The word “networking” is used with increasing frequency in the business world. If you’re a small business owner particularly, you probably hear about networking events or get emails about them on a weekly basis. You also get invited to join your local Chamber or get “invitations to connect” on LinkedIn. Networking is a powerful activity if done right, but only if you’re really “networking like you mean it”. I’ll explain…
Most people I see at networking events do a decent job of networking at the event. They exchange cards, spend time finding out about the other person and their business, and don’t try to sell people right on the spot. There are some that mess up even these points, but let’s say 95% of the attendees tend to get this first step of networking correct.
After that the drop off is pretty severe. The number of networkers who take the next traditional step – i.e. sending off a note or email to the person to follow-up or connecting on LinkedIn, drops off to maybe 50% (and I’m probably being conservative here).
How many go further and try to set up a one-on-one meeting perhaps at a coffee shop for the purpose of speaking more and getting to know each other better? You’re probably looking at maybe 15-20% that take that step.
The sad thing is that most of the real work in networking happens AFTER all of the above is done. That is: staying in touch, building the relationship, finding ways to help the other person, giving advice, getting to know them even better, passing referrals, etc. Networking is a marathon, not a sprint.
Now, what percentage of businesspeople do you think really travel the full “20K run” with the contacts in their network? If it’s more than 5%, I’d be surprised!
Once you understand all that is involved in networking correctly, you can begin to appreciate how much effort is wasted every day by businesspeople who essentially do sales prospecting, and euphemistically refer to it as “networking”.
The truth is that most of this wasted effort is not intentional. The vast majority of them have never actually been educated in how to network the right way. “Networking”, despite being a pretty ubiquitous word, is still very much a new subject. You can’t even take a class on it in college, even in an MBA program! Yet it is a vital skill in business today.
But aside from the education component, there is a bigger issue that affects even many educated networkers out there: ORGANIZATION. Do a quick survey of people you meet at a networking event and you’ll find that most people collect business cards and then don’t do anything with them. They end up in a pile on the desk or in a drawer. Some people do a little better and write notes on the cards to remember key info about the person and maybe even put them into a card holder. But after you have about 500 cards, that method gets pretty tedious when the time comes to search for a specific person.
If you’re a little better you might put all your contacts’ info into an Excel spreadsheet. Now at least it is searchable and more mobile.
And at the top of the networking food chain, you’ll find a tiny number of people who use some sort of contact management program to keep track of all of their contacts. Now you’ve got some serious organization behind your networking activities, and that is good. But most of these programs are geared towards either the sales/prospecting mentality, or maintaining of customer relationships. You’d be hard pressed to find one that was totally geared to networking and networking best practices. Which, of course, leads me to what our website is all about.
When I started networking, about 6 years ago, I was faced with the same issue of trying to find an effective and easy-to-use contact management solution that was totally geared to networking. And after looking far and wide, I realized that it didn’t exist and that I needed to MAKE one.
It’s called LincSphere, and it’s built to get networkers more organized and using best practices in networking. Give it a try and get more out of your networking efforts.
Network like you mean it.