Be Always ON

Be Always ON

Friday, 04 March 2011

What are the working hours of an entrepreneur or business owner? “Every waking moment,” probably fits most of the successful business owners I know. The same ought to be true of anyone seriously interested in building their reputation and social capital. To be a master networker, you have to be like a broadband connection: always on.

Being always on means being always open to the opportunity to engage with the people you meet. You never know when you might be standing next to someone who could connect you with your next great opportunity. Now that doesn’t mean you should treat every social situation as an opportunity to do business. The way you talk with people at an industry conference should be very different to a church social event. But neither should you switch off at the church social.

Ivan Misner tells the story of how, at a church social event, he saw someone he wanted to meet. He did not walk up to him and say, “Hi, I’ve been wanting to meet you. I think we can do business.” That’s an awful approach in any context, but at a church event it’s wildly inappropriate.

What Ivan did instead was ask “What do you do?” and the conversation moved swiftly into letting the man talk about his business. Ivan asked open questions and did a lot more listening than talking. He learned that the man was trying to put together a small foundation for his company’s charitable efforts, but was finding the process of setting it up much more expensive and complex than he had expected.

Ivan asked if he was familiar with the California Community Foundation (CCF). He was not. Ivan explained how the CCF set up and ran small foundations for people and that he had used them to set up his own foundation. Excitedly, the man asked if he could contact Ivan on Monday morning and get more details. Ivan gave the man his card and said he’d be pleased to help.

A few weeks later, Ivan called the man to talk some business. Do you think he took his call? Of course he did.

The keys to success are to be sincere. And be helpful. (Both are also traits of a master networker.) Honour the setting you are in. Effective networking is not about selling; it’s about building relationships by truly helping other people—and there’s never a “wrong” time to help people.

Action this week! Look at your commitments for next week. When and where will you be around people? How many new people will you talk to each day? Make an effort to engage with these people and you will diversify your network. It will also get you out of your cave and help meet your networking goals. That’s not a bad return on just talking to a few people and being helpful!

This article is similar to an educational talk I gave at a BNI Premier networking breakfast. It is based on material in The 29% Solutionby Ivan Misner.

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