Are you are business networking Hunter or Farmer?
There are two distinct approaches to business networking. Only one leads to leads to long-term business growth. Which one are you using? Jim Culverwell explains.
The people attending business networking events can broadly be defined as Hunters or Farmers. We’ve all met the Hunters. They arrive at a business networking meeting armed with leaflets and launch into their elevator pitch immediately when making contact with someone. Hunters have one objective: sell, sell, sell.
Hunters ram raid groups of people, hijacking conversations. Hunters talk, talk, talk. Their aggressive, sales-first approach is sometimes validated, particularly if they have a simple low-cost offering. Because Hunters sometimes make a few sales, they leave the networking meeting believing they have spent their time wisely. And of course at one level it was – in the short term.
This, however, is not networking. This is selling. And in the long term, it leads to a negative networking experience or outcome for the Hunter.
The Hunter wants as many sales as possible in as short a time. Yes, the Hunter may bombard people and have a measure of success. But along the way, the Hunter will alienate people, be shunned by others and avoided by the rest.
Networking is and always will be about forming, building and developing relationships. It is about knowing, liking and trusting. It is about being able to identify the sort of business your network members are seeking and helping - either by helping them yourself or matching their requirements with a provider in your network? Someone you can recommend.
A different approach
Farmers take the opposite approach to Hunters. The Farmer prepares the networking ground, sows seeds of business relationships, nurtures those relationships and reaps rewards through referrals.
They are in the room, talking, yes but also listening. Listening to what others are saying, looking for common ground, finding connections and getting to know the people behind the business.
The Farmer understands that some of the people they meet won’t become a member of their network. Sometimes the relationship doesn’t get beyond the ‘know’ stage. However, even these relationships, the ones that don’t deliver in the short and medium term, can pay off in the long run.
The Farmer will keep moving around the room and metaphorically ‘touch’ as many people as possible. They check-in with those they already know and meet as many new people as they can. They don’t get stuck in one group; they don’t stay with people they already know. They give and ask for business cards.
The Farmer sometimes leaves a networking group without meeting anyone ready to buy from them. But they know their time has been well spent. Why? Because all of the people they meet will in time speak to someone who needs their business and will make that referral.
If the Farmer meets 15 people at a networking event who each have more than 200 people in their network, that is in excess of 3000 potential customers for the Farmer’s business. That is more business that the Hunter will ever get.