat glands – You need to sell SOMETHING because your business is new or failing or BOTH!  You need money but you don’t want them to see the dollar signs in your pupils.  You’re caught between feeling grimy and being friendly.
  5. You’re not prepared – You know you need to have conversations but after a while, you run out of small talk and feel like you’re forcing it.

Let’s go back to your childhood for a moment.  Your family just moved or you are just getting to a new school.  You don’t know anyone at first but after a few weeks, you have some friends.  Did it happen by magic?  Did you put a spell on people to make them become your friends?  No and not exactly.  You did two simple things.  First you found a point of connection and second, you asked.  The connection point might have been something funny that happened, or maybe it was a game/sport on the playground, or maybe it was simply the fact that you were both new.  Then you asked, “Hey, do you want to play”

or

“Can I play with you?”

or

“May I sit here?”

or

“What do you think about…?”

Something happened on the way from the playground to the cubicle and we started to do it all wrong.  We started to forget about real relationships.  We forgot about connecting.  We forgot about people simply for the sake of people and not for the sake of profit.

So what do we do?

Choose a number.  Choose a small number like 3, 4, or 5.  That’s the number of people that you will seek to truly connect with over the next 30 days.  Don’t sell them anything.  Don’t tell them about your services unless they ask or unless you see that they are immediately in need of them.

Just start by building a real relationship.  It’s not going to be deep just yet.  But, no real relationship is at first.

What do you think about starting REAL relationships in business?