July 7, 2011

I always enjoy asking a group of professionals – “What comes to mind when I say the term Networking”?   People typically mention images of handshakes, business card exchanges, after work cocktails, schmoozing, door prizes, nametags and bad food.

As the brainstorm continues I notice several in the group respond non-verbally with scrunched up faces and looks of distaste.  Then one brave soul voices what the others are thinking – “People trying to sell you stuff”.

STOP right there Kimosabe!  I have heard enough.  I will debunk that misperception right here and right now!

Networking in its purest form is about building relationships with others. Regardless of the motivation or intent, networking is an avenue to meet and establish a level of trust among people.  Remember: People do business with those they like and trust!  Networking is an amazing skill!  Anyone you encounter and every time you engage in a conversation you are expanding and enhancing your network.

Sales Trainers were early adopters of networking as a valuable tactic within their sales methodology.  Networking derived a negative stigma by many due to guilt by association of being a component of the Sales funnel, as many professionals have a negative perception of Sales and Salespeople.  Do not interpret my comment above as being derogatory on Sales or Sales Professionals as without Sales and Salespeople, no company would exist or remain viable.  Sales are the economic lifeblood of any organization.

The distinction between Sales and  Networking:  Often sales is masked as networking. Sales can be seen as a motivation for networking, since it requires some basis of relationship, but to me the intent and objectives are clearly different.  If you are selling (a product, service, solution) that is your ultimate goal to close a sale, make the deal and move on to the next.  Networking intent involves a sincere effort to get to know and understand the other person.  As many of us have been the recipients for both Sales and Networking approaches, we can attest to the ease of distinguishing the motives.

In a new relationship, as soon as you start selling, the other person stops listening.  Your motives and agenda are clear.  You do not truly have an interest in the other person, only the business opportunity they can bring to you.  Think of all the times you have met someone new who all they did was brag about themselves (selling) or what they do (selling) or how they have a solution for you (selling).  Now how engaged and excited were you in that conversation?  Bet you couldn’t wait till it was over!  Whether a date or a business meeting, such an approach is an immediate turn off!  Try deactivating your Sales button and just be you.

Primary Difference: In a sales process the goal of the interaction between two people is the eventual sale of a product or service. When networking, the goal is a relationship; wherever it may lead. A sale could be the consequence, but never the goal of networking.

Below is a comparison to help illustrate the differences between Selling and Networking.


Focus on the other person

: Long Term

Share information about themselves as person and not only their business role

Help: Offer and Give help without expecting something back

Never keeping score

: To help

Ask questions to learn about the person and develop understanding

Target: Willing to talk to everyone and show an interest in the conversation.

Attitude: You can never be certain of who they know and what they know

Ask for and give business cards to people they will remain in contact

Ask questions about the person, family, career, background etc

Goal: Establish and cultivate relationships

Offer: To Help


Focus on WIIFM – What’s In It For Me

Perspective: Short Term – instant benefit

Probing to detect a need that can be satisfied by their product or service

Help: Only give if they see an immediate payback

Calculating how many meetings, how much time & money spent on the relationship

Listen: To close the sale

Ask questions to help determine their positioning

Target: Only want to meet legitimate prospects

: Want to talk only to decision makers

Collect and distribute as many business cards as possible

Talk about business.  Ask questions about the company, not the person.

Goal: Close a sale.  People are the means.

: A Solution


An actual occurrence depicting the distinction between a Selling vs. Networking approach.

Situation: Dan, an Account Executive for a national wireless service attends a luncheon where he sits by Steve, the Managing Partner of a local CPA firm.

The Sales Approach

Drumming up a conversation, Dan immediately shows Steve his new Android phone and explains with all the Apps how this device can make a professional’s life much more efficient.

Putting on his sales hat and natural charisma, Dan works his magic to convince Steve of the efficiency gains and benefits of switching the current plan to his company’s faster 4G network.  Of course this includes course replacing the outdated blackberries with new Android Smartphone for the 10 partners in the office.

Patting himself on the back with a new client, Dan considers the lunch a success.  A $25 lunch yields an $1800 new contract!  “My My, what an ROI”, Dan proclaims.  Steve has not heard from Dan since signing the paperwork.  Dan loses the contract in 18 months to a lower priced competitor.

The Networking Approach
Over lunch, Dan demonstrates his interest in Steve as a person much more than his role in as Managing Partner of a prestigious local CPA firm.  He learns that Steve is originally from the Northeast and moved South because of a job his wife took at the local University. They have 2 children one 12 and the other a sophomore in high school.  Steve is an avid basketball fan and attends all the local games to watch his eldest daughter on the cheer team.  He learns that Steve is an avid outdoorsman and looking for a new family camper. Dan recalls that a friend of his has a nearly brand new camper for sale. He shares this info with Steve and gives Steve the contact information. Weeks later Dan gets a call from his friend that the camper has a new owner – Steve.

