Networking Or Not-working?

In this article I am going to show you how to reduce your costs whilst increasing your sales at the same time!

As you probably know, there are books, courses and audio series out there telling you how to network more effectively. What this material tends to focus on is how to get the best from a networking event; without even mentioning the core reason why most people fail to gain anything worthwhile from their networking efforts!

No matter how good you are at networking, if you are surrounded by a mixture of direct competitors, people with no requirement for your services and people with no authority to buy - you are wasting your time and money!

I would like to start by asking you 3 quick questions:
Firstly, who are the people least likely to become clients or customers of your business?

Secondly, where is it hardest to win new business?

Thirdly, where are you most likely to find this mixture of never-to-be clients and extreme competition?

The first answer is easy – The people least likely to become new clients or customers are those who already have your product or service, those with no requirement whatsoever for your product or service AND those who are in direct competition with your business.

The second answer is even easier – It is hardest to win business where there are few qualified, potential clients and LOTS of competitors!

The third answer is even easier again. In my experience, one is most likely to find this low-value mix of never-to-be clients and direct competitors at a typical monthly networking event!

Don’t worry – I’m going to show you a SUPERB, unique and almost cost-free way for you to meet people who are 100% suited to your services AND where there is ZERO competition.
First, lets examine the most common form of UK networking and why it fails so many businesses!

Here are some things to consider before blowing a stack of your time and money on 'traditional' monthly networking events:

• If you work in ANY service industry; recruitment, financial services, law, design, accounts, internet services, consulting, training etc – you will find yourself ‘sharing’ the venue with numerous competitors; all seeking to win the same business from the same limited number of potential clients. The same is true if you work in printing, telecommunications, IT maintenance, automotive, stationery, advertising and office supplies etc.

• The majority of those attending networking events are SELLERS not BUYERS! In my experience, companies tend to send their sales staff to networking events to help them win more business. Typically, these sales staff not only have no interest in buying, they have no authority to buy either! The exception here are small businesses, where the owner usually attends (though again, to make money – not spend it!)

• How many NEW prospective clients or customers do you think you will meet each month? In networking, there are a hardcore group of people in every region, who attend events almost every time! Networking event organisers sometimes refer to them as “Networking Hawks”. These ‘same faces’ often make attendance numbers look far more attractive than perhaps they are. You may meet 100 new people at your first event but go to that group’s event next month and you could see between 50% and 80% of the same people! Take away from the remaining 'new' people, those who are competitors or have no need for your services and the actual number of potential clients is often extremely low.

• Cost! Many people attend networking events because they see them an inexpensive way to meet new potential clients. This is never the case - unless someone's time is of no value. To start with, how much is your time worth? $70 an hour, $200 an hour or $500 an hour? Take the cost of annual membership ADD the cost of attending the event ADD the cost of your time for the 2 hours you are there AND the hour you spend travelling and you get a more accurate figure. If someone’s time is only worth $70 an hour they are looking at spending $210 EACH MONTH BEFORE they add the cost of their annual membership OR the entrance fee, parking, fuel costs etc. A Lawyer friend of mine, on looking at these numbers realised she was spending over $3,800 attending just one, monthly networking event over the course of a year!

What would a $4,000 investment in a radio campaign win you in new clients? How about a $2,000 investment in a targeted telemarketing campaign? How about $3,000 invested in your area’s best marketing consultant?

Certainly, there are opportunities for you to win business at a typical, monthly networking event; however, in my opinion and in my experience it is easily the lest effective way possible for you to network.

Here's how to REALLY get results!
For this example, let’s assume that one of your best target clients are Accountants. You need to be where Accountants are and where there are NO competitors! So, subscribe to a free Accountant-focussed website or Accounting magazine and find where the next local event aimed at Accountants is being held and get yourself along to it!

You are there to gain a better understanding of their problems so that you can help them more effectively, however, you will also have just placed yourself in a breakfast meeting, seminar lunch or evening talk where YOU have access to 30 or 300 of your IDEAL prospective clients AND NO COMPETITION!

When these prospective clients find out (during the break, before the start or after the event) that you are there because you want to learn more about their challenges; so that you can serve them better, you will not only be the only person from your industry there – you will also be regarded as a true professional! Also, those attending the event will not have their 'selling heads' on because they are not there to sell. They are there to listen - making them perfect for anyone, like yourself, with a valuable message. Obviously, you could use a similar approach with just about ANY industry or profession.

Another approach – but only suitable for some!
There are a number of referral/networking organisations around the country, who only allow ONE PERSON from any industry to join their group. Moreover, these groups encourage members not only to pass leads and referrals between themselves, but to open up each members contacts to every other member.

There are two very well documented downsides here. Firstly, there may be only two or three people in the group with access to YOUR target market - massively reducing the value of your membership. Secondly, you will have to provide leads for the other members of the group; regardless of the quality of their service! Failure to provide regular leads will result in you being thrown out of the group. Your clients and contacts are the life-blood of your business. If you can find a group that is made up of people, whom you are happy to 'let loose' on your valued clients and contacts - AND who have numerous members with credible access to your prospective clients - this might be worth considering.

If you want to increase your client-base and you already attend a traditional monthly networking event ask yourself; what am I getting from this, what is it costing me in real terms and is the ROI (return on investment) worthwhile?

Finally, remember that there are other benefits to membership of some groups that hold networking events. For example, some people learn to develop their speaking skills through speaking at networking events. This article concerns itself purely with my experience as to the value of networking as a business-winning tool; compared to other options available to you for less money and with potentially a vastly higher return.

Before you invest in a seminar or book on how to network, make sure you are putting the odds in your favour by being where there are NO competitors and where the event is filled with ideal, prospective clients.

Author's Bio: 

Jim Connolly is an internationally recognized success coach, writer and recording artiste. His website www.jimconnolly.com contains stacks of free articles and audio programmes; each designed to help you achieve your best results ever. His newsletter is read by thousands of people around the world and contains unique content to help you succeed at the highest level. To receive a copy, just send an email to news@jimconnolly.com