by James Murray, on May 3, 202022 6:13:00 PM
When I began networking I was very comfortable with servers and in server rooms. On the other hand, I have a very low social IQ and had no business networking strategy. Comfortable in a server room does not prepare you for a room of networkers. While some people feel very uncomfortable with technology, I am the opposite. The way an extravert feels being with people, is the same way I feel about information technology. I had no idea what I was walking into when I decided to build a business network. In my ignorance, I just dived right into the deep end. Starting with the chamber of commerce, the business journal and then smaller business networking (with groups like BNI and Le Tip).
That first couple years of business networking events were either intensely stressful, socially embarrassing or both. Imagine a technician passionately talking for 15 minutes about 1’s and 0’s. It was awful for my listeners. I was putting people to sleep. After the second person starting snoring, I decided to change my approach. I began asking every one questions about themselves and just started listening. Then I would try to think about who I knew that they should meet.
At first I thought I was the only one struggling. Instead, when I asked about their business networking strategy, most people admitted they were also struggling. This article contrasts the four business Networking Personalities I’ve met so far in my networking journey. Whether you are a beginner or more advanced at business networking, see if you recognize these personalities?
The first type of business networking personality you will meet is the Bunny Rabbit. Probably 70% of the personalities I meet at an open networking event are bunny rabbits. As an introverted and new consultant, I would go to what I thought, were business network events. In my discomfort I would ask other bunny rabbits how to successfully business network. Bunny rabbits usually discussed two business networking tactics.
- Collect lots of business cards
- Share what you do with as many people as possible
In fact, I thought this was great. It’s easy to ask for as many business cards as possible. No talking just ask for a card, then move on. As an introvert, this seemed simple. After awhile though I had a huge stack of business cards. Now what do I do?
The next bullet point, In all honesty, also seemed easy. I can share my elevator speech and then move to the next group. Unfortunately my elevator speech was closer to 15 minutes than 30 seconds. The only people interested in talking to me, were other technical experts. People, like me who would rather be talking to a computer, than a person. I ended up wasting my time playing IT alpha games instead of meeting people who could help or I could help. The problem with bunny rabbits, like me, is they don’t get it. At least not yet.
Bunny Rabbit Business Networking Mistakes
Here are some of the mistakes bunny rabbits make at business networking events.
- They forget business networking is about giving as much as you get
- Commonly asking here’s what I need versus, how can I help.
- They don’t know how to describe their target customers
- Commonly saying, “I help CEO’s save and make money.” Not even realizing, we all do that.
- They project their own assumptions on others.
- Assuming people only want leads.
- They Inappropriately start doing business during a networking event
- “You need what I’ve got, let’s sit down so I can explain right here and now.”
Contrasting wolves with bunnies is scary interesting. They don’t race through the event capturing business cards or try to make you a client there in the meeting. Instead they will setup a some type of networking “coffee” meeting. My first meeting with a wolf, I thought he was going to be helping me. It turned out though I was helping him. I expected some reciprocation. Instead, the conversation was leading, shaming and left me with a bad taste. Then after I made some key introductions for him, he suddenly disappeared.
This is how wolves work. They are sneaky. Hopefully the people you introduced are happy with the introduction. Too often, they treat your friends with the same, “What’s in it for me…” business approach. Then once you made your best introductions, they don’t have time for you anymore.
Recognizing a Business Networking Wolf
Benjamin Franklin was a prolific networker. He believe in helping others, but expected the help in return. The business networking wolf is no Benjamin Franklin. Here’s some things wolves will say, that experts and master business networkers will never say.
- Who do you know that can help me?
- Introduce me to <your friend’s name>. I am sure I can help them!
- Once I understand what you do, I’ll be happy to introduce you to lots of potential customers I know.
