Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Friend or Foe

In the past week or so, I've been to several networking events.

Let me give you the contrast.

At one, I was welcomed, chatted up and general made to feel like it was a great thing that I graced everyone with my presence.

At another one, I signed my name at a personless table and that was it. No one welcomed me. Each was too busy conversing with someone they knew.

We've all done it. Friends are usually a lot more fun to talk to than unknown people.

What does your group do to make visitors feel welcome AND want to come back.

Do you have certain people who are there to be the link to the rest of the group?

Does your group view an outsider as an OUTSIDER, or do they see an opportunity?

Think about it.

In my opinion three groups that have done a wonderful job recently are WEN (The Women's Entrepreneurial Network), BNI and GreaterFindlayInc's morning Fresh Brewed event.

Tell us about yours.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Tomato Sauce Insight

This weekend as I stood at the kitchen sink coring and cutting tomatoes for the beginning of a huge pot of tomato sauce, I had the surreal experience of listening to author Barbara Kingsolver's "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle; A Year of Good Food." The premise of the book is that Kingsolver and her family decided to live for one year from food grown locally. As she talked about how many people don't know or understand how our food is produced, she began describing her asparagus patch and how most people ask, "What kind of ferns are those?"

Like Kingsolver, I feel very lucky to be able to grow some of our food. I too, have an asparagus patch, along with a fairly good-sized garden. As we move toward the end of the season, I have lots of peppers, giant eggplant, basil, beets and very soon, I'll pick the first butternut squash.

But this isn't about gardening.

After all, this blog is about networking!

I realized that we business people tend to think about networking from the "getting more business" point of view. But as my mind doodled, it occured to me that we also learn stuff, that at the moment doesn't seem important. But it adds to our knowledge that might be helpful to us or to someone else in the future.

As a little kid, my parent's garden was nothing more than a place to filch a sweet strawberry or perhaps a carrot with the dirt wiped off on my pant leg. In the fall the old cornstalks were bent over and between the two rows I created a cave/fort of sorts. Little did I know that I was learning the rhythm of the growing season. Little did I know that I was learning how all things grow, whether underground, from bushes or from vines.

That's what I think networking should be like, too. Learn a little something everyday that you didn't know before. What makes that industry tick? Where do the raw materials come from? What trends are affecting it. What is produced? Most of us only know the ins and outs of our own industry.

I challenge you to find out something about another industry this week as you are out there networking.

And by the way, what is surprising about yours?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Keeping My Commitment

Busy, busy week, so no posting.

I'd like to share a trick with you.

Well, it's really not a trick.

It's more of a strategy.

Yesterday my schedule said that I was supposed to go to Defiance (Oh) for a Chamber networking event starting at 4:30 PM.

Now I had gotten up at 5:30 AM and had a full day. I just knew that by the end of the day, I would find a reason not to go.

But to better develop our classes out west of Toledo, I need to be out there.

What to do?

Here's the trick. I invited one of my BNI members to take the 50 minute trip out there with me. It was a win for both of us. I got to know Cheryl Minifie even better than I did before and also was able to introduce her to a couple people including the director of the chamber and a Realtor friend of mine, Beth Sigg. Since Cheryl sells insurance for Allstate, that was a good connection.

Since I am most uncomfortable at these types of events, pretending that I had a job (intro'ing Cheryl to people) helped me to calm the nerves.

I can honestly say that if I had not had my commitment with Cheryl that I would not have gone, using a very "valid" excuse of being too tired.

Thanks, Cheryl, for keeping me on purpose.

Friday, September 12, 2008

STOP Networking?

Okay, here's the deal.

Most people in the US are experiencing a challenging economy, either through loss of a job or increased prices.

Those who have lost a job or are making a job change, need to continue to network.

I recently had scheduled an appointment for two people to be intro'd to each other. Just before the appointment was to happen, one let me know that she is changing jobs and that she needed to cancel the appointment.


I realize that maybe the conversation might change but each person has a reason to continue to connect.

  • The job changer needs to continue to develop relationships to help with the new job. Cutting off this line of communication is a real mistake.

  • The job changer still has something to give -- their resources don't change and those very resources may still help the person they were supposed to meet. Even though your career path may have hit a bumpy road, you still are a valuable person.3. Networking within your industry, (if you want to stay within that industry) is where your going to hear the grapevine news about job availability.

  • Job-seekers or job-changers cannot be cave dwellers. Even when you just want to stay in bed and pull the covers over your head, push yourself to call someone to schedule a time to chat.

Remember, they may need your attention more than you need theirs.

Make a difference and find that next position!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

To Sell or Not?

There are two types of marketers out there.

One is an in your face, "buy from me" type and the other is the "let me see how I might help you" type.

