Using business networking as a classroom

People sometimes tell me that business networking doesn’t work. They’re right actually. It doesn’t automatically work. You have to do stuff. You have to get yourself out there. You have to make yourself visible and ensure you’re memorable. For the right reasons.

People sometimes tell me that they’ve done all of that. And STILL it isn’t working. There aren’t the right people in the room. Or the people just don’t “get” their business.

Networking should be treated as any other business activity. You need to listen to the feedback from others and refine.

Sometimes the feedback might be silent.

For example, you do your 40 seconds and nobody asks you for a 121. Or you have One-to-ones but nothing happens after that.

Incidentally Chapter 8 of Business Networking for Dummies deals with the introductions round (commonly called the 40 second or 60 second round), Chapter 9 deals with handling one-to-ones).

You could choose to just ignore this feedback and carry on, knowing that you’re right and it’s everyone else that just simply doesn’t understand what you’re trying to get across. Plenty of people do.

Or you could use the feedback to refine your 40 seconds, or think about how you’re handling the one-to-ones.

I know I say this in every presentation I make but it’s worth repeating here. In every other sales environment the age old advice is that you only get one chance to make a first impression but in networking it’s different. You get as many chances as you choose to take. You can come back as often as you want trying different approaches until you hit on what really works. This is what I had to do because my approach at first simply didn’t work. People in the room were buying from other people who offered similar services to me so I knew there was a market, I just wasn’t finding it.

The value in business networking isn’t always what we expect. A lot of the value for me has been having a safe environment to try out different approaches, as well as different products or services, until I found what worked.

Top tips.

  1. Don’t try to get everything you do into your 40 seconds. Remember you’re trying to get the interview, not the job. Remember you’re trying to entice their interest, not give them a comprehensive overview of everything you do.

  1. Think about what they’re buying, not just what you’re selling. Remember all of the marketing advice about selling benefits and not features. Think about structuring your 40 seconds around the benefits of what you do, not just what you do.

  1. Make it easy for people to buy from you. Tell them in your 40 seconds how to take the next step. Make sure you are clear on how you charge and how you package your services. Be available when you receive enquiries (you’d be surprised how many people aren’t!).

  1. If you feel your 40 seconds just isn’t working then specifically ask for feedback from people you trust. Not just mates, they will probably tell you what you want to hear. Find the person who will give it to you warts and all. I have been really lucky to have a few of those around me.

  1. Follow up. I think I’m becoming boring I mention this so often. People have short memories and short attention spans. At least it’s best to presume they do. People have the same distractions as you. Their own stuff. Their business. Their kids. So do them a favour and if they were interested in what you had to say during a one-to-one, give them a call and see if you can take the conversation further. There is loads of advice in following up in my article on the same subject here – Following up – why you have to move onto their turf.


Refine your approach. Every day. Let me know how you get on.

“I implemented one more thing from the Retreat and it has resulted in a new client which gives me a positive ROI within 6 days”
Claire McTernan – Employee to Business Owner

“within two months I went from an average of one client per month from networking, to five clients”
Samantha Rollins, Trinity Accountants