What do you think about networking groups? Do you get business from them, or do they help you be known locally as the expert in your field (some people might call that building your brand)? I was shocked when talking to a successful business owner about networking groups. Will their statement shock you too?
Networking is far more than networking groups
Networking is far bigger than networking groups. A networking group is a way to (possibly) add more people to your network. Networking is how you use your contacts (your network) to get what you want.
Did you think that sounded to mercenary? Don’t forget, you get what you want by helping others so it’s not quite so bad! Several business owners were talking to me about this issue recently. Every discussion was similar, but one hit the nail on the head for me.
She said “I will see what networks that I can wangle my way into. Sadly there are many network groups around here where the objective seems to become a great networker rather than networking with the objective of increasing work. I am not sure if this makes sense but they seem more interested in networking as an end product, rather than a tactic to get more work.
What’s your reaction? My first reaction was ‘that’s terrible‘, then I thought ‘no, she’s right’. Taking the statement apart, a piece at a time helped me rationalise it.
the objective seems to become a great networker rather than networking with the objective of increasing work. I am not sure if this makes sense but they seem more interested in networking as an end product, rather than a tactic to get more work.
- “Wangle my way into“: Perhaps that’s a negative mind-set to start. I learnt that negative mind-sets going into a group, means negative outcomes. If you are going into a group, think about it positively, or don’t bother.
- “Become a great networker“: Getting results from your network needs you to be a good networker. But what is a networker? One who focuses on the objective of her networking, the tactics they’ll use, the people most likely to help, and those that they can most likely provide help to? To me that means thinking about your objectives, your role, and the managing relationships.
- “Networking with the objective of increasing work”: I feel this English reserve washing over me as I write “good, so it should be“, For most of us that’s we are doing this. Everything else we do when networking is to support that objective.
- “more interested in networking as an end product“: This was the sting in the tail, but if I’m honest I see this. I see many groups where helping the group to survive and thrive seem to become the primary importance. If that’s the case how can that group work for you?
Am I anti networking group?
Networking groups can provide a good source of contacts and potential relationships to develop. I’ve made many great contacts and friends through groups. But if you’re made to feel bad about your objective then something is going wrong.
Making the networking group work for you.
If you can’t make the networking group work for you, don’t go! But, just before you go, have you really tried all of these:
- Clarity on what you want from the group and what you are prepared to do for the group. It won’t work if these two are not in the right proportion.
- Clarity on how you help people, and how your contacts might recognise them. Too many business owners don’t do this! Get some feedback, do others think you’re clear?
- Making a real attempt to understand what others in your group are looking for, and delivering it where possible. This sounds obvious, but 14 years of networking says this is the bit that often doesn’t happen. Good tactics here are 1-2-1s (properly done).
- Presentation skills? Of course these are always important, but more effort seems to go into impressing people with a 60 second presentation (or ’10 minute’) than being clear about what you do.
- Be more genuine with your follow up. How many times have you had a good meeting, with a really artificial email afterwards? You don’t do it………..do you?
Networking is more than just a good breakfast, however tasty that may look. What else would make a networking group work for you?