You know how you can hear something, or read something, a few times, and then one day you hear it or read it again and it hits you like a ton of bricks? Here is a story about a time when that happened to me.
I’m a public speaker and so I travel a bunch. I speak to groups all over and I meet a ton of people – really bright and interesting folks. I go to a lot of night-before-the-conference dinners, and they’re always fun.
But last year, just about a year ago, I went to one of those pre-conference dinners that was especially noteworthy. One of the conference organizers, Karen (whom I’d corresponded with but had never met in person) picked me up at the airport. Karen’s a nutrition specialist and so we talked about that, and our kids, and the clubs we both used to frequent in Chicago back during the punk-rock era. We ran out of time to get me to my hotel before dinner, so Karen and I went to meet the leaders of the organization for dinner, directly from the airport.
Now this group that was hosting the conference is called WSWE, and it’s made up of tremendously fun and smart entrepreneurs near Chicago, like Karen and the Reverend Coach Queen Arlene Butler, and Sharon Keough of Monograms and More and Robyn from Birdznest Photography and other sassy ladies, too many to list, but a very spunky group. We talked about their organization and about networking, of course, over dinner. And one of the WSWE leaders said this about the organization: We get together to network, but not to sell to one another. We have to have that space to help each other without being sold to.
Man! I thought, that makes all the sense in the world. We network, but we don’t sell to one another. Now, think of a standard Chamber of Commerce event. No offense, but having gone to at least 50 Chamber events in at least ten major US cities over the years, I’d say the most typical attribute of a Chamber of Commerce networking event is that people are selling to one another. Bigtime. Probably there are exceptions, but this is the rule. It’s “please take my business card” networking, in spades.
And so this networking-to-support versus networking-to-sell idea got me thinking. These are two absolutely polar opposite ways to network. One involves meeting people in order to give and get support and guidance and counsel. Relationships build from that, and undoubtedly ideas for improving businesses in all sorts of ways, client acquisition only being one of them. This is what I call Subject networking. The people involved are the subjects. They do the networking, and it’s also about them.
Then there is networking to get leads, get leads, get leads. Do you need my stuff right now? How about your spouse, does he need my stuff? How bout I call you tomorrow? Perhaps if I give you a moment you can think of someone who needs my stuff…