Business Networking: Are You Sticky?

August 21, 2008

Do you struggle with business networking? A lot of people do to begin with, both online and off. And it’s not because they’re not nice people, or because their business sucks. Often the real trouble is, they’re just not sticky enough.

As my friend, Robin, of Lets Live Forever pointed out in a recent discussion, “sticking around is a big part of getting anywhere. Sooner or later you begin to get more work, even if it’s only because you’re familiar to people.”

Robin explained it simply and it really is the truth. There’s no special art to networking, aside from sticking around others long enough and eventually they’ll grow to like and trust you.

Think about the people you know online already. Which ones would you choose yourself when you needed a particular service? And if a friend needed a website designer, or a life coach, who would you recommend?

Aside from sticking around and being nice - what others factors do you think are important in business networking?

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18 Responses to “Business Networking: Are You Sticky?”

  1. Alex Fayle on August 21st, 2008 5:05 am

    Confidence is key - if you don’t believe what you’re selling, no one else will. The lack of confidence is harder to see in the online world, but when I used to belong to networking groups, it was easy to spot the people who lacked confidence in their business (sometimes I was one of them).

    A willingness to promote others is also important - I belonged to several networking groups in Toronto and found that a lot of people were in networking for themselves. They talked a lot about referrals and passing along names, but when it came down to it, they were pretty selfish people, even when it came to obvious connections that would help their own business by promoting someone else.

    Overall, I found the structured networking groups (like BNI) exhausting and in the end not worth the investment of money or time.

    Alex Fayle’s last blog post..Patience is a Virtue - Full Text Answers

  2. Robin on August 21st, 2008 6:15 am

    Good Heavens Cath. My little comment! Thanks.

    That comment came from the days when I worked in the cut-throat world of casual teaching at the museum and various environmental institutions - there wasn’t much casual work to go around, and they would tend to employ people who just happened to be walking past the office when they were doing the timetable (I did a lot of walking up and down).

    I even used to go to choir practice quite often because an employer was in the choir, and she often said “do you want to work tomorrow?” But she wouldn’t have bothered to ring me. I only put up with all this because I loved the work.

    These days we apply the familiarity outlook to building up business for doing recordings and Frank’s live sound engineering - I say to Frank that if he hangs around for long enough he’ll be the one who gets the gigs (it’s working).

    Robin’s last blog post..Reincarnation… A Scenario

  3. Barbara Swafford on August 21st, 2008 7:31 am

    Hi Catherine,

    I agree, time does build trust. Also, transparency is another great trait to have. I often meet new people and I know, what I see, is what I get. They don’t hide behind a mask.

    I also agree with what Alex said. Many people will promise you “the world”, but when it’s time for them to deliver, they don’t.

    Being in business takes a strong backbone. Often you’re left to rely on yourself.

    Barbara Swafford’s last blog post..Four Day Open Mic - 8/21 to 8/24/08

  4. cathlawson on August 21st, 2008 7:57 am

    Hi Alex - Confidence is important isn’t it - you have to have a lot of belief in yourself and what you’re selling.

    I’ve met some of those types in networking groups and it’s a shame. The organised ones such as the BNI are usually worse because of the way they’re structured. It’s not naturally networking and I have to wonder if they’re to blame for many of the bad networking habits people pick up.

    Hi Robin - It was a brilliant comment. I’m sitting here laughing as I imagine you going to choir just to get some work. But it really does work doesn’t it. If folk are seeing you all the time, you’re the first person they think of when they need something done.

    Hi Barbara - transparency is another great point. Honest people usually seem more real don’t they - whereas I’ve noticed that dishonest people can often be just a little too smooth.

    It is a shame - but as you say, in the real world folk will often let you down and you wind up working it out on your own. Sometimes when that happens - just having some sort of support - even from someone who knows bugger all about business is a great help I think.

