But what is the real value of networking? And how should we network? Do we need to go to regular meetings and meet like minded people?
Based on my own experience and the available research on networking I believe the need to network via networking groups is largely a myth broadcast by the people that organise networking groups.
Certainly some businesses benefit from attending networking groups but they tend to be the exception rather than the rule. The people that benefit most are those that take our fees!
But the idea that we meet like minded people, give away lots of business cards and then get lots of business is a little ridiculous.
Firstly why do we need to meet like minded people. Surely we’d do better to meet people that are a little different to us .. not the same. At the last event I went to there were reps from three different banks and I suspect the fact they were like minded sales people did them little good.
The Value of Business Cards is Often Very Low
And giving out cards is unlikely to help much unless you do one more very simple thing. You must follow up.
I don’t mean send them sales collateral (unless they asked for it). I mean follow up with some help or advice in a friendly non salesy way. No one likes being bombarded with sales literature from someone they have only just met. Ohh and don’t subscribe them to your newsletter unless they give express permission. It is rude and discourteous and a show way to lose the respect of more people than you will ever sell to.
In most cases it is far better to “network ” with existing clients and friends than to search for new business from new people. Yes I accept we need new customers but not at the risk of losing existing customers. Far too many people neglect existing customers and yet you are far more likely to get repeat business from them if you nurture them.
Informal Networking Without Networking Groups or Events
And in my experience I’ve had a lot of business from people I informally network with. For example I get a lot of business from the people that read this column or my column on FE News. These people don’t really know me in one sense, but in another they know me well. They have read my columns, know where I’m coming from and know my values. When they contact me they have virtually sold themselves on working with me. I’m working with an open door simply because of the networking that has already occurred.
Online Networking Really Works
And for everything that works above you can multiply the results if you use LinkedIn to network effectively. It is the most up top date database of people anywhere online and can be mined for networking (and subsequent sales) opportunities. My first big overseas order came via Ecademy which, in many respects, was the forerunner of LinkedIn. Since then LinkedIn has brought me in a substantial income each year.