Why Networking Frequently Fails
November 29, 2013
Does Networking Always Deliver For You?
I paid one of my infrequent visits to a networking event recently, and it made me realise why I don’t go to many such events.
In conversation I mentioned to a group of people that I work in a niche market, education.
A little later one of these people came up to me and said that they knew someone at a college and did I know them. Well, I didn’t know them but I did want to contact that college, So I explained this and was immediately given their name and contact details. Excellent news you may think.
The Value of Networking Referrals
One of the things that networkers claim is that it is often the value of contacts that are passed on that really give value to networking. That seems a reasonable concept to me.
But it wasn’t to be so. I contacted the person whose details I’d been given and said that I’d been given their details by the guy at the networking event.
The result was that the college person said they didn’t know who I meant. I explained in more detail and they still didn’t recognise their name or business.
When I checked back it seems they had met at an event several months before for about 30 seconds.
Well contacting someone out of the blue with a claim you were referred by someone they know is a really bad idea when the referrer isn’t well known. It is actually worse than cold calling because it establishes a question about your honesty and integrity and that is a poor way to start to build a relationship.
I think the person that referred me to the college genuinely thought they were being helpful. Apparently they had been on a networking course that taught them that they should refer people. What they didn’t understand was anything about human nature and the need for quality referrals.
Of course I also messed up. I should have checked the quality of the referral; I usually do but this time I didn’t. Mea culpa .. I can blame no one but myself and this has probably set me back months, if not years, in getting a meeting with this prospect.
Is All Networking Bad?
Now I’m not suggesting that all networking is bad; it certainly isn’t. But you do have to be careful. Personally I find that I can often get more marketing value from my time by staying at my desk than be going to a networking event. But my business maybe different to yours. Certainly if you trade locally then networking can be valuable but you do need to tread carefully.
My best advice is to treat networking like you would treat any meeting of people. Listen a lot, say less and look for ways to help others .. certainly don’t treat networking as a sales opportunity.
Lastly think about who you refer. Personally I don’t refer anyone that I don’t know well and can vouch for their credibility and professionalism. After all, by referring them I’m also putting my credibility on the line.
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