Experts & Master Business Networking
We’ve talked about bunnies and wolves, Alternatively there Exerts and Masters. One reality is that only 20% of business networks are made of experts and masters. They also tend to avoid traditional networking events. Preferring “Experts Only” types of events. Experts and Masters are always looking to add more people. They are very aware of the wolves though. To filter out the wolves, they test for wolfish behavior.
In addition, Expert and Master networkers build an inner circle. These are people that advise them and bring the expert or master onto new projects. Being in this inner circle will benefit all the members of the inner circle with advice, referrals and opportunities. Instead of having just one large network, experts leverage the networks for each member of the the inner circle. Sometimes called a cadre, the inner circle networks magnifying the power of multiple inner circle networks for everyone.
Expert Business Networking
Networking experts believe in teams and working together. Whenever they have a problem, they lean on their network to solve that problem. A CEO that is an expert has a different business approach. Seventy percent of solutions come from their inner circle or extended network. The expert finds that of the 70% that come from the network; 80% of projects and referrals come from their inner circle and 20% from their extended network. Compare this with bunny rabbits and wolves that have no inner circle.
Expert Business Networkers will build and inner circle of
- Mavens (business and technology expert/advisors)
- Rainmakers (Opportunity developers)
- Referral partners (Connectors with large networks)
Then take care of these experts with opportunities, referrals and other benefits.
Recognizing an Expert Business Networker
When meeting with an expert, some common questions you will hear…,
- So who would you like to meet?
- What type of people are you looking to meet?
- Have you spoken with (or do you know) <enter a name>?
- Let me introduce you to <The name of someone in their network>!
Experts are great. They are less than 20% of the active networkers you will meet. Compare these questions with the mistakes bunnies’ make and alternatively with the questions asked by wolves.
Master Business Networking
Compared with all networkers Masters make up 2% of business networkers. In contrast with expert networkers, 100% of the masters solutions come from their inner circle and network. Their inner circle is populated with vetted experts and master networkers.
One of the common mistakes bunnies make in networking is to assume that to receive a referral you need to give a referral. This is a mistake.
Masters can get as many referrals and opportunities as they need. They have a different problems. For example; They may need technical information about a problem on one of their projects. Normally they look to their inner circle. If you share the information to solve a difficult problem, a referral is an easy exchange. The more opportunities you solve, the closer you move into their inner circle.
Providing a Favor for a Master
When I was the president of the Business Transition Advisers (BTA), we had quarterly networking events. We focused on finding people in the business networks of the BTA board and association members. We utilized each others networks to identify speaker/panelists for these events. This was a good opportunity to do a “favor” for these masters by highlighting them in front of our exclusive business community.
This was also a rare opportunity for the panelist and for the audience members. When answering audience questions, the panelists felt like mentors to these business owners. The audience got to hear from and ask questions to local business industry leaders. A true win/win for everyone. While a lot of business came out of these events, that wasn’t the main value to the master networker. What we tried to create was a mentoring opportunity where our panelists were the stars in the local business community. How often does someone do something like that for you?
In contrast with most networking events, we became a rare place where masters and experts could meet with the local business community. Alternatively, wolves avoided our meetings. Bunnies were invited and, when they came, had a chance to see and experience what it was like to be in an optimal networking environment.
Recognizing a Master Networker
When meeting with a master, you will get their direct attention and should be prepared for questions like:
- So tell me about yourself?
- What do you do?
- How can I help you?
- Can I get your help on this?
- Who do you think I should meet?
- What types of opportunities are you looking for?
A master is prepared to help you. In contrast with a wolf, will intermix questions to help you, with requests for your help. The master is always building her inner circle. The questions they ask are actually designed like interview questions. What the master is asking themselves is should I be adding you to my inner circle?
Where would you rank your business networking skills?
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James Murray is a Business Technology Architect & Equity Growth Advisor in the Seattle area with over 30 years of experience. In 2008, James founded Executive Outliers, a business consulting company that specializes in helping mid-sized organizations to achieve exponential equity growth by leveraging technology.