Let’s be real. I know that many of you have experienced networking burnout. I know that I sure have at various points in the 28 years that I have been actively networking.
A mind-numbing amount of meetings and one to one follow-ups coupled with a calendar filled with visits to this group or that while still attempting to execute the “real” business at hand and continually woo and win new clients. It can be an entrepreneur’s nightmare.
Yes I’ve been there and by now, 28 years in and a founder of my own networking community, I think that I’ve figured out some of the good, the bad and the ugly about networking.
Here’s my take on it.
Networking is an incredibly effective way to make contacts and connections that can lead to real business. Members in your networking communities can become your clients but even more important they can introduce you to their contacts thereby making the world of business possibilities infinitely larger. You can also meet people that you can refer to your clients, hence becoming a valuable connector between someone that has a need and the resource that can fill that need. Lastly and not to be undervalued, you can make good friends on a personal level with folks that may have your back in business but who also share your personal interests and values.
The bad is that all of this good stuff takes time and time is the one thing with a finite cap. We each get 24 hours in a day. Some may use their time better than others and potentially get more done but no one can add in another hour or two. Learning how to be a smart and strategic networker is the name of the game because you simply don’t have enough time to meet one-to-one with every individual in your networking circle even if networking and business development are your sole responsibilities.
Here are a few things that you can do:
Be protective of the time you spend in one-to-one in-person meetings. There are many other options that can be just as effective. For instance:
1. Schedule dated and timed phone appointments during which you can discuss what you would have chatted about in-person but without having to incur travel time. You can have a regular phone call or use Skype or Zoom and make it even a bit more personal. Regardless of which option you choose you can have a very fruitful conversation in half the time.
2. Join forces with another networker and schedule small group meetings where you each invite two people. This small group of 6 allows for meaningful conversation and ample time for robust introductions and everyone comes away with some new contacts with whom they can continue to network.
3. We all know the motto you never know but at a certain point you run out of time if you live by this networking philosophy. There are people that are good networkers and people that are not and even if the “not so good networkers” are synergistic with your business the possibility of ever getting an introduction from them is far fetched. Don’t waste your valuable time.
What can I say about the ugly. These are the networking meetings that deteriorate into an all out sales pitch during which your fellow networker engages in a sales assault versus mutual networking. I used to be quite patient when this happened but not anymore. My time is way too valuable and so I politely interrupt, express that our agreed upon reason for meeting was networking and insist that they ditch the pitch and proceed appropriately. If the pitch continues, the meeting ends.
What about you? If you’ve been networking for a long time or even if you’re a newbie, what floats your networking boat or gets your goat? What are your secrets to success?