Why Your Networking Is Killing Your Business

 

Most professionals recognize that networking is an important part of their marketing plan.  Many are even required by their organization to network as part of their job.  Unfortunately, the vast majority despise networking events.  The reasons vary, but the most complaints are, “They’re a waste of time.”  “I never get any business out of them.” and “It’s always the same people there.”  What most refuse to admit is they are just as responsible for these business killing networking problems as the others they’re blaming.

Let’s look at what happens at most networking events.  If it’s a group you’ve been part of for a while, you slide in three minutes before it’s scheduled to begin.  You make a quick scan of the room and find a seat by your favorite people.  You scan the room again for new blood, I mean, prospects.  Upon finding one you hustle over, business card and 30 second commercial ready to impress—shake hands, hand them your card, quickly ask what they do, spew your commercial, tell them how nice it was to meet them and hustle back to sit with the “cool kids” while you wait for the meeting to begin.

If the group is new to you, you prepare by loading your pockets, wallet, purse or other business bag with an ample supply of business cards.   You’ve got this!  You’re going to win the unofficial competition to see who can hand out and collect the most business cards!  You stroll into the room exuding confidence and scan for a familiar face. When you see one, you amble over and join in whatever conversation they’re already involved.  You hand your card to anyone you don’t know in the conversation.  When it’s your turn to talk to the whole group you wow them with your elevator pitch then pass around your business cards so everyone can take one. You leave patting yourself on the back because that you ran out of your cards and have a huge stack of new cards to enter into your database (or add to “that drawer”—you know, the one filled with business cards from days gone by that you meant to follow up on, but now are so old you can’t remember where they came from or what the people look like unless their picture is on the card.)!  You internally pump your fist in the air.  You nailed it! . . . or did you?

This is the first in a series of blogs documenting why your networking is killing your business and what to do about it.

 

Reason #1 Your Networking Is Killing Your Business:  You’re there for the wrong reasons.

When you look at the two examples above, the focus is meeting people who may be your next clients or next sales.  The “scanning” that happens is your brain looking for the quickest close and largest sale.  You’re looking through the crowd trying to figure out whose “problem” you can solve and how to overcome any objections they may have to your solution—just like your sales training taught you.  You’re there looking for what’s in it for you.  When you approach networking this way, you’re missing amazing opportunities!

The problem is, customers and sales come with trust and relationships.  This is especially true when you are in a service profession.

 The most successful networkers come from a place of contribution.    

Ask yourself:
“Whose business can I help support?”
“Who in my sphere would benefit from a connection to someone at this event or vice versa?”
“What am I adding to this event and it’s attendees?”

This simple change can result in exponential benefits to your business.  When you come from a place of contribution and connection, your value and respect in the community is elevated.  You are the person everyone wants to know and do business with because you “know” everyone.  You have influence.  You’re one of the “cool” kids.  Imagine what this kind of respect and prestige can do for your business.

You’ve probably heard the saying, “givers gain.”  This is especially true in business.  Professionals want to help those who have contributed to their success.  When you give, others want to give back.  There is a natural desire in most people to reciprocate.  Contribution also creates loyalty from those who receive.

One way to contribute is by sharing referrals  Do you consider yourself a great referral partner?  Most professionals I speak with think they’re AMAZING.  That, however, is frequently just their perception, not reality.   Some industries provide natural opportunities to refer business to other professionals.  Real estate is a great example.  Realtors have a natural, strong ability to refer mortgage lenders, handymen, carpet and flooring professionals, roofers, landscapers, painters, the list goes on and on.   Because of all the opportunities, it may be easy to believe they are great referrers, and many are AMAZING.  There are, however, many who are not.  Many just say, here are a couple of names you might want to call.  A great referrer looks for opportunities to make the connection and explains why someone is a great person to do business with.  Great referrers connect customers with the best fit for them.   This means, a great referrer often has more than one preferred provider in the same industry.  The goal is to make connections that will have the highest likelihood of a great experience for both parties.

If you’re in an industry where there isn’t a strong, natural ability to refer, don’t let that deter you.  You can still be an AMAZING referral partner and someone others see as a person of influence and connection.   The way to become a strong referrer is to look for opportunities.  Make looking for people to connect with each other an intentional part of your business.  Consciously looking for opportunities to connect others will give you energy.  There’s not much better than seeing two people you connect benefit from a relationship with each other.

One of the best referral professionals I know is a C-level executive in an industry where receiving customer referrals from referral partners others is almost non-existent.  He works in a very specific niche market and their customer prospect base is very narrow.  This doesn’t stop him from regularly looking for opportunities to connect others.  Sometimes it’s referring one of his clients to someone who would be a great vendor.  Another thing he does regularly is look for great talent.   When he finds it, he looks for where that talent could benefit someone’s organization.  He then makes a call to connections he’s developed over the years across the country.  What makes him different is he doesn’t wait around for his connections to call him asking who he knows.  He calls the connection, tells the about the talent he found and asks if they would like him to make the connection.  The answer is almost always yes, even if they don’t have an immediate place for that talent.

Most people aren’t willing to make the effort to do the things he does because they don’t see an immediate benefit.  The benefit to this professional is he has developed a strong, influential national network that trusts him at a high level.  He can reach out to at any time and get immediate support.  He successful executives he can call and bounce ideas off of when there are challenges in his organization.  He has a strong network that reaches out to him when someone does cross their path that may be a good fit for his organization or, on a very rare occasion a prospective customer.  How much would that kind of network be worth to you and your business?  Is it worth the time to be intentional in looking for opportunities to make connections? This is networking at it’s best!  Great referrers have their ears open and mouths shut as they develop relationships and consciously look for opportunities to meet needs by connecting others.

Whether you’re in an industry with natural referral opportunities or one where referring is more challenging, the key is to be intentional in looking for opportunities.  Challenge yourself to intentionally find one person each week for the next four weeks that you can reconnect with, get to know better or connect with someone else.  I’d love to hear what you discover as you become intentional.