What do you reckon that question is? The one I get asked the most?
“When will it start to work for me?”
Followed by: “How long should I stick at it?” “Should I move to another group?” “Should I be networking more often?” “When will I get more clients?” “When will it start paying for itself?”
You can imagine how often I’m asked these questions as Network Director of 4Networking and the conundrum interests me enormously. When does networking start to work?
As it happens, I haven’t got an answer. But I have got a theory I think you’ll love.
Most people experience something like this:
You join a networking group
You invest time and money into networking…
…and some more time and money into networking
You meet lots of new people and businesses
There are loads of potential clients, you’re swapping business cards left, right and centre…
And nothing. Zip. Nada. Perhaps the odd client here and there, but not the constant flurry of prospects and referrals the network’s marketing material promised.
When will networking start to reap rewards for you and your business?
I wish I could tell you when that day will come. But as I said, I honestly can’t tell you when networking will begin to work for you. Why?
Because it is a truly personal experience
I can tell you how to maximise your networking experience and improve the likelihood of success (I’ve even written a book about it!), but I can’t tell you when that sweet spot will arrive. There is no definitive point for all individuals.
BUT I have a theory for what makes networking successful and I’m going to share it with you on one condition:
Let me know the FACTS of your networking success.
Tell me when networking started (or starts) to work for you and we’ll see if we can put some stats behind this theory of mine.
Here Comes The Science!
It is a very simple theory.
People buy from people they like. You know that. You also know that people buy from people they trust. And the longer you know someone, the more you trust them.
Trust increases over time, so it’s fair to say the longer you consistently attend a networking group, the more your peers will trust you and the more likely they are to buy from you.
And when people really know you…well that’s when you’ve arrived at your sweet spot.
The theory looks something like this:
X marks the sweet spot! (Or thereabouts)
Time x Trust = Networking Success
But here’s a curveball: what if networking was not about winning more business? What if the definition of networking ‘success’ was, in fact, lots of great relationships?
Be in it for the long haul.
If this theory holds any worth (and 7 years of networking and XXX 4Networking events mean it is very well tested!) then my advice is to stop thinking of networking as a means to an end – especially one end!
Networking is about more than sales. Sure, we all want more business, but networking has, at its very heart, relationships. So take that as your starting point and make it your end point:
Network not to sell, but to build relationships
The more authentic relationships you build, the higher the trust and the better your prospects will know you. Needless to say, that means they will be more willing to buy from you.
Don’t forget to enjoy the support networking brings you, too. It helps you feel less isolated – networking surrounds you with people running their own businesses, just like you! It’s a way to find new suppliers – people who can help your business. And it’s a great environment in which to watch and learn from other people who are on the same journey as you.
So, there’s my theory. Networking starts to work when you’ve taken the time to get to know people and earned their trust. You can see why I can’t put a timeframe on that.
But help me out here. How long did it take you to start reaping the rewards from networking? Most people say it’s around the 6-month mark. What about you? Tell me how long in months and how many actual networking events you attended in that time. I’d really love to hear from you.