A good friend of mine, Rob Brown has a great quote, which I often recite:
“stop counting conversations, and make conversations count”
Which is so true. However, in my opinion, so many people spend all their networking effort and time collecting contacts. Whereas, in my view effective business networking is about ‘finding, building and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships. If you focus all your energy on finding relationships and very little on the building and maintaining relationships, then (and how do I say this sensitively?) you are wasting your time networking. There, I’ve said it – I’ve named the elephant in the room here.
Let me explain. If you sell a high priced service or product – which most of us do – there needs to be significant levels of trust and credibility established before either someone will buy from you or recommend your services to others. I am sure at one level, we all get this. However, why do so many professionals and people with business development responsibilities have a flawed belief that they can go into a room of strangers and walk out with invoiceable business? You may be thinking, but I don’t fall into this trap. I’m sure you don’t, but have a look at how you are spending your networking time. If you are spending more than 20% of your networking time finding relationships and connecting with people you’ve not met before, then sorry, you are falling into this trap.
Yes, you heard me right, 80% of your networking time needs to be spent on the building and maintaining relationships part of networking. Which means if you have 10 hours to spend on networking a week, 2 hours can be focused on finding new relationships, i.e. via LinkedIn, face-to-face networking events, conferences, and 8 hours having conversations, spending time and helping out your existing contacts in your network. I will tend to only go to face to face networking events if I can meet at least 2 of my existing network there. Or if there is someone who is so strategically important to me going to be there. Otherwise, why bother attending these random type of events?
It saddens me that there is a whole industry built up around the perception that you can win business by only working a room? Maybe that’s a strong opinion, but why else are there so many mix and mingle events? In case you are wondering, I believe that organisations like 4N, BNI, Athena, chambers of commerce can add real value with the networking opportunities which they offer. However, if all you do is get addicted to meeting people with the hope you’ll eventually bump into a client, there are far better (i.e. effective) ways to use your valuable marketing time.
What are your thoughts?