By Aaron S. Robertson
Being a member of a number of networking groups, I've seen many people come to my groups' meetings once or twice as guests and then disappear. They expected to leave the first (or, if they have "patience", the second) meeting with a ton of new referrals in hand. When this did not happen, they became frustrated and never returned. They obviously do not understand what networking is all about.
Now, I'm not here to bash them. Still in my 20s and in business for just over two years now, I'm still learning many of the ropes in the world of business and, therefore, am perhaps the last person to be in a position to criticize anyone. But, I think I have come to "get" the concept of networking, hence this little reflection on it.
If you want to be successful at receiving referrals, first, you have to realize that getting involved with networking groups means you're in it for the long haul. It's a long-term investment of your time and commitment. You can't just attend a group meeting once or twice and expect to leave the meeting with referral slips and checks in hand and a big smile on your face. If you only come once or twice, you'll just be quickly forgotten by the rest of the group.
And second, not only do you need to attend these group meetings regularly, but you need to get together with group members individually for, what is known in business networking parlance, the one-on-one (or 1-on-1).
The 1-on-1 is essential to building trust with another business owner or professional, which in turn can translate into an abundance of referrals for both parties and a great working relationship. This meeting can be done in a casual setting over coffee, breakfast, lunch, or heck, even a beer.
Think of the 1-on-1 as a date in some ways. As with dating, you use the first 1-on-1 to scope out the other person. You learn a little bit about the other's family, hobbies, work, etc. You're looking to identify some common ground and shared core beliefs. In short, you begin to build some trust, and you build on that moving forward.
Attend networking group meetings regularly, show a genuine interest in getting to know the individuals in the group through 1-on-1s, and you're on your way to building many great relationships that will constantly feed you with referrals. But, beware, as with any thing else meaningful in life, this is going to take some time, effort, and patience.
In addition to serving as president of Intrepid Innovations, Aaron Robertson is an ambassador of the Muskego Area Chamber of Commerce and a board member of the Hales Corners Chamber of Commerce.