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Networking Without Power: Going Old School

Networking Without Power: Going Old School

networking

    Remember the old days of Rolodexes, before mobile phones had every gadget and gizmo now known to man (and woman)? Remember when we didn’t have Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to connect with other businesspeople and had to actually, you know, talk to people?

    The way many of us network today, using online social networking and keeping track of things via Blackberry, iPhone, PDA and other “smart” devices, is superior in many ways to the “old” way of doing things. However, there’s a lot to be learned by going “old school” with your networking and heading back out into the real world. Today I’ll talk about some of the reasons old school networking outweighs the new 2.0 version, and how you can reconnect with your old school networking roots.

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    Online, you can reach more people, but the connections you build in person are stronger.

    Sure, in the Brave New World of online networking, you can generate infinite LinkedIn connections and five thousand Facebook “friends,” but are they really friends? Are the folks you’ve just connected with people you want to know and do business with? How well can you get to know someone and their business without actually talking to them?

    In the 2.0 world of networking, something’s been lost in the connection. These days, a lot of people connect with you just to increase their list of followers. But who are they? Connecting with someone on Facebook or LinkedIn without talking to them and getting to know them is akin to throwing a business card at someone as you walk past them. It’s neither effective nor does it represent your business well.

    Bob Burg, author of Endless Referrals (a book I highly, highly recommend),  writes this golden rule of networking:  “All things being equal, people will do business with and refer business to, those people they know, like and trust.” When you meet someone in person, don’t you get a better sense of whether or not they’re for real than if you meet them online? When you meet someone in person and take the time to get to know them, you can tell if you can trust them and if they’re someone you’d like doing business with, as a potential client, in a joint venture, or if they’re someone you want in your Rolodex to refer business to in the future.

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    Check your marketing plan: you may not need to reach the masses.

    There are tons of statistics that suggest you can reach millions of potential buyers online. But if you’re a solo professional or a small business owner, you may not need to reach millions. You may not even want to reach millions. If your business is local or if you’re a consultant, reaching the international masses online may not make even the slightest sense for your business.

    Old School Networking And You

    In the old days, people sat down and talked to each other. They got to know one another — not just in terms of business, but personally. They connected with each other’s families, spent time together, and when you threw business someone’s way, you knew and trusted the person and could really count on them to handle the business you sent them.

    Get Involved.

    So how can you get back to basics and go “old school” with your networking? For one, the kind of old school networking I’m talking about isn’t the kind you find in networking groups and events. It’s about enriching your life while also enriching your business. Now’s the time to volunteer and get involved and active in your local community. Get to know the other volunteers and their families. Expand your net of friends and business associates. Connect with your alumni group from college, join your local Chamber of Commerce. Sign up for just-for-fun sports leagues. These are the ways in which people used to network and these connections are stronger and farther-reaching than those of your Twitter followers.

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    You Never Know Who Someone Knows.

    Stop worrying about “qualifying prospects” and instead, get to know people. And as you hang out after a ball game, nursing a beer with your fellow players, remember that while you may not be talking to an actual prospect at that moment, you never know who that person knows. You may not have a direct business connection with someone, but you could very well gain indirect business through that connection.

    Throw Away Your Technology.

    Ok, so it’s great to have your phone or PDA up-to-date with all your networking contacts at the touch of a fingertip. But if you’re going to go old school, consider really going old school.

    Believe it or not, studies have shown that technology can create social barriers in interpersonal interactions. First, it can disrupt the flow of conversation. Imagine your phone ringing while the person you’re with is talking. Not only are they distracted by the ringing, but they don’t know if you’re going to answer the call or not.

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    Second, it can get between you and the person. Did you ever notice the way people transform when they bring out their technology to schedule a meeting on their digital calendars? Instead of going tech to book a time, keep a pocket-sized Moleskine calendar handy and schedule it in pen. Not only will the meeting seem more important because it’s in indeliable ink and can’t be deleted, but you won’t be disconnected from the social interaction. If you really need to take notes during a meeting, don’t use your Blackberry. Instead, keep a Moleskine notebook and a pen in your pocket and bring it out when you need it.

    On the surface, technology seems great, because it promises a great time and personal energy savings. So we think it fixes everything. But sometimes, using technology for things we used to do in person can reduce our effectiveness. Although I’ve argued for an old school approach to networking in this article, I personally prefer a hybrid approach to networking. Use technology to support and follow up on your in person networking. And if you can’t network in certain locations in person, use the online world to bring those places to you. But never forget the key component to networking: getting to know people. Build relationships and you’ll reap huge rewards.

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    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    No!

    It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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    But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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    What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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    But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

    1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
    2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
    3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
    4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
    5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
    6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
    7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
    8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
    9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
    10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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