Is Your Networking Not Working?
How do you view networking opportunities? Is it a chance for you to get out there and find some potential sales? Is it an opportunity to meet potential clients? Are you often distraught to find that your networking situation didn’t turn out the way you imagined?
Perhaps you’re not looking at networking in the right light then. Assuming that you need a sales pitch to attend a networking event is not the way to enter the situation. In fact, you might consider tossing your sales pitch right out and tuning into a networking pitch. Seeing your networking event as nothing more than a chance to up your sales can become the downfall of any brand, so stop selling and start investing in contacts.
Network to make connections
The question you now have to ask yourself is what networking is really about? Consider yourself at a meet and greet event. Not everyone is going to want what you have or have what you’re looking for. But, they may have connections with some who might provide an opportunity for your brand. So, rather than selling your product or service to the individuals attending, you’re selling your brand.
The problem with using a networking opportunity to sell rather than build contacts is that the brand misses out on exactly what networking is all about- discovering and building. So the first thing you must remember is that networking is not about selling.
Networking should be the beginning of a relationship between you and your contacts. It is the opportunity to discover what others can do for you and what you can do for them. Rather than focusing on making a sale, focus on finding the right connections that will lead to an opportunity to build your brand. Remember that not all connections will be sales, since many of them will often become advocates for your brand.
These contacts may have their own share of contacts and networks that didn’t attend the event. They may have insight into your field of expertise. They may even have something that your brand needs. Limiting your search radar to sales potentials can eliminate almost the entire benefit of attending a networking event.
Consider one of the most powerful aspects of networking, and that is to spread the word. Getting your fellow networkers to talk about your brand with others, as references, is ideal for initiating word of mouth marketing. If you limit yourself to sales, you might make some, but you’re basically only going to make a limited number of connections. Rather than spreading the word about your brand, you’re going to gain only one or two clients, and miss out on several more that could have been made by making the right connections.
Developing your network
In order to partake in effective networking, you’re going to need to include a few practices into your networking technique. First of all, don’t settle into a niche. While it’s important to build relationships with your established network and develop loyal connections, you must still seek new contacts and thereby establish new opportunities. Keep your eyes and ears out for any potential connection candidates, especially those that have been referred to you. Take interest in others and work to build a relationship with them. You never know what they can offer your brand, be it service or their business. While you might think they have little or nothing to offer you, it won’t necessarily mean that they don’t have anything to offer indirectly.
This brings up the next and potentially vital component in networking. Though you may not be able to help a contact directly, there are other ways that you can help them, and resultantly help your own brand. Make connections by advocating for another (preferably within your network) and turn that connection into a potential trust-building opportunity. Both connections are more likely to reciprocate the gesture in the future, which is what everything in business is about- planning ahead.
Additionally, the conversation at any networking event needs to be appropriately engaging. Avoid overwhelming conversation with product and service discussion. Make the conversation about your brand. How do you define it? What does it mean to you? How have you helped others? These are the questions that are going to intrigue potential connections, whether they want you in their network or if they can refer someone to you.
Building trust is perhaps the most important part of networking, so be sure that you honor your commitments. Being reliable isn’t something that you can describe in a sales pitch. It’s something you have to demonstrate through your actions.
The next time you attend a networking event, whether it’s online or offline, make it your priority to create connections, not generate sales. And once you have those connections, take them a step further and develop them into loyal relationships that will build your brand in more ways than just a single sale.
Maria Elena Duron, is managing editor of the Personal Branding Blog, CEO (chief engagement officer) of buzz2bucks– a word of mouth marketing firm, and a professional speaker and trainer on developing social networks that work. She provides workshops, webinars, seminars and direct services that help create conversation, connection, credibility, community and commerce around your brand. Maria Duron is founder and moderator of #brandchat - a weekly Twitter chat focused on every aspect of branding that is recognized by Mashable as one the 15 Essential Twitter Chats for Social Media Marketers.
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.