Several months pass, Dan and Steve have traded emails just to check in.  Steve casually mentions that his daughter broke her cell phone at school and Dan mails Steve a used one from his store that he can’t sell.

One day, Dan receives a call from Steve who serves on the board of a large construction firm and shares that during the last meeting the President mentioned that they are deciding to bid their cellular contract.  Steve recommends Dan to the President and sets up a meeting. After a 30 minute chat with the company President, Dan gets the nod on a new contract to equip and manage their 300+ field operatives’ phones and tablets.

Dan returns to his office and calls Steve to offer sincere Thanks and just before hanging up, Dan says “Steve please let me know if I can ever help you with anything”.

The next time you approach someone new or sit down at a luncheon, remember the story of Dan and Steve.  Consider the long term perspective and future benefits of networking!

Networking is about being yourself, not selling.  So unscrunch your face and put that smile in its place.

Go Forth and network!


View Live – SBN’s Structured Networking

February 3, 2010

See how our events are professionally run and gain insight into the SBN Experience.

–  View live video from an event
–  Hear testimonials from participants
–  Intro by Adam Small, SBN’s Founder & CEO

View our upcoming schedule of events

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‘Tis the Season for Mistletoes, Menorahs and Holiday Parties!

December 21, 2009

It’s time to say a personal “thanks” to those who helped you in 2009 and take the opportunity to make some new connections to set the stage for the year ahead.  Whether your office holiday party, a friend’s open house, or a trade association membership meeting – you need to keep networking.

Remember, every time you meet someone new – you have the opportunity to network.  Networking is a lifelong endeavor as you continue to forge new relationships and cultivate those connections you have made over time.  Networking is never about an immediate need or desire, but more so to help others and better prepare yourself for success in the years ahead.

Our tips for an effective season of networking:

1. RELAX AND ENJOY YOURSELF!! – First and foremost, this time is stressful enough, so remove your game face, your zealous handshake and put your sales pitch on vacation – just immerse yourself in having some fun and camaraderie. Really get to know the people you meet; it’s time to share some stories or even a few jokes. People are happy this time of year so enjoy their company and if you have to… commiserate on the pathetic performance of your favorite football team.

2. Say “Thanks.” – For those in your network who referred you a potential client, introduced you to a new contact or helped you in any fashion, send them an email, a handwritten note or holiday card – telling them how much you appreciate their support and look forward to the coming year. Demonstrate that you truly value their contribution to your success and their role in your network. Reinforce that you will and want to help them in any way you can.  Everyone loves to feel appreciated!

3. Attend holiday mixers and parties – Take advantage of the season and attend those parties you want as well as those where you feel obligated.  Each offers a unique opportunity to meet new people and begin to establish some new contacts to pursue in the year ahead. If you are party hopping, first and foremost – be safe and responsible!  WE want to see you networking next year as well!! Attend for an hour – mingle and catch up with some familiar faces then make a point to talk to two new people at each party.  Before your exit, make sure to thank the host/hostess and congratulate them on a wonderful event.

4. Play the gracious host – Whether you are tied directly to an event or not, always strive to maintain the demeanor of a host.  Greet people as they enter, offer to get refreshments or food for others.  Make a special effort to talk to those who appear more introverted and casually invite them into your conversation or connect them with others. You will be remembered for your kindness and playing the host sends a clear message of your confidence.

5. Connect people – Scroll through your rolodex and identify which of your contacts would benefit from meeting one another.  Invite them to join you at mixers or holiday parties and make the introductions.  Your contacts will certainly be happy they met some new people and you will benefit from being the point of connection.  Your efforts here demonstrate your desire to help them succeed and that you are thinking about them.

6. Personal Invitations – Make a special effort to personally call or email some of your contacts and invite them as your guest to a holiday mixer or suggest you will meet them there as an opportunity to catch up.  Often people are more likely to attend such social functions if they know that others whom they know will be there. They will remember the fact you personally invited them.  For those whom are more introverted, ask someone to go with you and share a car then you can arrive together and more comfortably immerse yourself in the festivities.

7. Pace Thyself – There are more holiday gatherings that one can imagine, so if you are fortunate to be invited to many such events, make sure to pace yourself and not overindulge. Certainly your focus should be enjoying yourself, but make sure to know your limits on alcohol and make an effort to drink a glass of water and try those tasty hors d’oeuvres.  After all you don’t want to be remembered for the wrong reasons!! Nor be the one they talk about as the “incident” from the last holiday party!

