Networking is a waste of time! Do I have the attention of all you networking gurus? You sales folks - you “people person” types? I hope so, because this article is written for you.
Before I dive in I want to say it one more time – Networking is worthless! Like eating a donut on the treadmill – buying a hair brush if you're bald – winking at a girl in the dark – eating eggs without ketchup – I mean worthless! What….doesn’t everyone eat ketchup on their eggs?
UNLESS! Yep…you had to know there was a hook somewhere. After all I am a huge proponent of networking, so here is the big IF.
Networking is worthless IF…..IF….IF (Is the suspense killing you?)….IF - you do NOT have a follow-up plan in place. If you do NOT spend your time intentionally. One of the most frustrating things that can happen is to meet people and then look back on those encounters and say ‘well that was a waste of time.’ When in reality it may simply be you didn’t pursue the relationship with purpose.
Do you network with purpose? Do you have a plan for those contacts after the introductions and meetings? If not then you are WASTING YOUR TIME! You are also missing out on business down the road. Your return on time investment for networking is not defined based on ‘todays’ business, but on the relationships developed. Those relationships can become a resource to better business practices…to other introductions…and to business down the road.
Here is a very simple system I have used in the past:
- Meeting Scheduled
- Do you know who will be at the meeting? Is it a one-on-one, small group OR is it a big networking meeting?
- Try to know some of the attendees. LinkedIn and social media is a great way to do some research.
- Go to the meeting prepared. You would be amazed how many times I have seen folks show up with no business cards or info regarding their company.
- Ask questions! Remember people like to talk about themselves and tell their story. Asking questions and being focused on the conversation gives you information on who they are, who their clients are, who they may know, and it is just plain polite.
- NOW comes the most important part of the networking process….your follow up. This is what I do:
- A ‘Thank you’ email within 24-hours.
- A ‘Thank you’ hand written card within 2-3 days.
- Schedule a reminder to send them another invitation to meet – lunch or coffee. This is how relationships are developed. Send them an email invite and then call them to follow up and confirm.
- Put them in your ‘touch’ system. Newsletter or maybe just a reminder to shoot them an email or card every month or two.
- For a select group I always try to keep an eye out for news articles or topics that would be beneficial or interesting and email it to them.
Bottom line there are a number of ways, either with a formal system or simple calendar reminders, that will help move your networking connections from contacts to relationships.
Do NOT waste your time networking…unless you have a plan for the meeting and for how to stay in touch and foster the relationship after the meeting.
(Side note: If your opportunities are in large groups; then that can seem overwhelming. Meet a few at a time and ask them to meet for lunch or coffee outside the big group setting.)