For most business professionals, networking is a regular part of forging new relationships and leads. Some even consider it a necessary evil. The structure of each of these sorts of groups (how they are organized) makes a notable impact on results.
Have you ever been disappointed with a networking group you’ve attended?
If your answer is no (never), you’ve either been very lucky or need to re-adjust your expectations. Unless the group is rapidly expanding and enjoys constant new visitors, chances are that you’re pitching to basically the same group week after week—and likely getting unsatisfactory results.
Many of these groups put pressure on members to refer leads to others and document who’s giving them out. In order to be seen as “doing their part”, members may simply go through their Rolodex and write down names and numbers to hand out. When the recipient tries to follow up with this “lead” it can become an awkward phone call if they don’t really know the person that gave the number out or haven’t talked to them in awhile.
Mine Mine Mine!
It’s common to see networkers take an “it’s all about me” mentality. They trade business cards only because they hope the other person will use their business or send leads, but never make it a priority to help the person they just met or really learn about their business. To a degree this is expected—we’re all at an event to promote our business.
However, if everyone in the group is only concerned about helping themselves, all you’ve got is a room full of people pitching to each other and not listening. (This isn’t so different from companies abusing auto-Tweet.)
Do For Others
Make it a point to get to know like-minded people you meet, and ask yourself how you can refer clients to them or make suggestions to help their business grow. Chances are, they’ll then happily do the same for you. Some of these businesses might even complement yours and make good partnerships. Are you a plumber that can share new-home jobs with an electrician you’ve met? Your lead sharing will probably be a big boost for both of you.
As my friend Reed Humphry likes to ask those he meets, “what does your ideal client look like if I were to refer them to you?” It seems an obvious question, but if you really ask yourself you may find your answer is too general. Focusing your clientele might help your efficiency, and will also make it easier for your connections to help you.
Treat your connections as a resource rather than an obligation, and your entire group will be better for it.