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The BFO

Networking Not working?!

It's difficult sometimes to reconcile the investment needed to do networking with the perception held by those who don't network that it is a waste of time.

 

The people who organise networking events hold that networking is working - if you see what I mean - and people who go to them can't all be wrong, or am I simply trying to justify why I go?

 

Let's take a closer look at networking:

  • Why does it seem to work for some and not others?
  • What sort of investment does it need to make it work?
  • What are your objectives for networking?

Which of the many works best?

OK, lets start with Objectives.

 

Networking is NOT an end in itself. You should have some clear idea of what YOU want to get out of it by setting targets for leads and for new business directly flowing from your networking activities. There is often a cuddly, touchy-feely perception of it that it is a place to be friendly and to socialise and get to know people. That perception is held mainly by people who don't network or who don't know how or why they do it: for them it is just a social thing. After all many small businesses are one person organisations and seldom meet other business people other than their customers, so just having an opportunity to talk to someone who understands is a great therapy.

 

Networking - in my definition if it - is a way of making & finding connections with people and businesses who could:

  1. Introduce you to one of THEIR contacts who needs what you sell or who can provide you with what YOU need
  2. Through the spider's web of connections that many business people have, help you to find your way to the e.g. Managing Director of your target customer. This is different from point 1. This is where you specifically want to meet Customer X and you keep getting turned back at the gatekeeper when making sales calls.
  3. Finding strategic opportunities for co-operation to make all of the participants more successful by knowing more about each other.

So you can see that you MUST know what your objective is so you can look at the networks you are a member of to leverage the results you want and need.

 

Next, lets take a look at the investment needed. Most networking systems require investment of cash.

 

You can check these out to make sure the amounts are still correct if you're reading this article after 2010:

  • BNI is about £500 +VAT for year 1
  • 4Networking is about £490+VAT for 1 year
  • Meet up groups vary considerably
  • Trade and Professional Associations may be free - apart from your professional membership subscriptions.

Both BNI and 4N charge in addition to the annual fees for each meeting you attend.

 

Beyond the cash cost or investment if you prefer, there is the time investment needed. To do networking involves attending "group" meetings and often you will arrange to meet members on a one to one basis at other times to allow you a longer time to understand each others' businesses and explore opportunities.

 

To get the return on investment you need to know what your objectives are and how you will achieve them so that your message and presentations are properly targeted. But this is NOT a quick fix solution to poor sales. Networking is for the longer term. Some people (like printers) may be lucky and make a quick sale but for the rest, it would be surprising to succeed with a new sale in less than 3 months. You have to build up trust and knowledge of your co-networkers and they have to trust you and then you need to give them a reason to commit to you.

 

Finally, why do some people make networking work better than others?

  1. Their business is simple to understand
  2. They sell something unique or is packaged so differently that it acts like a magnet
  3. They themselves are extremely well connected. E.g. my network on Linked In is 90 as of today; one of my customers has a Linked In network of over 400. If I was stuck for who to contact, I would ask that customer first.
  4. They know WHO they want to do business with. When I was a member of BNI, some years ago, I asked to be introduced to owners of Subway franchises. Within minutes, the chapter's architect had given me contact details for a Subway franchise in Paisley that he had been involved with in a professional capacity. KNOW who you want to talk to.
  5. They are likeable as people and they like other people (or if they don't, they work hard at trying to).
  6. Recognise this is a long term strategy and don't give up after a month or three.
  7. Measure your results and compare your cash+time investment with your returns.
  8. Know what your "membership" gets you and use it 110%

It does work. Just don't let non-believers put you off. They are not where you are or want to be, nor do they (necessarily) know what your goals are.

 

JohnF

 

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Ehssan on April 28, 2012

A be ne e covek da si go kaze mislenjeto ako kzavua site velat deka mnogu go tupi ili deka se zaglavil vo nekakvi klsea Naj golemite kriticari ustvari usta ne otvaraat koga treba da si go kazat svoeto mislenje se dodeka ne se vo sostojba da go isplukaat nekogo So eden zbor KRITICARI ve molam za sopstveno mislenje!