Networking doesn’t work! No seriously, I know I run a major UK business network for women, but unless it is done properly business networking just doesn’t work. And until businessmen and women learn how to network we will see a lot of people agreeing that networking doesn’t work. Before I launch into my 5 reasons why, I would like to confess that I have been guilty of all 5 faux pas too – and have seen many enthusiastic startups fall into the same traps. Had I read this article during the early days of my business I might have had much better results!
25% of professionals across all levels have admitted they don’t network at all! – Sales Innovation Expo Tweet This!
- the action or process of interacting with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts.
- the linking of computers (or people in this case) to allow them to operate interactively.
Have your say in a two-question survey here.
[quote]Business is all about personal contact. No matter how heavy your workload is… everyone can and should be a networker. – Richard Branson Tweet This![/quote]
5 reasons why business networking doesn’t work:
Networking to sell
Have you ever gone to a networking event and seen someone out the corner of your eye and hoped that they didn’t come up to you and talk to you. You quickly move to the other side of the room because you really, really, don’t want to be pressured into buying yet another one of their ‘amazing’ products. Last time you bought one just so you could end the conversation but this only made things worse!
Every networking club has one or two of these people, those who are there just to sell – regardless of whether you need life insurance, shampoo or whatever else they have on offer! Or even worse, you are one of them. 😲
Networking by definition isn’t for selling but rather it is for interacting (act in such a way as to have an effect on each other). According to one survey, around 9 in 10 people say small meetings are their favourite communication method.
How many of us go to a networking event with the intention of acting in a way that we have an effect on others? This is a completely different approach from the average networkers style and if more people networked with an emphasis on building relationships and having a positive effect on others then business networking would be a more positive experience in general for all.
Networking to gather leads
One of my biggest regrets was inviting this lady to several of our clubs to share her expertise. She was clearly there for one reason only and that was to gather leads. Within weeks I started receiving complaints from our members about how this woman was repeatedly spamming them. Spamming is simply any form of irrelevant or unsolicited message.
Of course, you want to get a return on your investment from networking but it can’t be done in this way. Getting one quality lead because they are someone whose problem you can serve with your business solution is a better way to gather leads than collect 20 business cards, add them to your database in the hope that they will convert from your impersonal and irrelevant emails. They won’t and you will be avoided at the next networking event if you do this.
Get a return on your time and money invested in networking by knowing who your ideal clients are and how you can best serve them. In time, people (the right people) will start to approach you at networking events asking for your solution.
Networking to get
If you plan to attend a networking event to see how much you can get from it you may be one of those people that other people avoid. Those who are only out to get are draining and I feel so embarrassed that I was once networking in this way. WIIFM is a common way to network and build a business which is why those who don’t operate in that way are actually very refreshing and a delight to spend time with. The best way to attract people to you is by offering solutions and being generous with your expertise. Be a networker who gives back and you will having people lining up to know you.
The most effective networkers are those who are interested in others. I can’t tell you how many times I have met people at networking events who have had the clear intention of just getting from me, getting a sale, getting me to listen to their pitch, getting me to send them a referral, etc. However, I recently had a meeting with someone who gave. He gave so much good advice that I implemented and it worked. He never tried to sell me anything he just gave so much value, so I asked to buy from him and he landed what could be £100K+ of business from me. Not bad from just having a chat with me and giving of his expertise generously! If he had been pushy and pitched his business to me from the start I would probably have run and avoided him at the next event.
Networking for quick wins
If you were looking for a spouse would you see someone that you like and ask them to marry you? Of course not! So why do we have that approach in business? There is a process, very similar to a dating process, that needs to take place over a reasonable amount of time to secure business from networking. Take time to get to know people, build solid relationships and understand what they are looking for and consider if you can meet the need. It takes time to get to know people but everyone is relevant. Don’t disregard someone straight away because they don’t look like your ideal client, they may just know your ideal client. Leave a lasting impression on people and they will do the work for you and send ideal clients your way. Remember, nearly 100% of people say face-to-face meetings are essential for long-term business relationships.
Businessmen and women who dip their toe in loads of networking events without doing research and seeing if it’s a good fit for them will be the people who say that networking doesn’t work. And it doesn’t if you do it in this way. I can’t stress enough that networking only works if you are committed to the process and understand that it takes time. You simply can’t randomly visit business networking events and sum them up after one visit. You need at least two or three visits to get a feel for them and decide if it’s the one you want to commit to long term. These initial visits are unlikely to yield any return and should be for the purpose of finding a good fit for you and your business. Ask yourself if you can see yourself building a relationship with the people in the room. Would you like to spend time with them? Are they the sorts of business that you want to build a relationship with? Once you have found the right fit then you can settle down and start to build those strategic relationships and to serve others in the club. And only after that will you start to see results. It takes time and commitment to really get a good return from networking.
Network strategically, ensuring that you are sure that the places that you network are right for you and your business.
Women’s Business Club is an award-winning business support network suitable for women who would like a structured approach to networking that focuses on business growth. We not only connect you with likeminded women but also offer a program that is guaranteed to get results in your business.
You can expect to meet a good balance of startups, company owners and employed executives at our clubs. Our model encourages women to stretch themselves and learn from those further along in the journey but also to give back and offer support to those who are just starting out or ready to break through to the next level of success. We encourage women to leverage the experience and expertise in the room, together we can achieve so much more than anyone of us can do on our own.
Using our network effectively will give you a steady stream of consistent new business as well as support in growing your business in a practical way. It’s an amazing model that does work – join a club near to you and if there isn’t one near you yet why not lead your own club?