8. Maintain a positive outlook – No matter what is going on in your professional or personal worlds, smile and be positive!!  Express your excitement for the coming year.  No one likes a party pooper or negativity during this time of year. SCROOGES STAY AT HOME!!

9. Get to know thy office mates – Often in larger companies people barely know those working next to them or even on a different floor.  If your firm has an office party – make an effort to meet and begin to build a rapport with others in your company. These folks can be one of your most powerful allies and referral sources if they just know what you do and create a face rather than merely the “Sales” department.

10. Mistletoe Manners! – The ultimate holiday dilemma!  What is appropriate? Nearly every party has someone running amuck with mistletoe or strategic placed this amorous item in concealed locations. Either way; appearing at an inopportune moment. Our recommendation: A hug is a man’s best friend! Dare you be more risqué – a quick peck on the cheek.  Beyond that – you have transitioned from networking to romance and you should ask Dr. Phil for his advice.


What is Speed-Networking, and Does it Work?

September 28, 2009

Fast food, fast computers and fast cars, is it any wonder speed-networking emerged?  In a click thru, on-demand, no patience world, Speed Networking helps professionals focus their networking efforts and accelerate the process of making new contacts.

Believe it or not, speed-networking is just what it sounds like – quick, focused opportunities to meet those who can propel your career and business.  And, YES, it does really work!  We all desire to accelerate our careers and get on the fast track to success, with speed-networking, you can accelerate your networking.  You can meet more quality contacts and actually have meaningful conversations in just one event than any other method!

Speed-networking is FUN and EFFECTIVE.  Whether you are an introvert or extrovert, young in your career or experienced – you will enjoy meeting people in this type of format.  Strategic Business Network is a firm believer in putting people face-to-face to facilitate direct conversation.  QuikConnect™ (SBN’s speed networking format) is set up as a series of one-on-one mini-meetings.  Half the participants stay seated, while the other half rotate in a sequential process to a new professional after each 4-5 minute exchange.

A few other different styles of speed-networking include:

– Typically 7 people sit down at a table and each person has 1-2 minutes to share their elevator pitch. After all have spoken, each participant moves to a new table.

Triad – three people per table with one remaining seated throughout the rotations.  After 6 minutes, the other two move in opposite directions around the room.

But, how does it work to help you achieve success?

First, Without a doubt you will meet more people in a short timeframe than ever before.
,All those who participate are like you in that they have invested their time and energy to build their network. Third, Listen and Listen.  There is no time for selling, simply have a conversation and learn about what each new connection as both an individual and professional – ie, who they are, what they do.
Fourth and most important – Follow Up is the key.  Speed-networking delivers high volume and quality connections, but you must follow up and begin to cultivate the relationships. The initial interaction is only the starting point for each of your new potential relationships.

Consider all the new people you can now help by knowing what they do and in turn who can help you!  Imagine attending even one speed-networking event per month, you will more than likely meet over 400 new people throughout the year.  And, if you do it right, you can leave a lasting impression making sure those 400 people in your community REMEMBER you.

After nearly 5 years of executing speed networking events and creating over 500,000 new connections, the testimonials from participants who gained new clients, projects, jobs and friendships continues to amaze me. I confidently will place a properly run speed networking session against any other networking event format and feel assured the outcomes will be far greater.

If you haven’t tried it, I highly recommend it.  In today’s world, networking is critical from the receptionist to the CEO.  Speed-networking offers an efficient and effective tool to propel your career and expand your influence!   Never has networking been this fun and this rewarding.

Visit http://www.strategicbusinessnetwork.com for events and opportunities near you!


Art of Eye Contact

March 8, 2009

Eye contact (or lack thereof) provides a great deal of information about your demeanor and sends strong signals to your audience.  Professionals rarely take a moment to consider their level of eye contact and the message they may be sending.

You’ve likely heard that eyes are the windows to the soul.   One’s eyes are the first things people often  notice when meeting one another.  The amount of eye contact used when conversing sends a strong signal to others about you self-confidence.  Too much eye contact can be seen as very aggressive, while too little eye contact is often viewed as as being shy, reserved or even worse – disinterested.  Eye contact is critical to master for effective communication and networking.

Maintaining consistent eye contact by looking someone in the eyes during a conversation sends a subconcious signal that you are honest and interested in the other person.  Being able to look someone in the eyes and maintain eye contact  presents oneself as confident. Your audience will take you more seriously and view what you have to say as of importance. Eye contact lets people know our emotional connection and level of interest in the conversion.

