Authentic networking trumps “working the room” every time .

Did you see Ghostbusters back in the ‘80s?  One of my favorite lines in that movie comes in the scene where Bill Murray’s character has just had a very close encounter with a gooey green ghost.  When one of his buddies asks if he’s okay, Murray replies, “I’ve been slimed.”

Successful entrepreneurs know better than to be pushy OR wimpy.Unfortunately, I’ll bet a lot of us have had a similar experience, but with emotional slime rather than the physical sort.  You know what I’m talking about: the salesperson  who disappears as soon as your money is in hand; the clerk who finishes her personal phone call before grudgingly turning to answer your question; the Networker From Hell who talks a mile a minute about how wonderful he is, shoves his card at you, and leaves without bothering to learn anything about you.

While there are obvious differences between virtual and in-person business networking, there are also similarities.  One of the most critical success factors in either type of networking is making authentic, significant connections.

Connecting this way is undeniably somewhat time consuming and energy intensive.  However, that’s a small price to pay for developing long-term, mutually profitable relationships.  On the other hand, “working the room” (what Ivan Misner, founder of Business Network International, calls scorched-earth networking) has a lot of very negative connotations for many successful entrepreneurs; it smacks of superficiality, lack of interest in the other person, and even pretense.

Does that mean that you don’t need a plan when you attend a networking event or become involved in online networking?  Absolutely not!  It does, however, mean that you should forget about trying to “technique” people into listening to what you have to say and, instead, lead with one of Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Successful People, “seek first to understand.”

Success requires making authentic connections geared toward helping your ideal clients.

If you go into a networking opportunity expecting to meet interesting people, that mind set will almost guarantee that you will, indeed, make interesting connections.  And since most of us love talking about ourselves and our work, you’ll make yourself a hero by choosing to allow your conversational partner to talk about those two subjects which are so near and dear to her heart.

Is she likely to want to return the favor then and learn more about you?  Definitely.  And even if she doesn’t ask, you have the responsibility—and you have earned the right—to volunteer that information to her.

Being willing to invest more of yourself into your networking connections can make the difference between trying to earn a living with one-off transactions from a lot of customers, and creating a successful and satisfying business where your delighted clients grow with you.

Which do you choose?

(Thanks to jchatoff for the image of the over-zealous salesman.  I found it in the Creative Commons section of Flickr.)

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