Men Make Business, Women Make Friends
One of the most cited and real barriers to women’s professional and business success relates to networking: not enough, not the right type, and not enough access. The other problem some women have is how they interact at networking events.
When I observe women (myself included) at networking events globally and coach women about networking, I most often see and hear women exhibit almost a singular focus on connecting with people and building relationships, practically at the expense of getting referrals and doing business. In conducting research for their book: Business Networking and Sex: Not What You Think, authors, Misner, Walker and De Raffele surveyed 12,000 business people over a three year period on every populated continent. Men and women reported having the similar goals for networking events – essentially to build business – but most seemed to agree that in networking situations, men were more focused on business and women more on relationships. While connecting with people and building relationships is critical and a prerequisite to doing business, the key difference in business networking and hanging out with your friends is that business networking interactions are intended to result in business!
The time to build and nurture a network is always, and the way we interact at networking events is key.
What can women do to better parlay their ability to connect and build relationships into business?
- Prepare: Develop a few key questions or business topics to memorize prior to the event. Base these on the people you know who will be there and who you will want to meet and talk to.
- Make the most of your time: Talk to people you know as well as meet new people. Business networking is not about building an ever-growing list of relationships that don’t result in business opportunities. Steer conversations to a mix of personal connections and focused business discussions.
- Genuinely ask others: After spending a few minutes talking with someone, ask them what their most pressing business priority or challenge is. If what you do relates to their needs, share an example of how you have worked in a similar situation or explain how the type of work you do relates to their expressed needs.
- Share your “sweet spot”: When talking with someone you have previously met or have already established a relationship with bring up an interesting project, assignment or business opportunity. Clearly identify the type of work that you are best at and is in your “sweet spot” and indicate that you are always looking for more of that type of work.
- Follow up: Send a short email, note or information to the people you met that ties their business needs to services/products you offer. Don’t just send information about what you do. If you had an uncovered a potential business opportunity, ask for time to explore working together.
- Don’t waste your time: Don’t fool yourself by regularly attending events where business opportunities for you are non-existent or negligible.
So, if you plan to attend a networking event get yourself in the business mindset, otherwise go have fun with some friends.
What’s your most successful business generating approach at a networking event? Leave a note for us below or let us know here.