Why Business Networking Is A Waste Of Time For You
Have you ever come away from a business networking event and said to yourself something like, “Well, that was a waste of time!” and wished you’d not bothered going? Is your desk drawer full of other people’s business cards you’ve collected from networking events, that have done nothing but cluttered your top draw?
Here’s the blunt truth. Many, if not most, business people just don’t know how to network effectively. There is a myth, or misguided belief, that business networking is about generating sales. Nothing could be further from the truth! And that’s why, for many business people, networking becomes a wasted activity that produces no real results.
So in this article, I want to share a few guidelines that will empower business owners with the necessary knowledge and skills to turn their business networking efforts into a productive activity.
How To Make Meaningful Business Connections
Again, another misguided belief is that attending networking events is where/how you make connections. It’s not. The purpose of attending a business networking event is to find the right people to connect with, not to make connections. The actual making of connections is done after the event. It’s the actual following up that makes the connection.
Not everyone you meet will be worth your connecting with. And, of those with whom you do connect, each will have a different purpose for that connection.
You actually have two main networks and, when you return to your office, you need to sort all the business cards you’ve collected into piles, accordingly. And I would recommend you do this immediately upon leaving the networking event.
Take a short diversion to your nearest coffee shop, grab a cup of your favourite hot (or cold) beverage, take a pew, and start sorting those cards. (I suggest going to a coffee shop, rather than going straight to the office, is that the chances are you’ll end up being sidetracked by something else – the phone will ring, your boss will call you into his office, email, Facebook, LinkedIn will beckon your attention, etc.)
Your first pile of business cards is for your first network. These are the people who will join your immediate circle of influence; potential clients, potential collaborative/JV partners, potential suppliers.
Next to that, you want to make a pile for those who are more suited for your second network. Your second network is made up of people with whom you are unlikely to do business with in the near future because, for instance, they’re not your target audience. However, you know people you can connect them with and/or they’re likely to have valuable connections for you.
“Reciprocity Is The Product Of Generosity”
You’ll note that, regarding those in your second network, I mentioned that you give them connections before I spoke about you receiving connections. I did this for good reason.
One of the key cornerstones of true networking is that you have to give before you receive. Whether you’re giving away knowledge, recommending connections or anything else, people are more likely to reciprocate after you’ve taken the initiative to give to them first.
It’s the truth that, “reciprocity is the product of generosity.”
A Recommended Technique For Following Up
So, now you have two piles of business cards. (You might also have a 3rd, very small pile of cards that don’t fit into either of your two networks. That’s fine. Don’t throw them away. Keep them in a small card holder in you coat pocket or handbag to give to people who you come across who might need their services.)
Now for the follow up. This is what I’d suggest.
You have two piles of cards, put each pile into separate envelopes labelled, “My 1st Network,” and, “My 2nd Network,” respectively. And also write on each of the 2 envelopes the time, date and name of the business event you’ve just attended.
Now, at the end of that day or at the beginning of the following day, when the office is empty, start your 1st step of following up: Connect with each of them on LinkedIn. Remember to return each of the cards to the correct envelope when you’ve sent the connection. Change the default text in your connection request to something like, “It was great to meet you today at XYZ Business Networking Group. I’d like to connect with you on LinkedIn, with a view to the collaborative work we discussed.” (Obviously, change it to something that’s suitable for the individual.)
I used to be that you could add notes on LinkedIn, for each of your contacts. This was a great tool for reminding yourself where, when and how you met each connection/contact, and organising your connections into groups/categories. However, since LinkedIn have now removed the Notes feature, I would recommend that you create a spreadsheet, if you want to keep such notes.
Once you receive an acceptance from a connection in your first network, phone them up and arrange to meet one-to-one, in order to further your conversation with them. A one-to-one meeting does not necessarily have to be in person; it could be a video meeting on Skype or Google Hangouts, if that’s more time effective for you both.
Once you’ve connected with someone in your second network, send them one or two connections to people in your networks who would be of value to them. They’ll be grateful for that and they’ll likely reciprocate, especially if you give them new connections on a frequent basis, as and when you meet people of value to them.
So, just to recap:
- You have two networks, learn to use each effectively:
- Your immediate circle of influence – customers, collaborative/JV partners & suppliers (i.e. those who add the most value to you)
- Your connectors – people with whom you can exchange connections
- You have to give before you receive – “Reciprocity Is The Product Of Generosity“
- Follow up on LinkedIn, by:
- Phoning your 1st network to arrange one-to-one meetings.
- Giving connections to your 2nd network.
By following up in the most appropriate way for each connection, you’ll find that you make more meaningful connections that will serve you well and business networking will become a more valuable and worthwhile activity.