Both are right.

Both are wrong.

It just depends.

Mainly on the situation.

When you have an appointment where the prospect wants to find out if he needs your "stuff," it is so very appropriate to sell. And don't forget to close the sale.

When you have just met someone, it is less grating if you don't sell. That includes networking events. In fact, if you sell in these situations, people will talk about you behind your back and you'll see a lot of their backs as they run away from you.

But if you are in a selling situation and just sit there shooting the breeze, that is equally off-base. The prospect will feel that you are wasting his time.

Ya' have to walk a fine line. Ya' have to know what is expected of you. Ya' have to watch body language.

Selling is not networking. Networking should not be selling. Both must be done appropriately.

Rule of Thumb:

If you have just met the person and you really don't know their situation, you can't sell because you don't know if they need your stuff or want to do business with you. Keep your brochures in your pocket. Take time to develop the relationship and in doing so, you'll probably find out if they want and need what you do.

Thoughts on this?

Monday, September 08, 2008

It Never Divides Evenly

A student in my current Certified Networker class asked a great question last week. It had to do with networking.

In several situations where she was a co-networker, her voice was drowned out. What do I mean by that?

Here's the picture.

She and a co-worker were visiting with someone their organization wanted to develop a stronger relationship with. Her co-worker took over the conversation and generally wouldn't let her have a word in edgewise.
She was mystified and realized this was one of the reasons that she doesn't like to network. It seems that someone always talks over her.

I explained that when more than two people are networking, it is more difficult and more complex. I suggested that she and her co-worker might decide to go separate ways in the future, which will give a better return on the investment of the hour or so spent. Each will come back with a stronger relationship, two for the price of one!

Basically, when three people are tying to network, somebody gets left out -- it is never an even division. When four people try to network, it is a party and while it may be fun, the relationship stays where it was before the party started.

There is one way that three people networking can work. It is when one person is introducing two other people and acts as the host to get the new people talking. But again, the good host shuts up after she or he gets the other two connected.

So to make myself perfectly clear -- to network really well, have a conversation with just one person!

Any other ideas?

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Birds and Cave Dewellers

Last night, after dinner, I walked out of the house to take the bag of veggie and fruit trimmings out to the compost pile in back of the garden.

A bird caught my attention when it flew from the top of the birch tree out over the pond, making a sound that I didn't recognize. I looked carefully and realized it was a Kingfisher. We do see them from time to time, but not often. What a treat for a Saturday night.

As I meandered back from dumping the garbage, I starting thinking about how I might have missed this wonderful bird if I had left the compost pile task until morning. It was sort of like being a cave dweller - that person that never leaves their office or cubicle. They miss opportunities that are out there just waiting for them.

So this week -- get out and see what's just hanging around waiting for your discovery. Then come back here and comment, letting us all know about what you found.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Where Does the Time Go?

I have not had time to write this past week because I was busy getting ready for a preview for the fall Certified Networker class in Archbold and also my friend, Marcia Housel and her husband, Gary, came to visit. Marcia will undergo surgery Monday, September 8 for her ovarian cancer. Some of you remember that I drove out to their house this summer to spend a week.

As she was leaving this morning, she said, "Why can't you live 500 miles closer?" Well, I don't, but that doesn't mean that I must only visit once per year. I'm thinking that I might just turn the yellow Mini east around the first of November to go back out to visit. She will have recovered from this major surgery, although she'll still be getting chemo at that point.

One thing we did while she was here was to shop.

Now this is really funny, because neither of us are shoppers. But I went to see a line of clothing that my friend Sharon Slusarski now represents at the local Macy's. I wanted to see what it looked like so I could refer people to her. We did that, but Marcia mentioned in passing that she might need a suit.

We found a beautiful suit, that needed only alternations in the slacks. It was on sale too, so even better. Then we scoured the store for other tops that she might pair with the trousers when she didn't want to wear the jacket. I just kept picking up top after top and then we retired to the dressing room as a team. I'd put the top over her head (still bald and beautiful) and while she was "arranging it," I'd hang up the previous piece.

She ended up with three other tops including we loved that was something that she would have never tried on without me insisting!

The other fond memory of this visit, was the "re-painting" of the butterfly on the side of her head. We originally did it with henna when I visited her, but of course over time it wears off. Unfortunately, this time it didn't take and we think it might be because the henna was old or we didn't do the second step, which was the dabbing on of a lemon juice/sugar concoction. Marcia's daughter Nancy, will have to do the honors when she visits her mom tomorrow before surgery. Heck, we should have just gotten a real tattoo for her!

So for all you out there who don't know Marcia, just send her good vibes anyway.

That will make me happy.