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Do you go to networking events with a pocket full of business cards and hand them out with your elevator pitch in hopes of generating a couple of leads?
Do you meet people at trade shows or seminars and hand out a few more, figuring maybe they have a friend of a friend who might be interested in what you offer?
And how well does that usually turn out?
I don’t know about you, but I have literally hundreds of business cards (all neatly stored in cases and folios) for people I’ve met at Chamber of Commerce events, social gatherings, meetups and any number of “meet-and-greets”. And I’ve never worked with a single one.
It’s not that I didn’t need insurance. Or my carpet cleaned. Or a party planned. Or a massage. It’s just that I couldn’t possibly tell you who, in that massive pile of dead trees, is who.
If that sounds like you, you may be relieved to hear that networking is dead… at least in the traditional mind-numbing way that we’ve been taught to think about it.
You may also be relieved to hear that the new networking is less painful and results in more business.
Want to know how it’s done?
Then you’ll want to read this book.
A Tale Of Two Networkers
The intriguing thing about this book is that it’s fiction.
Instead of the usual business book that talks at you like a grad school lecture, this one is told as the story of two individuals who want to boost their networking power.
One is a bit shy and doesn’t have a lot of connections. One is outgoing and has a whole lot of connections. Neither is generating any business.
When they’re introduced to a professional networker – correction, someone who knows how to help people make connections that matter – they learn how to do just that.
I had the chance to ask the authors why they chose to tell this story as a fable instead of writing a traditional business book and this is what they said:
Melissa: I have asked hundreds of people over the years if they prefer fiction or non-fiction when it comes to learning and really appreciating a book. I have consistently been told they preferred a fiction book. They were more engaged.
Larry: In my past roles as a Chief Learning Officer where I led the learning function for large corporations, the use of story and narrative was a central way of teaching principle-based content like what we wanted to communicate in the book. Business fiction works as long as people can relate to the characters and so far the response we have received to the approach has been very positive.
In fact, the fictional nature of the book is what enticed me in the first place. I’ve read a lot of business books, but none like this. And it may be fiction but the lessons are clear, the homework is there and if you pay attention I promise that your approach to networking will change – for the better.
Some Things You’ll Learn
Perhaps one of the most defining moments in the book happens early on when one of the main characters (Dan, the networking professional) insists that before you can network successfully, you must first define your why.
Your most important task, before you can make a single connection or build a single relationship is to “have a why that emanates from a deep passion. And that the passion must be focused and have a core around making a difference for others.”
That’s not much like the accepted “hand out as many business cards as possible and collect people like shiny pennies” mentality, is it?
Here are a few truths you’ll learn (or maybe relearn) as you read this book:
Quality – and not quantity – matters. A small group of people that share your values and commitment to helping others is better than a hundred thousand LinkedIn connections.
Don’t confuse activity with accomplishment. Running yourself ragged meeting and “networking” just means you’re busy, but it’s a false sense of accomplishment if you’re not moving any of those relationships forward.
Sometimes it’s better to connect with someone you “click” with even if you don’t see an opportunity right away. Sharing common visions, values and interests can pay off in the long run so don’t dismiss those real relationships, even if your mercenary side is telling you to go find the CEO.
You have to be a giver before you can be a taker. Stop expecting to generate business just because you handed out a business card! Practice giving and the receiving will follow.
Deep down I bet you know this from your own experiences. I bet you’re a little tired of people looking at you like a cash cow – as if they can just get in front of you with a hand shake and you’ll give them business. I bet you don’t want to be that person who looks at others that way.
I asked the authors to share one of their own “worst of” moments and this is what they said:
Larry: I think the most striking thing I have seen is people at events that will pay attention to you until they hear something that seems more “bright and shiny” from someone else, and then they can’t seem to spend any more time with you. Definitely raises the red flag.
Melissa: I remember once when speaking at a big event one person came up to me after I presented a talk that focused on building “mutually beneficial” relationships and said that he just wanted to be introduced to my co-author on my latest book who was the Chief Marketing Officer of a large company.
I said that I would not give him the information as that was not the way to ask for an introduction. He just kept standing there asking again and again. I finally asked, “Didn’t you listen to my talk?” He did not answer, but, instead asked again for my co-author’s phone number. I finally ignored him and moved on to talk to the others in line.
He grew tired of waiting to talk to me again and eventually left. That’s when I realized that some people just don’t get it.
What This Book Is… And Isn’t
This book is a quick read but it’s not a quick fix. If you’re serious about networking (and if you’re serious about business, you’d better be) then you’ll need to change your mindset and forget those big group networking events. Forget making lots of connections and forget making them fast.
But it is great if you’re determined to build relationships and make them matter. The story and characters are relatable and some of the awkward situations they’re in will probably make you squirm with recognition.
This is an action book – the lessons are all about putting what you learned into practice – but it’s not easy! There’s no ten-step process and no linear path from “I want to build a network” to “here it is!”
What you will get is a lot to think about and some practical, actionable steps you can take to start making connections that matter.
The 10-Second Wrapup
I figured I’d skim through a lot of this book since there’s a bunch of dialogue but I found myself reading every word. Ok, it was a little campy sometimes but it was fun, it had personality, and I was riveted to the concept of the book and the idea of making meaningful connections with people.
And do you want to hear something funny? As I was reading, I kept thinking to myself, “Wow, I would love to take a course like these characters are taking…”
Until I realized that I was taking that course, right there with them. I wasn’t part of the actual dialogue but I could hear my own frustrations in their words and I could see real situations in my life playing out in theirs. And with lessons at the end of each chapter, it was literally a seminar in a book.
So if you’re interested in making connections that matter and not just networking yourself into a stupor, I recommend this book for you.
After reading it I immediately cancelled the meetings and filler events on my calendar that suddenly seemed like an incredible waste of time. Instead I started thinking about my “primary circle” and reached out to people who matter.
A Bonus Giveaway For You, To Help You Start Building YOUR Connections
If you’re interested in learning a new way of making connections and you’re open to some hard work, a little fun and a lot of giving-to-receive, I have good news for you…
The publisher BenBella Books has generously given us two copies of the book to give to two of you.
So we’re going to choose two people at random and send you a free copy so you can start making connections that matter, too. This giveaway is open for ONE WEEK ONLY! We’ll announce the winners in an email next Friday and contact you if that’s you!
A quick PS before the details: I asked the authors how you could reach out to them if you want more information or need help building your networks. Here is what they said:
Melissa: I am very happy to talk to anyone for 10 minutes for free and give them any advice they need. If it makes sense to work together, we will both know it. My primary interest now is helping thought leaders market themselves and their companies through social media and thought leader marketing using the science of networks to get the most return for your investment.
Now Enter To Win!
(This promotion has passed. You can still subscribe below to be notified of new ones and to be in the loop whenever we publish new content.)