On the occasion of the upcoming Marketing Business Summit edition, we have been speaking with Stefan Thomas, author of Business Networking for Dummies and Instant Networking, two great bestsellers on Amazon. He has been invited to many international conferences all around the world, and mentioned on The Telegraph, The Guardian e The Huffington Post.
1. Networking might seem very simple, but is it enough to build relationships?
It is and it isn’t. If people think that networking just means turning up to occasional networking events, that certainly isn’t enough.
Networking for me is the constant process of building relationships, both in real life and online too. Keeping in touch with people I already know, sometimes for several years, whilst at the same time making sure that I am building new relationships.
For me, that means attending a couple of networking events every week, plus being constantly on the phone and on social media and just talking to people.
Networking and building relationships takes effort. Effort is currency in relationships. The more effort you put in, the richer those relationships will be and the more profitable for both parties.
Which is why I often say that networking IS simple, it just isn’t that easy, as it takes some effort. The real opportunity is that most people won’t bother.
2. Linkedin and other digital platforms insist on a digital dimension of connection, but can a business relationship be profitable when you develop it only online?
Let’s face it, I will meet Marco, the founder and organiser of the Marketing Business Summit only when I arrive in Milan, so we have managed to build that mutually profitable relationship only on LinkedIn and email up until that point. It is absolutely possible.
What it needs though is for someone to do the things necessary to build trust. Marco is trusting me to give his audience huge value when I get up on that stage, and for me to be a great speaker.
So even though we have never met, the content I have created for LinkedIn, including videos of me speaking about networking at other events, has helped to build that trust.
If we remember that that is what we are doing, constantly building trust with our audience, then the relationships really work. What most people do on LinkedIn though, is to be very cold, just approaching people without having built up their trust beforehand.
3. In an increasingly global and digital world, what is the value of human relations vis-a-vis?
If you’re Amazon, you probably don’t have to worry about the individual relationship with each customer.
But most of us aren’t Amazon. I expect that many people at the Marketing Business Summit will be selling B2B services. And in my opinion the human relationship can be vital.
Even though Marco and I have been able to build that trust purely through an online relationship, I KNOW that actually meeting someone, shaking their hand, having a coffee, sitting down and talking, still builds trust faster than just online.
It is one of the reasons I am coming to the summit. This is a huge opportunity for me to meet literally hundreds of business owners from across Europe, all within two days. I will spend my whole time when I’m not on the stage meeting with the attendees, chatting, laughing, connecting online so that we can keep in touch.
Every big opportunity starts with a little conversation. I always make time for the little conversations, and some of those turn into massive opportunities.
4.Three things to do and three things you need to stop doing right now to improve the way you do networking and – as a result – improve your business
These three things you MUST do if you want your networking to be successful:
1. Commit to it. Just turning up occasionally, when you need the sales,isn’t going to work. Become part of whichever networking community you choose to engage in. Turn up, get to know people, be there for the medium and long term.
2. Plan. Whether it is your 60 second introduction, your networking diary, your networking toolkit. Plan. Without a plan, you are just turning up and hoping for the best. I have a networking event this lunchtime. I have already planned what I will wear, what I will say, and what I need to take with me. Also, this event has been in my diary for some months as that helps me to plan, rather than just turning up when I think I have the time.
3. Be the first to bring value to each relationship. That ,might mean by finding a referral for the other person, it might mean just sending them some useful information you have found. I try to be the first to bring value to every single relationship I start. Because the more you put out there, the more comes back at you. Try it.
If you’re doing these three things, your networking is going to suck:
1. Not being present with the person you’re talking to. I spot so many people at networking constantly looking around to see if the guy they think is really important has arrived yet. I spot people not paying any attention to the person they;re actually talking to because they spotted someone more important over the other side of the room. The greatest gift you can give to anyone is your time and attention. I don’t ‘work the room’, I concentrate on the person I am talking to there and then and allow that conversation to develop.
2. Expecting everyone else to remember you. It is up to us to take responsibility for keeping each conversation alive. Everyone else is busy with their own stuff, so if you want them to remember you, you need to be the one who is in touch, who does respond to them on social media, who does Like, Comment and Share as often as you can.The real opportunity is that most people won’t bother, because they will say they’re too busy. Be the one who does bother.
3. Using your 60 second introduction to tell people about everything that you do. That isn’t the purpose. The purpose is to give people just enough that they want to find out more. Simplify it, dumb it down, leave people interested and wanting to talk to you.
(This article originally appeared on Copernico Magazine)