It has been said that networking with strangers can be seen as wasting your time. Effective networking is all about building relationships so start slowly and work up. Why? A friend of mine was complaining, “I’m doing 2-3 networking events a week – and I’m worn out.” I then asked why they felt doing so much networking was important and they replied, “One of my marketing goals is to do at least 1 networking event a week.” I then told them that their goal was just 1 each week, so why do more than that? The point is to build business relationships and gain trust. This means less is better, rather than the “do as much networking as you can” belief of many.
The Effective Networking Myths And Truths
Myth 1: The more you network, the more effective your networking activity becomes.
Truth 1: It’s a lot more important to be well-known in 1-2 rather than several more groups. You can be spreading yourself “too thin” and building relationships is a hard task in this case. Don’t forget that networking is all about building relationships with people. This is why you get more from LESS! It’s easier to form relationships with people you see regularly.
I asked my friend how the networking was going. “I don’t think I have had any business out of it for at least the last six months” was the reply. They then went on “but everyone knows that you build a business by networking!” Is it REALLY serving a purpose with NO business is at least six months? I doubt it!
Let’s look at a typical networking example and see if it resonates with you:
You meet someone new and you introduce yourself and ask what they do (30 seconds). They answer you by muttering something about law as you’re checking them out. They ask you what you do, and you tell them. Because neither of you are at all interested in the activities of the other, you stare blankly at each other for a few seconds before stating you need a “refill”.
Myth 2: The cocktails and “nibbles” circuit is the way to network to success
Effective Networking Takes More Time!
You’re not going to meet a business “soul mate” at your first networking event and here’s why:
- Would you do business with someone after meeting them for the first time and getting handed a poorly printed card. You only spoke to them for a minute or two, so why would you do business with that person?
- Business is built on relationships and not a few well spoken words, no matter how effective they are.
- Many of us have problems in explaining what we do, especially when inexperienced in this type of event. Then there’s the added skill of actually listening for what prospects need.
- Networking with strangers is not as targeted or specific as you want. In fact, it can be completely random. In many cases, networking is as effective as cold calling, which is among the least effective marketing tools there is.
Is networking, therefore, a waste of time? Absolutely not!
Effective Networking Requires A Smarter Approach
Here are a few pointers for you to think about:
- You can network effectively over coffee or lunch with people one on one. Get to know them and their business. They may become a prospect, alliance partner, or referral source. But aim first and foremost to build trust and a business relationship. The rest will follow naturally.
- If you prefer to network with strangers, make sure to go with the goal of making 2-3 lunch or coffee appointments with people you find interesting.
- You can ask every happy customer you have (because they are all happy, right?) for a referral. Ideally someone interested in your goods or services. You can call and use the referrer’s name like this:
“Hi I’m Joe from (company name) and George said I should call. Isn’t George a great guy?”) You already have one thing in common – George!
- Write out a list of businesses or people you want to network with who fit into your target market. If you sell software, you may want to meet IT managers at medium-size companies. Compile this list and put it in your little black book or PDA. Focus your attention on reaching out to only those people – or people who can refer you to somebody in that field.
- Join groups outside of your business and spend time doing non-business activities. These can be in civic, social, religious, recreational, musical, athletic groups – the list is endless! Build relationships with people in your particular group. A person in your group may be looking for a rewire for their house and you’re an electrician. Being the only electrician in the group, you’re introduced to the person in question. You get the job and the client is delighted! Do you think you can build up a reputation quickly this way? You bet you can!
- So you go to a “standard” networking event with your target in mind. Your goal might be “to meet three people on my target list, so get their business card so I can follow up for breakfast, lunch, coffee or a round of golf.” A traditional “networking event” now becomes simply the first phase of your overall strategy, not an end in itself.
Effective Networking Is Done With People Who Know You, Like You, Or Have Done Business With You.
Truth 3: Networking is about getting people who already know you to share opportunities where you can be helpful to each other.
You can make 2-3 phone calls a day to connect with people from past jobs, former clients, or influential people who have expressed interest in you and your service in the past.
We all have a “fan base” that we don’t take advantage of.
Get in touch with friends, colleagues, mentors, and family to mine the connections you already have at your fingertips.
Get out there and start the process of effective networking. Make it worth your investment of time and energy by networking the smart way.