Networking Is A Waste of Time
“I hate networking.” I can’t tell you how many times I have heard that from business owners. They don’t want to do it and feel it has no value whether it’s online or in person. I can understand their point of view if they’re getting zero results from the events they go to or with their minimal efforts online. But, I think the real question is, “Is networking a waste of time or are you wasting your networking time?”
Time is money, and more importantly, most of us don’t have extra time. We spend enough time away from our families building our businesses. The last thing we want to do is go to another boring event or spend time on social media and not get any leads. Many business owners are not salespeople, and many are introverts. So, the idea of heading out to an event to meet people they don’t know is uncomfortable and even painful!
Although I understand all those reasons to avoid networking, I firmly believe business owners need to do it anyway. But, there is a right way to network, and it doesn’t have to be painful or uncomfortable.
So, put the past behind you and listen up. Networking builds your brand and generates leads. Why wouldn’t you want to do that?
Let’s Get One Thing Clear!
Many business owners I work with tell me they don’t feel comfortable pitching their product at a networking event. I tell them I’m so glad to hear that because you should never pitch your product when you are networking. The purpose of networking is not to sell a product. The purpose of networking is to build relationships because people buy from people they know, like and trust. How can they like or trust you if they don’t know you?
I recently chatted with my friend Noah Goldman on the Enterprise Sales Podcast about how business owners can get connected and get results when networking. You can listen to the full podcast here. Here are five of my top tips for business leaders to get more out of networking.
1. No Strategy, No Good
Networking is a fantastic way to generate leads, but it requires a strong strategy and execution if you’re going to see the full benefits. Before you start networking, ask yourself, “Who do I need to meet and how am I going to generate leads?” Once you know the answer to that question, you can start exploring ways to network at events, with one-on-one meetings or online with social media. Your strategy should include a calendar of local, regional and national events to attend as well as a list of online platforms to build your network.
2. Boost Your Results Before the Event
Once you create a strategy, start attending events and interacting online to make as many connections as you can. If you’re going to a trade show, conference or luncheon, use social media, emails or phone calls to connect with people ahead of time. Getting that connection started before you even attend makes a huge difference and creates enthusiasm.
3. Don’t Pitch, PERIOD!
When you meet a new person, engage them in conversation. Don’t pitch them on your business or product! I like to start a new relationship by asking my new friend questions and learning about them. I don’t worry about sharing my product or service. Instead, I try to have a solid conversation about their business and interests. If you stop worrying about selling to your new contacts and instead focus on having a conversation, that will pave the way for a new relationship.
4. Follow Up Or Give Up!
Before you ever show up at an event or begin a social networking strategy, you need to know what your follow up is going to be. Too many companies and business owners spend too much money on networking without a solid follow up plan. Without a plan, all the leads you meet may never turn into a sale or referral. To create a plan, think about:
- What system you’ll use to track your new leads (A CRM or simple spreadsheet?)
- How will you differentiate between qualified leads, referral sources, and unqualified leads?
- How will you communicate after the event and in what ways? How will you track the effectiveness of that communication?
Once you have a follow-up plan, make sure that you customize your message to different types of leads. Segment your list and find the talking points that are most relevant to people with different responsibilities or titles.
Finally, plan a follow-up strategy that reaches people in multiple ways — don’t just rely on only phone calls or emails.
5. Think Long-Term
The long game is important to consider, especially for business leaders in startups. Sometimes, pushing a sale to progress quickly can damage what could happen in the long-run. Focus on sustainability with your networking efforts and develop strong relationships that last over time. You never know when a company is ready to do business unless you’re there for it.
Now, break out those business cards and name tags and get to it!