Here are some interesting perspectives on networking from a recent interview published in Inc. magazine. It is an interview by Jeff Haden of Inc. with Dan Sillman, CEO of Relevent Sports.
According to Sillman, “Networking” is a strange term. If you are a person the world perceives as good at networking… all that means is that you have great relationships.
The only way to do that — to build relationships — is to have a genuine desire to learn about someone: What they do, what drives them… some aspect of their life that interests you. Getting relatively close to someone means you know a lot about them, they know a lot about you… and you’re much more inclined to help each other. I actually think I’m a terrible “networker.” But I do have good relationships.
A few take aways from the interview
When you go into a meeting or a conference, or approach people with the thought that you’re going to network… it’s transactional. You’re just trying to meet people that can immediately help you. And they want the same thing.
Building relationships is totally different. First you learn about the other person; only then can you start to build a relationship. Which never happens when you’re networking: People can tell in seconds that you only want to meet them for some kind of surface-level transaction.
Building relationships requires patience, just like any other relationship. Think about your friends: You didn’t go into those relationships looking for something. That’s why they’re your friends.
What he says is so true, in both Heather Hollick’s book, “Helpful: A Guide to Life, Careers, and the Art of Networking” and Porter Gale’s book “Your Network is your Net Worth”, both authors are adamant that successful networking is not short-term transactional – ‘who can I meet today that can help me get x.’ Successful networking is first being helpful. Porter Gale describes networking as a give, give, get. Do two helpful things to a new contact before asking for one in return. Heather Hollick shares that it is innate that we want to help others. By asking people what they’re working on, rather than what do you do – you gain information on what is important to them and thereby, how you could best help.
A good exchange occurred re: making introductions – Sillman said he used to immediately introduce people to each other when asked. He points out that he failed to take into account the value of other people’s time and realized he had to do some filtering. He also pointed out that when you make introductions, your credibility is on the line. You shouldn’t vouch for people you don’t really know, don’t have a relationship with, don’t know their interests and goals.
Sillman concludes with: People don’t want to be a transaction. If you aren’t interested in the actual person, if you’re only thinking in terms of a transactional relationship… that relationship will never be fruitful. But when you build a relationship, everything else follows: You won’t have to ask the other person how you can help them. You’ll know. And you won’t have to ask for something you might need. The other person will know your interests, your goals… and will offer to help. You’ll both offer to help. And you’ll both mean it.