How to ‘cultivate relationships’ rather than ‘building networks’ as an Entreprneur.
An important part of journey as an Entrepreneur is ‘Networking’. I remember When I started my business in 2015 I was told to ‘network’ as much as I can & to tell you the truth I have been a failure at this even today. Honestly I could never really understand the word. Traditionally a networking event would look like this, you go in an event, shake hands with every person in the room, exchange your visiting card, come back home and throw these cards into Dustbin, LITERALLY! This is how it happens and I mean it. I have done it and have seen so many entrepreneurs, businessman doing it always. Here is what is wrong with this. ‘networking’ is a very mechanical process and it is transactional at the outset. There is always an underlying ‘I want this from this person so I should talk to her/him.’ The whole conversation goes around that and there is hardly any element of trust. People are questioning each other and trying to figure out what this person want from me? So the resistance to the other person is also inbuilt from the beginning. Contrary to this I am more of a “let’s figure out how can we help each other” person. So does that mean I can never “Network”, Yes. So what do I Do?
Initially I used to feel guilty of not being able to ‘network’ and would often punish myself for sabotaging my business growth since I hated circulating visiting cards. However I tried to learn & adapt, and so it happened that I reached out to people just to discover what can I take from them, the burden was even heavier this time. It was suffocating always.
In the end it would all baffle me. I have been told always that I am a people’s person and that I connect really well so what is happening here. Am I not confident? Am I not impressive? I don’t know what to say, those dark clouds of self doubt would always loom on my head. It kind of made me aversive to these networking events and I started dropping out. But things changed.
when I was going through a difficult phase in my business I was offered immense help by a few of my customers/client in one way or other. My friends have helped me beyond my thinking. They stood by me like rock and so does my family. Few of my clients called me over and started discussing how can they help? This made me think differently about my whole approach towards networking, is it really about exchanging visiting cards? And that’s when my focus shifted on ‘building relationship’.
Now I am not saying you should never ‘Network’, but as per a research Men are good at networking while Women are terrible. Does that mean women can not leverage their professional career? No.
Women excel at ‘connecting’, they would always be interested to help & volunteer. They bring people together because that’s how women are culturally conditioned and naturally wired for (now there are exception to this but I am talking about feminine here more specifically). Recently I went to an event where one of the panellist floated this discussion and lot of successful women entrepreneur shared their views which resonated with me a lot. And here it goes, ‘Networking’ is outdated and people sense your intention when you approach them so a purely transactional approach doesn’t work anymore. You have to be able to ‘connect’ which means approaching few people, knowing them, building trust & adding value in each other’s growth. Waw! That sounds a lot like me. So how do we ‘build connections’ & I would like to share the process that I follow, it goes like this:
1.) Do your homework: Before going for any networking event or meeting it is very crucial that you do your homework, understand where are you going, who are the key people you would like to meet, then research these people, find some common things or something that clicks with you. Part of the person’s personality where you feel “oh, that’s me.” Now when you meet the person you have something to start a great conversation. Common liking, interests, may be you like their journey to growth, their struggle, common background, school, whatever it could be anything. But doing this research would give you a lot of confidence and you would already be mentally connected to that person at some level.
2.) Start exploring how can you add value to this meeting: People get impressed when they see you have done your work, sound genuine & authentic, and are ready to help and share. So always know what is it that you can offer to the other person. It could be very little. Like when I was about to meet this amazing women entrepreneur for the first time I was ready to listen and learn from her. So I approached her with saying that I admire what you have achieved and it would interesting to learn from you how do you manage it all & what is your approach to handling challenge X,Y or Z. And the conversation flowed from there. Always be at the receiving end and ready to listen.
3.) Be Authentic Always: If you are not transparent, genuine & authentic I would come to know that during the conversation. Always carry your own personality & who you are as a person. This also helps you in connecting with like minded people.
You wouldn’t want to shake hand with every person in the room (or may be you would like to do that) but building connection requires being genuine & transparent. It’s okay to be vulnerable as well. We are all humans. When you show your true personality it gives you confident because your conscious and subconscious brains are in sync and coordination. You speak in a flow and sound more impressive.
Following this has helped me a lot. Now when I go these ‘networking events’ I play on my strength of being able ‘connect’ & ‘building real genuine relationships’.
I would however love to listen your approach as well so please share that in response section.
P.S. you might as well want to press that ‘clap’ sign as a gesture of help and love. It would be encouraging for me, though :)