Why networking doesn't work for some business owners
Here’s the elephant in the room. For some people, networking just doesn’t work. They try it, they give it their best but, for them, it doesn’t give the results they wanted.
I’ve been to over 1000 networking events. I speak to many people every single week about their networking success and challenges. I’m the author of Business Networking for Dummies. I am, patently, a pretty huge advocate of networking.
There are many reasons why it might not be working for you, but here are what I reckon are some of the most common:
Lack of support and training from your networking group or organisation – networking might not come naturally to many people. An awful lot of how networking ‘works’ is counter intuitive – what you think you should do is exactly what you shouldn’t do. But this isn’t meant to be a solitary pursuit. It may be that you need to ask your networking colleagues why they think it isn’t working for you and it might be that you get some robust answers – I certainly did. Then you have a choice of course – take the feedback and work with it, or throw in the towel. With support and a little bit of training, many people who thought networking wouldn’t work for them could turn it round. I chose, early in my networking career, to take every bit of advice on the chin, to attend as much training as I was offered, and actually learn how to use this thing I had bought into.
People simply don’t understand what you do – this is a bit of a biggie. All of my networking thus far has been in the UK and most of it has been in England, and we tend to be overly polite, it is what we do best (if you want some awesome examples of British overpoliteness check out Very British Problems on Facebook). So people might not actually tell you if they don’t understand what you do, but also they won’t buy from you.
A lot of the feedback you receive in networking is silent – as above, if people don’t understand what you do, or there is some other aspect of what you’re doing or your product or service that they don’t like, the way they will often tell you is by simply not buying. The feedback is there, but it isn’t explicit. You may have to ask, or find a trusted adviser or confidante from your networking colleagues who can tell you honestly what they think. But this feedback is important, and could be invaluable if people aren’t reacting to your other marketing methods as well.
The networking group you’re a member of may fold – So you’ve got nobody to network with. It happens. My solution was to start my own and assemble my own crowd. Or you might want to look for another group, in most towns there are several of them. You might even find that some of your networking colleagues from the previous group are there too.
Your product or service just doesn’t ‘suit’ networking – I am never sure whether this is the case. Sometimes it does need repackaging, or thinking about how you describe it, to best suit a networking audience.
You don’t know who your ideal client is – When you ask for referrals, the more specific you can be, the better. If you don’t know who you want to work with, you aren’t going to be able to explain that clearly to other people. And they’re busy with their own business, so might not have the time to work it out for themselves. Help them out, get specific.