Just before any big professional boxing match, you'll see both fighters assemble in the middle of the ring with the referee (or "third man in the ring") so they can be reminded of the Ground Rules before they touch gloves and go into battle.
It may sound something like this.
"I gave you your instructions in the dressing room. Remember, protect yourself at all times and above all, obey my command at all times. Touch 'em up. Good Luck." (Words to live by. Thank you Kenny Bayless, professional boxing referee.)
Rules are important when it comes to doing almost anything, including networking. What amazes me is the amount of people at events that have no idea how to make a connection. Networking, like boxing, is about the connection! And without a connection, nothing good happens.
Here are 6 Ground Rules that can help you make more and better connections - today!
Networking is learning about other people and potentially helping them. That's it! Learning and helping. How can you help others? By referring them to potential prospects and referral sources. By sending them helpful information (not about you!). By making suggestions if they're open to them (not everyone is!). If you focus your efforts on learning from and helping the right people, they help you right back!
Know Your Purpose
I know your purpose is to get more business. But what kind of business? Be specific! What type of clients do you want? What industry, profession, market segment, niche, dynamic, or geography do they represent? The more you know about your potential prospects, the more effective you'll be at going to the right places, saying the right things, and meeting the right people. Isn't that what it's all about?
Do NOT Sell
Tempting, I know! No selling means that everyone you meet is not a prospect. Believe it or not, everyone you meet is not looking for life insurance, financial planning, or whatever you are selling. Everyone you meet doesn't need to understand the value of your work. Or how you get paid. The only thing you should be selling when you're networking at an event (or via social media in most cases) is your desire to offer value and help. There is a time and place for selling and that's when you're speaking with someone that's looking to buy your product or service.
Must Have a Genuine Interest in Others
If you don't have an interest in other people, you'll have a difficult time making a connection. Get curious about other industries and professions. Get particularly interested in the professions that represent natural referral sources for you. That might be attorneys, bankers, accountants, brokers from other product lines, etc. In fact, get really good at referring them business and see what happens! Just saying.
Everyone Won't Like You
For a number of reasons, you won't connect with everyone you meet. That's just the way it goes! Everyone has different interests, personalities, communication styles, priorities, agendas, upbringings, challenges, strengths, concerns, experiences, values, beliefs, and fashion statements. It's not right or wrong, good or bad, just what is. As long as you're focused on learning from and helping others in good faith while being clear about your own business objectives, keep doing what you're doing. That said, and this is important, if you find that you have a difficult time connecting with most of the people you meet, it's time to take a deep breath, look in the mirror, and ask yourself if you're "showing up" the way you should. Be honest with yourself and consider a change in your approach. (Reviewing these Ground Rules should help!)
Work on the Relationship, Not the Transaction
If you focus on the relationship first, the business will be there. Get to know the key business people in your life better. Spend time over a meal or a coffee when you're in town. Schedule periodic phone or Skype meetings. Really get to know what's happening in the lives of your clients, prospects, and referral sources. They all know you want to build your business. If you form the right collaboration with them, they'll help you do just that!
Remember, protect yourself at all times and above all, obey my command at all times. Touch 'em up. Good Luck!