This article is apropos of the fact that organizations, as a consequence of the progressive elimination of social contact restrictions, resulting from the covid-19 pandemic, are investing heavily, also in Mozambique, in promoting initiatives to i) CONNECT with their employees, clients, suppliers, competitors and partners; ii) and to REACTIVATE, successfully, their Business Networks.
I confess that I suffered from an old limiting belief regarding Business Networks (MBN) that translated into the following behaviour :
“I HATED it, and I did not feel at ease talking to strangers, in a strange environment. But I recognised it was the best marketing strategy to grow my business.”
And there is science behind this attitude: it’s proven that when you talk to strangers in strange environments… you feel like an imposter! And he wasn’t alone in this limiting belief, as he was joined by Millennials.
According to a LinkedIn study (2022)3 , Millennials have a harder time maintaining their RNs. 43% of them have difficulty keeping in touch with their RNs, more than any other age group.
In this article I challenge my reader@ to assess the state of their RN and answer the following question: why do Business Networks (NBs) fail and what can be done to change their attitude and improve them significantly?
Let’s look successively at:
- What is a Business Network and what is it for?
- What are the most frequent mistakes in activating RNs and strategies for improvement?
In my opinion, the characterization of a Business Network (RN) points to the presence of six critical dimensions:
1 – It is a structured process: in this context, an RN follows, slowly and surely, in the timeline, a pattern of good practices that are organized in three distinct phases i) Preparation; ii) Face-to-Face meeting; iii) Follow-up.
The most frequent errors occurring in this dimension, and the respective improvement strategies (indicated in bold), are:
Although almost 100% of people agree that business networking is essential, it is difficult to maintain contact with people[In the Preparation phase] the total lack of prior setting of objectives: v.g. with whom do I want to contact? [At the Face-to-Face Meeting stage] continuing to persist in the negative ATTITUDE that it is only: i) a 100-metre race (i.e, ii) exchanging business cards, shaking hands, having a few drinks and a few snacks with strangers, forgetting that this is NET+WORKING; iii) talking 100% of the time, instead of actively listening and in a balanced way, according to the Pareto distribution 80% listening/20% talking, with the greatest number of people, not demonstrating to be PRESENT and FOCUSED@; iv) and much less try, at any cost, to close spot sales; vi) or aggressively INTERRUPT conversations; vii) or ask to be introduced to so-and-so, forgetting that LISTENING and HELPING THE OTHER is part of the mantra of successful RNs. [In the Follow-up Phase], the majority of studies point to the almost non-existence of follow-up mechanisms as the main failure. For example, although almost 100% of people agree that business networking is essential, it is difficult to keep in touch with people. Studies show that less than 50% of people manage to keep in touch with their network (Note: Let’s remember the case of Millennials).
2 – It is a [Structured Process] based on the development of SOCIAL RELATIONSHIPS: in this context, an NR i) is based on a mechanism of socialization and acculturation; ii) in rotating groups and small dimension.
The most frequent mistakes that occur in this dimension are: i) the inexistence of any social interaction (limit case of introvert participants); ii) social interaction, but only within the same group, without diversification – we all know networking events where, from the beginning to the end, the “group” remained unchanged; iii) and the rat race, where “everybody” wants to be with “everybody”. To keep FOCUSED on the list of contacts previously prepared in the Preparation phase is the recommended general strategy.
3 – It is a [Relational structured process] that privileges contact, proximity and PHYSICAL PRESENCE. Although with the covid-19 pandemic, the idea of virtual NR has become popular, according to a recent study, many respondents indicated that they prefer face-to-face business meetings because it allows them i) to build stronger and more meaningful business relationships (85%); ii) gives them the ability to read body language and facial expressions (77%); iii) in addition, it gives them more social interaction and the ability to connect with colleagues/clientes/partners (75%); iv) allows for more complex strategic thinking (49%); vi) and provides a better environment for difficult and opportununa decision making (44%).
4 – It is a [Relational, eminently face-to-face structured process] that requires the intensive use of skills-soft of RN stakeholders. In this context, topics such as i) strategic thinking; ii) negotiation; iii) exercise of executive presence; iv) active listening; v) body and facial language reading; vi) assertive and empathic communication are the most demanded.
5 – Such [Competencies-soft], whose systematic exercise by those involved in the RN accelerates the creation and flourishing of the respective individual CONFIDENCE CAPITAL, which may assume, as it develops and over time (let’s remember, the RN is a marathon), the following forms i) Greater Visibility of the individual/organization; ii) Greater Credibility of the individual/organization and iii) Greater Profitability of the business.
6 – And, depending on the value of the accumulated INDIVIDUAL CONFIDENCE CAPITAL, the RN players may, with greater or lesser ease, aspire (i.e. RN goals): i) not only, and first, to EFFECTIVELY HELP THE OTHER RN players; ii) but, mainly, and only AFTER, to achieve their BUSINESS GOALS.
Our best childhood tradition recommends “not to talk to strangers”! This largely explains our limiting beliefs and the fact that many of us feel IMPOSED when present in environments of, and with, strangers, such as a Business Network (NB).
Each of the six critical dimensions alluded to above of RNs is a lens to help us observe and collect examples of bad practices and mistakes that compromise the creation and development of much needed INDIVIDUAL CONFIDENCE CAPITAL.
And without this INDIVIDUAL CONFIDENCE CAPITAL, each of us, as members of Business Networks, will see compromised i) our Visibility in the RN; ii) our Credibility in the RN; iii) and, ultimately, the effectiveness of the RN as a strategic marketing tool to HELP OTHERS, and ourselves, to increase the Profitability (in a broad sense) of the business.
In short, without the INDIVIDUAL CONFIDENCE CAPITAL it will not be possible to make the successful transition from our position of simple CONTACT in an RN, to the position of strong and valuable CONNECTION: we will be just another stranger among strangers.
P.S. I declare that this article was not written by any Artificial Intelligence.