Networking is more than just meeting new people and collecting business cards. Dennis Zink interviews Sara Hand with Spark Growth, whose extensive experience in networking has enabled her to build collaborative relation ships between and within business groups and community organizations. In this episode she emphasizes the importance of building productive relationships.
Sara can be reached at [email protected]
Published: Monday, April 21, 2014.
While networking at a MeetUp.com group called BarCamp (no, it is not a drinking group), I met Sara Hand, co-founder of BarCamp and Spark Growth. Sara seems to know just about everyone in the area, or at least way more people than I know.
When I asked to interview Sara about networking for my podcast series, Been There, Done That! with Dennis Zink, she enthusiastically accepted. What follows are excerpts from that interview on a topic that should be of interest to all small businesses:
Q: Why should someone network?
A: Networking is about increasing resources, about connecting to sources of energy, sources of information.
Q: How effective can networking really be?
A: For a lot of people, networking is not effective at all. My goal is to build relationships with
other people who have similarly aligned interests that want to make a difference in their
community, that want to grow their business. … I’m looking for people that have purpose.
For me, networking has been one of the most important things that I do.
Q: What would you consider networking with a purpose?
A: It’s really understanding what your goals are. If you know what your unique value proposition is as a business, and you know who you best serve, then I’m looking for prospects. I know that everybody is not my prospect, and that’s OK. I’m looking for people who could be referral partners or strategic partners. I’m looking for centers of influence, people who understand the value of networking. I’m looking for several different things.
When I go to an event, if I make three to five really great connections, that’s it. Anything above
that is extra. I’m not trying to meet everybody.
Q: How many people do I need to know as a networker?
A: I guess it really depends on how well you know people and how well you stay connected. I
think when you go to a networking event, if you aimed for any more than three to five, you’ll
simply come away with business cards. If you don’t know who the person is and what makes them uniquely valuable and how that’s the same or different from you, if you don’t have a story about who they are, then you’re wasting your time.
Q: What do you think of a business leads exchange group where they exchange business cards? Do you see a value in that?
A: A leads group where people are just handing leads and they’re all about the number of leads that they can give and they’re not trying to qualify those at all — time is short. Just because I can doesn’t mean I should. I’m not looking for another hundred leads. I’m looking for things that are referrals or endorsements. I think that’s key in networking, because we have lots and lots of information, but there’s a difference between information and insight and how we approach problems, and I believe there’s a difference between leads and referrals or endorsements in where I’m going to spend my time.
Q: Where are good places to go to meet people?
A: There’s a lot of community initiatives that I think people miss. A lot of times, people are so
focused on their leads groups, BNIs, chamber events — those types of events, and they miss the community initiatives, like the one that we’ve run with BarCamp, Sarasota-Bradenton.
SCORE puts on some great events that are not necessarily networking events per se, but there’s great networking there because, depending on what the topic is, you have people in a room that have similar interests. You want to look for places where the types of people who you want hangout, people who have similar interests or people who have the same interest or the same characteristics that your prospect has. You may look at groups that are focused more around business.
Q: What do you do in the circumstance where you get in front of somebody and they just are
talking your ear off, and you just can’t get away from them?
A: There’s a technical term called a hand off. You graciously introduce them to somebody else, and if you have to excuse yourself to go to the restroom, that’s kind of the last resort.
Q: Are there one or two thoughts as a take away?
A: I would say, be focused. Know what it is that you want to do. Know what it is that you want
to accomplish, and be real.
Take the time to find out what makes somebody special. You don’t have to go to coffee with
everybody. You do have to listen.
Focus on what somebody is saying and not what you’re going to say next. If I may be of service to you contact me at [email protected]