Sounds of laughter and clinking dishes filled the room at the well-attended networking event inside the hotel conference center.
Everyone moved about the room, meeting people and engaging in discussion – mostly small talk. Eventually, out of the corner of my eye, I saw “Jon” walking up to me.
Jon’s a good guy, but I always shake my head when I think about him, because Jon is the poster-boy for inefficient and ultimately non-effective networking.
You see, Jon is the business development guy for a consulting firm. His job is to schmooze, to go out into the world, build relationships and ultimately sign up clients for his firm’s services. Jon works hard at the “relationship” part of his job but doesn’t appear to be terribly effective at the “signing-up-clients” part.
Jon is seemingly everywhere. He’s a voracious networker. He’s diligent; you can’t go to a networking event without seeing him. He knows how to play the social networking game.
Despite all his attributes, Jon has one glaring deficiency. In the years I have known him, he has never once asked for my business.
It’s not just me. I was talking to a friend, and somehow Jon’s name came up in discussion. I mentioned that I’ve always been amazed at how much attention I receive from Jon without ever being asked for my business. My friend had noticed the same thing.
Jon is a guy who networks for the sake of networking. He knows it’s the right thing to do, but he doesn’t finish the job, call the question, ask for the order.
Remember that your ultimate goal in networking is to establish rapport, learn information and ultimately use it to accomplish your business goals. Sure, most of your time is engaged in chit-chat, pleasantries, and eventually relationship-building. But at some point, it’s time to cash in.
Jon’s affliction is actually a common one.
It’s fun to do the relationship-building part, but it’s hard for many people to follow through with the asking part. Asking can be intimidating, because it’s not fun to be turned down. It’s human nature to avoid rejection. Because of that, many people put themselves out there, build relationships and simply hope and pray that the clients will come to them.
That’s too passive. Waiting for people to volunteer to be your clients might work occasionally, but it won’t generate enough business to sustain you.
It’s true that successful people must network, but networking is simply a means to an end. Your success as a networker is ultimately judged when your prospect signs their name on the dotted line.