  5. Monika Mundell on August 21st, 2008 11:06 am

    I suppose sticking around does work in some measures. It’s how my own business has taken off. Despite this, I still lack networking abilities in the general sense.

    I find it hard to network for the sake of growing my business, trying to stick around people that might notice me in the future. To me this feels like licking somebody’s ass (pardon the language).

    Funny enough, it exactly this “corporate style” networking that gets you noticed with the big boys. On the chances of missing out, I stay as I am and network with the people I like, whether they are famous or not.

    Monika Mundell’s last blog post..Blog Communications

  6. Brad Shorr on August 21st, 2008 2:09 pm

    Sticking around is important, no doubt. Being able to explain your services clearly is another key factor, and one I think I fall short on. I’m trying to focus more on writing and business blog services so people know what I do if they are receptive to referring me.

    Brad Shorr’s last blog post..Do You Approach Every Blog Post like the First Day of School?

  7. Davina on August 21st, 2008 3:07 pm

    Enthusiasm. Not only does it attract business, it helps to keep your own momentum going. And I agree with Alex that confidence is also important. Lastly, being with people who need your services instead of hanging out with others of “like mind” who don’t need your business.

    Davina’s last blog post..My Turn To Be Seen

  8. cathlawson on August 21st, 2008 4:34 pm

    Hi Monika - I know what you mean - I don’t like doing that either. I think it’s not always a matter of hanging round folk you hope will give you shedloads of work. Sticking round people you like in your industry is smarter and more genuine. And often it’s the folk you least expect that will refer you to others for work.

    Hi Brad - it sounds like you need an elevator speech - and keep it really simple. I’ve lost count of the number of people I know who’ve explained what they do using loads of technical terms - leaving me totally left in the dark as to what they actually do.

    Hi Davina - enthusiasm is dead important isn’t it. If you’re interested in what you’re doing - it’s a lot easier to interest others.

    I think the hanging round is a tough one isn’t it? In an ideal situation I guess we’d be better hanging round folk who could give us work and also knew lots of people to refer us to.

  9. Ellen Wilson on August 21st, 2008 4:34 pm

    I agree with Monika. And I don’t like to lick ass either. It just doesn’t come natural to me.

    It’s interesting about what gets you noticed is the corporate style. I think it’s because of all of the conditioning people have regarding this style. It’s all they know, and they perpetuate it. So instead of trying something different they perpetuate the old good ol boy cutthroat mentality.

    I also agree with you Cath. You just have to stick around awhile and become familiar to people. For instance, I have seen everyone who commented today at some point in time. I just haven’t gotten around to everyone’s blog yet.

    For me sticking around also entails trying different types of freelance writing/photography work and learning about blogging because I haven’t done either until this year.

    I think the essence of networking should be sharing. Kindness and compassion should also be part of the process. Or else we get into all that corporate bitchy egoness.

    Ellen Wilson’s last blog post..The Forward Momentum of Bloggery (continued)

  10. cathlawson on August 21st, 2008 4:49 pm

    Hi Ellen - it’s sad that people are like that isn’t it? And this old school types of networks - they don’t always necessarily recommend someone who’ll do a good job either.

    It’s great that you recognise everyone on here. It makes it easy when people use photos. I guess I should really ditch the purple anime and use my own pic.

    Sharing is important isn’t it? I think too many folks begin networking with a ME attitude that scares people off.

  11. Tom Volkar / Delightful Work on August 21st, 2008 8:04 pm

    Networking events have always felt a little yucky and shallow to me. Online is a different story. We get to show up and speak up so folks know what matters to us. I think those two are prerequisites to sticking around. The advertising gurus all count impressions but it’s both the quantity and quality of those impressions. The message within them, if you will.

    I’m honored to be your life coach of choice.

    Tom Volkar / Delightful Work’s last blog post..Everything Counts So Make It Count

  12. Vered on August 21st, 2008 8:34 pm

    I don’t have much to add, except to say that Monika’s observation that “it’s exactly this “corporate style” networking that gets you noticed with the big boys” is, sadly, very true.

