How to Identify the Problems & Improve Your Networking Abilities
By Ilana Greene, Salary.com contributing writer.
There are seven common reasons why networking fails in the professional arena.
The most common among them is the fact that 1) people are unsure of how to start a conversation, let alone what to say or the appropriate questions to ask. This can often be unnerving, making people 2) uncomfortable, particularly with people they have just met. Naturally, there is a 3) fear of rejection that accompanies networking, but networking can also be difficult due to 4) people's busy schedules, which causes them not to respond, understand the request or care enough to engage in a networking conversation. This can cause people to 5) become impatient or lose the persistence and motivation necessary to cultivate a networking relationship. However, along with these reasons, there are two final mistakes professionals make when networking which involve 6) quantity of relationships over quality, and 7) a general lack of social networking tools such as Facebook and MeetAdvisors.
For these reasons, it can make networking more of a chore than it needs to be for professionals. Although social networking websites have grown in popularity due to their 24/7 access to entrepreneurial experts and less intimidating networking environment, the main reason social media tools like MeetAdvisors have become more popular is that their focus is on building and maintaining relationships.
One of the most important principles of networking is that in order to build a relationship with people, you must make people feel valued, be generous with your information, share what you know, and describe what you have experienced.
If you have built trust with someone, then these relationships will lead to more, as others will be persuaded to join your company. This is why social networking websites have become so popular among entrepreneurs. However, despite the availability and accessibility that social networking tools provide, it has its own set of challenges in developing relationships.
With basic information about people being a click away on a Google search or a LinkedIn profile, it makes the introduction process a formality. Networking has become more challenging because social media has allowed for a false belief of shortcuts to friendships. It might sound harsh, but people only want to know you when they decide a mutually beneficial relationship is possible. This is why when people say they have 500 "Facebook friends," it doesn't mean actual "friends." Rather, they are simply names that Mark Zuckerberg attached to a digital link.
Compounding the issue of social networking is the difficulty involved for people trying to market their product or service. Obviously this can be an issue in live networking interactions as well, because a marketing pitch can never come off as a strong one when you simply start talking about how great a product or service you provide. When faced with this problem, get back to the basics of networking: always specifically explain how an individual can benefit from your product or service.
Ultimately, the goal of any networking conversation begins by making all of your marketing value-oriented, because people simply want to know what they can get out of it. Tell them how you can serve their wants and needs, and how you can make their lives better. This will grab the attention of your audience, because once someone buys into your marketing they will be willing to explore the products and services you offer.
By concentrating on creating value for others, your social capital increases. There is always something you can do for others to capture their attention and get them interested in you. This is where listening is required, because when you ask the right questions and hear the real needs of other people, then it is simply a process of satisfying their needs.
Value-oriented marketing makes the process of networking worthwhile, which is why you can never miss an opportunity to network.
Many people have a tendency to blow off a networking opportunity simply because it may not get you anything immediately. However, once you realize you've been locked in your office for so long that you don't know anyone and your customer base is drying up, that tends to change. This leads to desperate marketing, which can be a turnoff to potential networking partners because they feel used. It is difficult to build mutually beneficial relationships when you are focused solely on your immediate needs. Therefore, the "last-minute marketer" fails to develop long-term networking relationships.
The desperate marketer focuses on networking only when he needs feedback. However, like all activities that do not immediately reinforce our behavior, networking requires long-term patience and persistence. Networking is as important as exercising and eating right for a professional, because while it may not provide pleasurable short-term gratification, the value of building and maintaining trust with other professionals will ultimately enable you to fulfill all your needs in the future.
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