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posted: 9/2/2013 5:13 AM

Face-to-face networking remains key to new business

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LinkedIn. Facebook. Twitter. All the social media sites. Who needs old-fashioned face-to-face networking?

Maybe a lot of us, according to two highly successful entrepreneurs: Lillian Bjorseth, president of Duoforce Enterprises Inc., Lisle; and Pat Palmer, CEO, Marketplace Partners LLC, a Rolling Meadows consulting and marketing services firm.

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For both, establishing trust with your connections is key. For both, that's pretty much traditional networking.

Context first:

• Bjorseth, who teaches people how to establish a two-way, business-producing relationship with other networkers, is as successful a traditional networker as you will find. Yet her LinkedIn profile was among the site's most-viewed profiles in 2012.

Did Bjorseth go over to the other side?

Dumb question. "I don't ever want to not be connected with human beings," Bjorseth responds. "We're wired for human interface."

Although her LinkedIn contacts list is carefully built -- a de facto database that she says is easier to manage than Outlook -- Bjorseth points out that "You really don't know if the people in LinkedIn are who they say they are.

"We need to look someone in the eye to determine whether the validity and credibility are there."

• Palmer responded to a friend's stop-whining-and-fix-it advice by creating the President's Resource Group, an eight-member, invitation-only networking group that, she says, provides the "high-value, shoulder-to-shoulder" support that can make entrepreneurs successful.

So, Pat, despite the social media buzz, traditional networking still has a role? "Only if you want to get something done," Palmer replies.

Bjorseth believes in "The 3Vs -- visual, vocal and verbal" observations that come only with face-to-face networking.

"Trust is the foundation. People do business with those they know and trust, but I don't know how you can build that trust without face-to-face interaction," Bjorseth says. Relying too much on social media means "We're making words do too much. An exclamation point can't show everything."

Instead, Bjorseth pays attention to a networker's body language, inflections and tonality.

"Not all networking is the same," says Palmer. "Effective business development means trusted advisers, relationship building, the proven value of knowing who shares your ethics and world view.

"I don't think this can happen over LinkedIn" or other social sites. "There's not ever any substitute for face time."

Although members make referrals and do business together, Palmer's President's Resource Group isn't a leads group. The key, Palmer says, is that the relationships mean "I know who to reach for" when reaching out is needed.

Group members -- the number is frozen at eight -- meet monthly for a 90-minute lunch and discussion. "We don't do elevator drills," Palmer says. "It's entrepreneurial thinking -- take a dime and do a dollar's worth of deed."

Each member is charged with bringing a guest, another business owner or a decision-maker if the guest is from a larger business.

There may or may not be similarly structured groups, but the idea could be copied.

• Jim Kendall welcomes comments at JKendall@121MarketingResources.com

2013 121 Marketing Resources Inc.

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