Eye contact is the most important form of non-verbal communication and will often illustrate the attitudes one person may have towards another. For example, looking away while speaking implies weakness or insincerity. Maintaining eye contact when your head is slightly raised portrays superiority and staring is just plain scary.  Most people avoid eye contact because of fear or pressure, when in reality maintaining eye contact actually reduce fear and anxiety by drawing your audience closer. Making good eye contact reflects self confidence and provides direction, authority and meaning to your conversation or message.

Eye Contact Exercise:

For one day, memorize the eye color of everyone whom you engage in a conversation.  This will force you to look them in the eyes enough to make note of their eye color.   That all it takes.. Practicing this simple exercise will build self-confidence, reduce conversational stress and improve your communication.


Facebook is REALLY for Older People

March 8, 2009

Back in the day, when Myspace was cool I had my online profile.  After too many issues with people being  jealous, angry or hurt that because they were not in my top 8 friends – I shut it down!  Vowing never to resurrect that virtual world.

I must admit that I recently ate my words and glad to be back in the game.  At the end of last year, I created a Facebook profile. In my defense, I only did so in order to manage our company’s Facebook group.  I started getting invites from my family members, my friends and people from college, from Highschool and others whom I had lost touch with over the years.  It was exciting and enjoyable to catch up and I truly feel blessed to have many of these people back in my life.

Facebook bar none is one of the most powerful re-connection tools that exists.  The older you are, the more compelling the value of Facebook.  The older you are  the more people you have lost touch with as opposed to kids who aren’t even old enough to forget someone’s name.   (Caveat: My grandfather who is 96 and outlived most of all his contemporaries, likely would not have a large pool of re-connections)

Your friends from school, from your hometown, former colleagues, relatives you don’t see/hear from much.  Imagine the possibilities of being able to re-kindle old relationships and catch up on people’s lives simply by logging in.  Facebook will even suggest people you may know, based on those you already do.  Others will find you.  No “Its too much work” excuses are allowed.

Many of you are saying “Great I’ve re-connected, so what?”  Here the opportunity:  All these people that you now are re-connected with can possibly help you. I presume some of them even like you.  Looking for a job?  Trying to make new business contacts?  Need to get acclimated in a new city?  There is nothing wrong with asking for help.  Telling people where you are in your life and asking for help is part of being human.  Most people truly treasure helping others because of the way helping makes them feel and many others believe in the karma that help will come back around.  Lest we not forget that all of us should Pay it Forward.

I get excited at the thought of all the people my dad has lost touch with in his life and where some of them might be now and what they are doing.  I am going to make my dad one of the most re-connected people on Facebook… he just doesn’t know it yet.  SHHHH

Read this article in the Time Magazine: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1879169,00.html


Recession-Proof Relationships

February 10, 2009

Credit Crunch.  Bankruptcies.  Layoffs.  Bailouts.   CNN constantly feeds a daily dose of  negative economic news.  With a volatile stock market still down 40% and interest rates at all time lows; seemingly there is no safe harbor for financial assets.  Job losses surge everyday and even the employed live in fear of tomorrow. What a lovely picture.

In such challenging times there is no more valuable asset than your relationships.  These connections can serve as beacons of light among the darkness and gloom.  Each relationship can open a new path to that next job, that new solution, that new idea or that new positive perspective.  Your relationships and how you elect to leverage them, differentiate you from anyone else.

Relationships are priceless resources.  They are FREE, only requiring an investment of your time and energy.  They are UNPREDICTABLE, as you never know where one new connection will lead.   Most importantly, they must be NURTURED to be effective.

3 Quick Recommendations:

Strengthen Weak Ties – Allocate time in your schedule to reach out to those whom you have lost touch and re-kindle past relationships.  Typically these people travel in much different circles, know different people and have a unique set of contacts.  Ideal when searching for a new path and reaching beyond your traditional network core. Utilize online tools such as Reunion.com, Facebook, Classmates.com or College Alumni networking groups.

PING – Every day call three people whom you have not spoken with in at least 6 months.  Simply to say hello and initiate a dialogue.  Use standard down times, drive time traffic, waiting on an appointment, lunch break.  The results will astound at how fast you can re-connect and strengthen a relationship.

Beyond the Comfort Zone – Do something new and different.  Get outside your comfort zone.  Try online networking.  Attend an event you have never been to previously.  Get involved with a new group.  Venture outside your typical geographic area and interact with people in a new part of town.  Volunteer your time for a new initiative.  Push until you feel some butterflies.  Reach out and connect to new people in a new environment.

Commit yourself to these 3 efforts for the month of February and you will be amazed at the results.  You want things to happen, then make them happen.  Shake your networking up a bit and create positive momentum for yourself.  Do more, connect in new ways and listen less to CNN.