The Networking Trap

It just drives me crazy. A business person brags that they are master networkers. They go to five or more networking events a week. They spend valuable hours, time away from their business and family, handing out hundreds of business cards and getting hundreds in return. And yet, they have no new customers, no prospects, not even any suspects.

Networking groups and networking events continue to pop up everywhere. And, they’ve become more of a social gathering, a worthless time sucking activity, rather than an important business strategy. Most are worthless. You go to an event; you collect tons of cards and then because you have so many, you procrastinate on your follow up and then you have a stack of cards, sitting on your desk that you don’t (or won’t) do anything about, and have no value other than to collect dust.

Still don’t believe me, ok, try this test. Go to your next big networking event. Collect all the business cards that you can get your hands on. Then, once you get home or back to the office, actually follow up with each and every one of people who you received cards from. Once you’ve done that, then tell me how many people you spoke with could actually help you move your business or life forward. It’s my experience that there won’t be many. It’s “needle in a hay stack” networking. You get 100 cards with the hopes of finding one good one. I don’t like those odds.

Here’s the rub. At the big networking events, very few CEO’s, owners or managers ever attend. They have better things to do. They send staff. These are usually very nice people however they have no power. Few can set appointments, even fewer have buying power. One of my valued mentors told me something years ago that I think about every day. He said, “Never accept a NO from someone who can’t say YES!” This statement became my networking rule of thumb.

Before you ever attend a networking event again be prepared and evaluate the event. If it doesn’t fit your criteria, stay at home, go to a move, watch a game, take the family out for dinner, but don’t waste your time at a worthless networking. Here are a few questions to ask before every event:

  1. Who is my target audience, exactly? Be specific.
  2. Will my target audience (specifically) be at this event? Call the organizers and ask. If they give you meeting hype, then take a chance and go one time to find out for yourself. If they’re not there
  3. If they will be there, what is my specific goal for going to the event? It should not be to collect cards. It should be to set an appointment for a discovery meeting. It should be to set a coffee meeting to get introduced to someone they know. Make it productive and gathering cards is not productive.
  4. If your target prospect will not be at this event, figure out where they do go to mix and network. Then go there!

It’s not about size of the event it’s about the quality of the attendees. Personally, I won’t go to a networking event larger than about 30 people and when I do, it is very specifically targeted for my target audience.

If networking events are you’re thing then do your thing.  If you’re a professional business card collector while you’re having a cocktail and talking real loud, then get after it. But, for me, if I’m allotting time from my business, family and life to attend an event, I am going to make it worth my time. I’m looking for people that I help achieve their goals and they can help me achieve mine.

I’m going to work.

If you’re frustrated about dealing with networking and prospecting, then give me a call or write. I can help. This is what I do.

Make everyday count.

Coach Dan

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