Is Your Network Looking Out the Window?

Looking Out the WindowYou may have heard this idea before. It is widely-accepted. Business classes teach it. Networking groups preach it. Businesses owners believe it almost without question.

“You have to educate your network about what you do.”

But there’s a problem with this idea. The problem is this: you can’t educate your network. In fact, you can’t educate anyone but yourself.

Just talk to a few school teachers and ask them about their jobs. Teachers do not simply present information and assume that students will effectively absorb it. Students have to invest significant effort in their own education. Teachers are specially trained to persuade students to make this effort. Any teacher will tell you that it never gets easy.

If it’s not easy for someone who teaches for a living, why should it be easy for anyone else?

In a business networking environment, we as business owners essentially face the same challenge as a schoolteacher. We cannot simply present information about our businesses and assume that everyone will listen and apply the information. We first have to persuade the people in our networks to pay attention to us.

Otherwise, they’ll just look out the window. Or look down at their phones.

Educating adults is no easier than educating children. After 12 to 20 years of school, most adults have mastered the skill of pretending to pay attention in class.

When we give our elevator pitch at a networking group, we have less than five seconds to persuade the other person to listen to the rest of what we have to say. If we fail to immediately grab someone’s interest, they tune out. They might continue to nod their head and make eye contact, but they’ve stopped listening. While you ramble on about your products and services, they’re thinking about their to-do list or last night’s argument with their spouse.

If you want to get attention, you have to give attention. Social media plays a key role in this.

Instead of thinking of social media as a soapbox to broadcast information about your business, try thinking of it as an information-gathering tool to learn about other businesses in your network. In other words, instead of using social media to educate your network, try using it to educate yourself.

You might be pleasantly surprised!

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