There’s a Reason Why
Most Networking is Not Working


by Michael DeFoe

Go to any networking function and you’ll experience an interesting cast of characters. You’ve got Rapid Rachelle machine-gunning business cards to anyone who can fog a mirror. More about me Mike is broadcasting his value propositions at 350 words a minute with gusts up to 650 without a breath in-between. Breathe Mike, breathe. Then there’s Wall Flower William waiting desperately to catch an eye in hopes of an introduction because his quota’s short for the month. And yes, the list of dysfunctional networking styles and motivations go on. You’ve engaged with people like this at events and generally derive pleasure from them when they leave the room. You won’t do business with them, introduce them to anyone and certainly wouldn’t connect them to your network. Unfortunate? Yes, but very common.

The pandemic problem that exists in networking is that people see others at a business gathering as a means to their end; a conduit to getting something instead of giving something. This self-serving mindset doesn’t work, especially with the younger generations coming up in the business world who can sense an agenda-based approach a smile away. Candidly, networking of this nature is a small game where relationships are more about being farmed than formed.

The mechanics of networking don’t exist in how talented you are, how well you dress, communicate, or even who you know or work for. Networking is about delivering a steady stream of diverse value into the groups you belong to and it is an opportunity to create integrity-driven relationships that last a lifetime; relationships that will have a profound effect on your bottom-line.

As a networker, it’s vital to own the reality that you are forging “the brand of you” in the groups you are in. Your brand is always on, always impacting relationships positively or negatively. You will build a brand as either a taker or a giver in any group you are in, and you will be known as someone who brings life into the room or drains life out of it. It’s pretty black and white. Should you decide to be a giver, you’ll be building a foundation that will have exemplary outcomes, and the following 7 Points will activate the “working” part of networking.

  1. Targeted Marketing goes for networking groups too. Make sure the group is rich with people you can create value for and who in-turn can deliver specific value back. Use every resource to qualify the group as the long-term investment it will actually be.
  2. Get to know the people at the top. Buy the group founders or top networkers lunch and get to know them, what is important to them and how you can serve them. The conversation will naturally flow in the direction of you sharing your value. Don’t force it.
  3. Do a little homework in advance of every meeting. Find out who’s going to be at the meeting and plan some intros, connections or bring something of value to those you’d like to meet. This inspires confidence and “planning in advance of a meeting will always advance that meeting.”
  4. Follow through with every large or seemingly insignificant commitment you make. If you tell someone you’ll send them an article, send it. Your networking brand gets more attractive and influential with every commitment made and kept.
  5. Nerves don’t serve. Being for others has a hidden value that is powerful. It simplifies the networking process and minimizes any nervousness that might show up into a manageable state. Think – Serve Removes Nerves.
  6. More intimate relationships make for more ultimate value. Make it a point to invite someone you’ve met to coffee. Think “making friends” more than connections. Friends make better connectors.
  7. Always do a little extra for those you meet. People appreciate it when you follow through, but they rarely forget when you went beyond expectations.

The short shortsighted of networking says “go to a meeting, get a few leads.” The wise view of networking is “I’m building a relationally sound, value driven network to last a lifetime.” Networking is not a 100-card dash, it’s an ongoing journey where improving the lives others is the destination, and the destination is good.  

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Michael DeFoe is an investment associate for KBS and is responsible for over 4.2 million square feet of commercial properties in the central U.S.