That is a direct challenge, isn’t it? Is Networking wasting our time?
In order to find out, lets do some discovery.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- How many hours a week you spend networking versus marketing or sales?
- Do you effectively follow-up after a networking event?
- Do you actively make referrals for others?
- How many referrals or projects have you received in the last 2 month?
- What is the ratio of hours spent (preparation, travel, event, and follow-up) to money earned?
- Do you track the success of their networking? If not, why not? If you are effectively managing your business, you track sales calls, appointments, contracts. You do that to see what is working and what is not working. By tracking you can take a step back and see what you can not see on the surface. You will find patterns, identify gaps and see what you need to do to make your sales efforts more effective.
Is Networking making the best use of your time management? Like any other lead generation method such as social media, cold calling, tradeshows-it depends on how you use it and what is the opportunity cost of that time.
Note that networking has become big business so promoters tell you networking is the way to build your business. Networking can have its benefits but you have to weigh the cost-benefit of any activity you are going to engage in.
Let’s look at how to manage time from a networking perspective. Keep in mind that busy is not productive. Going to many networking events can keep you very busy but won’t necessarily be productive. Networking can be counter productive by creating a lot of busy work that takes time away from more effective marketing.
Time management skills can be built on the work you need to do before you network. Most people have not defined these areas clear enough and that is one of the reasons networking is less effective and definitely not efficient.
Defining you Audience
Who will be at this event? Do they represent your target audience, the people who will buy your products and services? Are they the decision makers? How else could you be reaching this audience? List the options so you can evaluate the time, cost and depth of interaction you can have with each method.
Do you have a clear message to convey so when you meet people you can clearly describe what you do and what makes you different? How will they remember you over everyone else they met at the event? How can you easily remind them in your follow-up?
Do you have the time to commit to the necessary follow-up? In what form will you follow-up. Make sure the next day or two after the event you block time to make follow-up phone calls because your window of recollection closes after a few days if not a few minutes. The more you can prepare before the event to make the follow-up fast and effective, the more likely you are to see success.
I know a business owner who requires his people to go to all these evening networking events and join networking groups to make all sorts of connections to potential clients either directly or through others. The company provides personal training and they have a high-end offer for one-on-one personal training.
Over the years as a client of his, I have seen the staff come and go. One of the biggest challenges they have is that the staff cant get the business in the door. Their Networking isn’t effective in creating sales. In essence, they are doing the same thing over and over..and getting the same result. You know what that means. Insanity! Are you following the insanity model too? Networking and not getting any results?
If the elements above fit, it could be effective but it is a tactical time consuming and long-term approach to go after them one by one. It is the spray and pray approach that many sales people engage in, they go after any prospect and write a thousand proposals praying that one of these will be a fit.
It is time to get more strategic and much more targeted.
Shift your focus from networking to strategic partnerships. Look at the 80/20 rule or to add greater focus 5% of your network should be your strategic partners. 90% of your networking energy should going to those 5%.
Identifying the 5% you have or need to meet will be easier and more focused and will definitely deliver you better results.
Few time management tools can get you to think and act more strategically, but the best time management tips are centered around how to do just that. Strategy will win over tactics every time.
It is time to take a step back and re-evaluate the effectiveness of your networking efforts. Change your networking focus ad change your results.