Networking activities that are smart enough never do it with strangers. I remember when a colleague of mine complained about fatigue due to the multiple networking events she does every week. Attending as much networking mixers as possible sounds good in theory—but it’s not as effective as it sounds. According to her, she aims to do at least one networking event per week. Now she finds herself doing 2-3. “Perhaps once a week is smart,” I told her. “Doing triple the number of networking activities just leads to burn out.”
Work smart with your networking activities
Here, you have to adopt good strategies that will enable you to work smart. Along with this comes the need to debunk myths that don’t only stall your efforts but frustrate the spirit out of you, as well.
Myth 1: The effectiveness of your networking activities rely on the number of people you do it with
The truth: It’s better to become involved with 1-2 circles than to stretch out your activities with a lot of different groups.
Keep this in mind: Depth over breadth.
I then asked my friend how her present networking activities have helped her. Unsurprisingly, she said she barely got any business from it the last couple of months. Yes, you may argue that networking a lot helps your brand become more well-known. But this does not guarantee profits. It hardly does.
Let’s look at the typical networking scenario. You talk to someone for half a minute. You ask each other, “So what do you do?” After answering, you just stare blankly at one another, trying to come up with something. However, for lack of anything better to talk about, you just go to the cocktail table.
It’s not as productive as you’d like your networking activities to be, right?
Myth 2: Throwing and/or religiously attending networking parties is the way to success
The truth: It’s highly unlikely that you’ll meet a business match at a networking event.
It’s true. Hoping to build a business by networking with strangers is as ineffective as looking for a life partner by going to the bar. Remember what Dr. Phil said? It’s just not gonna happen that way. Here’s why:
- Are you really going to do business with a stranger that you’ve only got to talk to for a few minutes? More so after they hand you a cheap, shabby card.
- You can’t expect big rewards from a brief interaction. Businesses are built on relationships.
- Most people struggle with just trying to explain what they do. To think that everyone you’ll meet will breeze through that explanation and then engage in a productive conversation about prospective needs is delusional.
- Engaging on networking activities with strangers is a hit-or-miss (mostly miss). Your efforts are not targeted enough and are in fact, totally random. It’s just like cold calling. And we all know how inefficient that is.
But don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying that networking activities are unnecessary. Networking smarter is what I’m all about!
Here are some helpful strategies you should consider:
- Improve the quality of your activities by having one-on-one lunch or coffee business dates. You have to show genuine interest in getting to know them and what they do. In the end, they may become a prospect, a partner, or a source of referrals. Before anything, make them your friend. After this, the rest will naturally unfold.
- If you decide to go to an event, stick with the goal of setting two or three lunch dates with people who draw your attention.
- Request for one referral from every satisfied customer you have. This is a great way to look for people who may be interested in your goods/services. Focus your networking activities with these people. And when you eventually call them, use your referral source’s name so you already have a thing in common
- Make a list of the types of businesses you want to network with to make things more efficient. Direct your networking activities towards people from those businesses or others who can give you referrals to those people.
- Do them whilst doing non-business related hobbies or interests. People are more likely to do business with someone they have something in common with. When you expand your horizons, you get to have something in common with more people.
- If you decide to go traditional and go to a mixer, do so with a specific target in mind. For example, you may want to set a goal to meet three or four people on your business list and get their cards. Follow this up with lunch, dinner, or other networking-friendly activities. That way, you only rely on networking events to meet people you’ll eventually cultivate a relationship with. You don’t rely on them as an end in itself.
Myth 3: Do networking activities to get more people know what it is that you do
The truth: They should be about getting people who already know you to discuss opportunities that are mutually-beneficial for both of you.
Aim to make phone calls to reconnect with people: either former clients, colleagues from your former job/s, or influential people who have previously conveyed interest. Do this about twice or thrice a day. The truth is, we all have a network that we unknowingly underutilize. Benefit from the connections you already have! Sometimes it’s just under your nose.
As a final nugget of wisdom in the case of networking activities, remember to network with people you already know or have done business with. Do it right and do it smart. After all, we all just want our activities to be worth all the time and energy we devote to it.