As a business owner, networking is important. One must maintain an active presence within their current network, and also communicate and interact with new people to increase the number of beneficial connections in your network.
We know that everyone we meet may not be a customer, for the mere fact they’re just not interested and have no use for your products or services.
For example, would you pitch your website development skills to someone who is only looking to hire a sales assistant for mobile devices? Certainly not. That makes no sense and is a waste of time for everyone involved.
But does it make sense to network still with that person? Can you still be useful to each other’s business?
Adding People to Your Network
Networking is about connecting and interacting with other people to exchange information and develop contacts for your business or personal endeavors.
Does networking take work? Yes, of course. It’s about building relationships, and all meaningful relationships require effort.
So, does everyone have the potential to become a good, or even great, connection in your network?
This topic peaked my interest because it reminded me of a recent conversation I had with someone I regularly see at my local Dunkin’ Donuts.
It was crowded in the store with people waiting out a heavy rain and wind storm that came out of nowhere within 5 minutes. I was one of about 11 people hovering by the windows, occasionally taking a sip from whatever drink we’d purchased.
“I hope this stops soon. I really need to get back to writing.”
That’s how the conversation started with the man standing less than a foot away from me. I learned that his name was Paul, and he was a graphic horror novelist. Naturally, I started thinking he must need online services, so I worked in what I do into our conversation.
Unfortunately for me, at least at that time, he already had a robust website and self-managed his social media accounts.
Our conversation and any future contact could’ve ended there. It didn’t.
Over the next two months, I would see Paul in the same Dunkin’ Donuts, and I’d always speak to him, if only to say, “Hello, how’s it going?”
Negative Experiences Can Lead to a Future Positive Opportunity
Let’s fast forward to the recent conversation I mentioned.
I was at the same Dunkin’ Donuts, during my usual brunch hour to order a tuna salad on a croissant. As I moved over to the waiting area for picking up orders, I noticed Paul was also there. We exchanged our usual pleasantries — how’s the family, how’s business, how’s the writing coming along, etc.
And then he surprised me.
He handed me two business cards, and went on to explain that he was at a writer’s convention earlier that week and met some people who needed to refresh their website’s design, and he’d thought of me.
This experience is not meant to flaunt.
It’s meant to point out that if I had let my connection with Paul end the first time we met, simply because he flat out said “no” to my services, I would never have been someone he would’ve recommended to people in his network.
Network for Future Growth, Not Just Current Needs
Just because someone doesn’t personally need your knowledge, products or services, doesn’t mean they still can not be beneficial to your business. You never know who they may know.
At events and online, I’ve heard people use derogatory phrases when describing someone who turned down their offers or left negative feedback. I’ve also read, surprisingly so, newsletters where the author openly complains about people leaving their list, and it’s “their loss.”
Individuals, with their bruised ego, doing this are only hurting their business and getting themselves crossed off the reliable and reputable list within their industry’s network.
Negative feedback, bad experiences, or not landing a new client isn’t a reason to automatically terminate all future contact with that person.
Indeed, you can’t — and shouldn’t — make an effort to keep in touch with someone who apparently wants to maintain their closed-door policy.
Use your judgment when it’s clear the door isn’t completely shut.
For example, if you see someone on a regular basis around your neighborhood — speak to them, see how they’re doing and what they’ve been up to recently.
Stay in contact with former co-workers or employers to keep the dialogue going. Even after a negative experience, those who want to continue talking to you will respond in kind.
Being kind and treating people like a human being goes a long way in networking — and life in general. As the famous Maya Angelou quote goes:
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou
So, I pose the question again: Does everyone have the potential to become a good, or even great, connection in your network?
Yes. You never know where that connection may lead.
What are some interesting networking experiences you’ve had? What do you do differently because of lessons learned from networking?