I believe in the power of networking to grow a business and to open doors to new opportunities and relationships. But there is a fine line between “networking” and “soliciting” and if you cross that line you run the risk of damaging relationships to the point of damaging future business.
We know it when we see it – when someone is soliciting us, when they are trying to “sell” us something. These are often the folks we avoid at networking functions, we don’t read their emails and rarely return their phone calls because we’re sure they just want to “sell” us something and if we’re not interested we don’t want to waste our time.
So what is the difference between “networking” and “soliciting”? Let’s look in the dictionary. According to Websters…
Networking - : “the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions; specifically : the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business”
Soliciting - : “to approach with a request or plea”
The key difference between “networking” and “soliciting” can be found in one word – “relationships”. True networking is about developing relationships that may or may not lead to a “sale”. It’s about developing trust and a relationship that is mutually beneficial to both parties. Good “networkers” know that networking is not about “closing the deal” but rather about opening the doors that may eventually lead to new business and valuable relationships. Often times that business doesn’t come from the people they are networking with directly – but from the people those people know.
It may take time to reap the benefits from networking – to see the results in one’s bottom line. But patience is the key to success. When you try to force a “sale” upon someone with whom you don’t yet have a relationship – you not only risk losing the sale – you risk losing the potential to build a “relationship” that may have lead to a sale eventually or to a valuable referral. Once you turn someone “off” it becomes very difficult to re-establish a relationship.
So get out there and network – keeping in mind that it’s all about building relationships. Like the classic tale of the “tortoise and hare” – take it easy, take it slow and don’t focus on making the “sale”. Patience and persistence always wins in the end.