Column: Nothing to show for your networking?
Photo by Geri-Jean Blanchard
Oh, you are doing a lot of networking. For some reason, though, all the work you are putting into strengthening your ties with your connections doesn't seem to be paying off.
What's the point of all of this networking stuff anyway? Sometimes you think it would be better to put fliers under people's windshield wipers!
Maybe the problem isn't so much how much networking you are doing. Rather the problem may just be in one or two small areas of technique. Maybe you just need an engine tune-up. Let's look at some of the possibilities:
- Not long enough. Networking is a slow process. At first nothing seems to be happening. Eventually, though, as your name becomes more top of mind, the referrals (or whatever you want to achieve) will begin to grow until they almost seem to take on a life o their own.
- Not consistent. Showing up for several weeks or months in a row and then disappearing for that same amount of time before returning again makes it difficult to establish yourself as a serious networker in others minds. Showing up regularly means that you get to continue a relationship, instead of re-introducing it.
- No target market. If you don't have a specific focus for your efforts, your network will have a much harder time referring to you. "A couple in their 30s living within 50 miles who are expecting their second or third child" is far more memorable than "Anyone who needs a new house."
- Connecting in the wrong places. Once you've figured out that target market you've got to make sure that you are making connections in the right places. You should be looking for groups which have your target market as members or who have members which serve your target market (and don't compete with you).
- Not telling. Of course, you have to do this strategically, but if your networking connection asks you how they can help, you have to be brave enough to admit you can use their help and ask them for what you need. Again, you must be as specific as possible. Don't expect your connections to figure out your business for you (unless that's the help you need and they can provide it).
- Not thanking them. If someone passes you a referral, whether or not it is perfect for you, you absolutely must thank them. Ignoring your referral sources is a good way to make them go away. You can also thank them by just keeping them up to date on the progress with the referral, successful or not.
- Not passing referrals. You must exemplify the behavior you would like to receive. If you are a generous and giving person when it comes to providing opportunities to the members of your network, they are far more likely to reciprocate.
- Not enough effort. If nothing else seems amiss, then it actually might be just how much time and effort you are putting in. This is the point at a networking scorecard will really help out. If you can track your behavior over a few weeks, you might have a better idea of exactly how much effort you are currently expending and how much you will need to ramp up your performance.
If you think of your networking as your car and those referrals as your eventual destination, sometimes you can't get there because the engine needs a tune-up. Sometimes you're just headed in the wrong direction. So, just pick up the wrench or check your map. Then get out on the road and drive.