The Art of Networking

diagram I’ve been thinking about networking quite a bit lately and it’s my belief that networking is an art form and a skill which requires practice. As engineers, we don’t like to practice this. We feel like it’s a useless waste of time, where I could be building something cool instead. Building vs. talking. Building wins in an engineer’s head. But, I’ve also come to the realization that without a distribution plan (ie, marketing, sales, partnerships, biz dev, etc), the cool crap you built won’t be adopted. It takes knowing the right people to do that, otherwise known as networking.

When it comes to sales and marketing, I used to be a hater. The past few years have changed my tone, though. Enter a random “networking” with Ryan Geist and David Ector via Ramit Sethi (thanks Ramit!).

Ryan said (paraphrased):

When you are out networking, the people you’re trying to talk with and meet understand what you’re trying to do. They are playing the game too, and the expect you to offer them a value proposition in trade. That’s why they are there.

Sounds pretty obvious to all you marketers and sales people. But to engineers, you can slide us a Guiness and watch us say “Brilliant!”.

Now, there’s only two issues I have with what Ryan said. First, how do we find what the person you’re talking with needs (ie, what to offer that’s of value to them)? The second problem is the money barrier Guy Kawasaki mentions. Namely, if you’re focused on the money, you’re not as likely to help other people, and the relationship is less likely to develop where it’s advantageous to both individuals. That’s a pretty big hurdle. I guess that’s why the big business deals happen on the golf course. They’re trying to think about the game rather than work (work == $$, where golf == fun).

I think both of these issues can be resolved by getting comfy with networking itself. So, the answer I’ve come up with so far is “do it now”.

But, I think you probably have some insight too. What’s your thoughts on the matter?

[tags]networking, marketing, sales, money barrier, guy kawasaki, seth godin, ryan geist, ramit sethi, social networking, startup[/tags]

Nate Ritter lives in the Pacific Northwest (U.S.), popularized the #hashtag and creates web applications for a living. He also does miles and point hacking to enable cheap travel for his family. More here →

2 Comments on "The Art of Networking"

  1. Sharan says:

    I agree with you on the concept that networking is important for everyone! Where I have a problem is that in networking, most of the IT people I meet do not speak “English”. As a speaker on Relationship Networking (www.thepronetworker.com), several times I have had IT people in my audience and when you ask them to talk about what they do, they use words that most of us lay people, or people over the age of 50 do not understand.
    I remember once having a gentleman say he does infrastructure – well, I thought he built buildings.
    Relationship Networking is another level of networking. It puts the relationship first, you helping the other person. It takes time and it helps you NOT see the other person as a dollar sign. You develop the relationship over time and really learn about the other person. It is so much easier to sell to someone you know that is having a problem you can solve, than someone you don’t know.

  2. nate says:

    Sharan,

    Thanks for the comment. Out of curiosity, how did you find this blog? I’m always curious.

    In regards to your comment, I fully agree. IT technical talk is very elitist. The terms and acronyms thrown around would make anyone (including some technologists) shudder.

    As a side note, I think you made the perfect point when you said it’s easier to sell to someone that is having a problem you can solve. Especially someone you know.

    The difficult thing for many techie people is the social atmosphere. They/we are warm and fuzzy in our knowledge and acronyms. And it’s difficult to stop speaking tech, and start speaking marketing. It’s quite the transition which many people never make.

 
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