    Vered’s last blog post..Thank You For Smoking

  13. John Hoff - eVentureBiz on August 21st, 2008 11:12 pm

    I look for how helpful and trust worthy someone might be. If they keep missing a deadline or forgetting to call, they’re gone.

    Ethics is a big part in it for me.

    John Hoff - eVentureBiz’s last blog post..The Foundation Of Successful Thinking

  14. Monika Mundell on August 22nd, 2008 9:02 am

    @ Davina: Interesting what you said. Hanging out with people who need your services. Probably that is why I suck as sales so much. I seem to hang out with the wrong people in that sense.

    @ Cath: You are spot on with the referrals. I’ve had this happen to me and never in a million years would I have expected a referral from those people. It’s great though. A bonus.

    @ Ellen: I think you made a good point with how we are conditioned. For some reasons we seem to look up to the corporate world. It seems to be part of how we are taught and how the system works. All corporate education gets paid way more than for example the service industry.

    Basically if you don’t have an university degree you are frowned upon by many. Of course to me that is a lot of rubbish, but somebody who has a degree will most certainly disagree.

    @ Vered: I appreciate that. I understand you are coming from a corporate background so you would be knowing this from personal experience.

    @ Rita: I can relate to your time wasters too. I’ve experienced the same and afterward I wondered why I stuck around for so long. Perhaps it was the optimist in me hoping for things to improve. Not sure.

    Monika Mundell’s last blog post..Blog Communications

  15. cathlawson on August 22nd, 2008 9:16 am

    Hi Tom - you’re welcome. I never used to understand what life coaches did. But your blog has really helped me to fix myself.

    I’m with you on those pre-organised events. They’re so unnatural. You’re far better off meeting people in non-networking event environments, or online.

    Hi Vered - It’s very sad isn’t it? But I think the Internet is doing a lot to change that.

    Hi Rita - I know what you mean about sticking at the wrong place for too long. I went to a small women’s networking group for a little while and I eventually realised it had nothing to offer me.

    Folk there seemed to have hobbies rather than businesses. I did try to help a couple of them but it was hopeless. One of them couldn’t even sell me something that I really wanted to buy from them.

    Hi John - trust and ethics are really important aren’t they? Who wants to hang out with folk who are untrustworthy?

    Hi Monika - It’s brilliant isn’t it and it’s really nice when that happens.

    I hear what you’re saying re: education. It’s a sad fact, but many folk get ahead because of what school they went to, rather than what they’re actually capable of doing.

  16. Al at 7P on August 22nd, 2008 1:29 pm

    Hi Cath - this was an interesting question. I think networking is a pretty practical aspect that people need to always evaluate to see if it will meet their needs.

    I read a couple of lists on what makes an essential network. I think the following are good to have: a physician or nurse, a lawyer, a CPA, a realtor, a home improvement guru, and a techie person. Not that these people are the ones that will actually do service for you, but simply people to give advice or a referral that you trust. I’d be curious to know if there are anyone else you’d recommend Cath!

    Al at 7P’s last blog post..Why Should I Help You?

  17. cathlawson on August 22nd, 2008 9:41 pm

    Hi Al - I’d not heard about that list before, but i guess I can understand the logic behind it. I suppose that folk tend to trust referals from professional people more. And also the folks you mentioned above would be seeing lots of people all the time.

    To answer your question - I’m not sure who I’d add to that list. I guess I network most with folk I’m naturally drawn too, that I like and trust.

    Mind you, I did get a lot of referals through a vet in our last business. I should imagine they get to see a lot of people each day. She was a lovely person and I guess people trusted her with their pets, so they were happy to take her recommendation.

  18. Online Networking: Do I Hide From People Like You? on August 24th, 2008 9:02 am

    [...] Business Networking: Are You Sticky? [...]

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