I have always been sceptical about networking having been a member of one club, which shall remain nameless, that almost put me off for life. Fortunately, though and by pure chance, I gave another one last try by attending a visitors day to dip my networking toe into the proverbial water.
For those who have not tried business networking the format is often this:
•Meet up early in the morning at a venue
•Say hello to seasoned serial networkers who you typically see each week
•Welcome any new faces, introduce yourself, chat about what they do, chat about what you do and exchange business cards
•Sit down and perhaps present to the group a small summary of what you do and the type of business you are looking for
•Refer names to other group members as “introductions” when often there is no hope that the member on the receiving end of the referral with be able to convert that name into any actual business
•Finally, feel under pressure to bring more and more names as referrals week on week
Now, whilst networking is essentially about getting your name and speciality in front of other group members and hopefully generating some business as a result of your commitment to the group I am pleased to say that it is not necessarily all about referrals.
Thankfully, in my new group, I feel under no obligation to pass referrals on for the sake of passing names. In return I have built a level of trust between me and my fellow group members where I know that they will only pass referrals on to me if they honestly believe that their contact needs my services. Equally I can trust my group members to provide an excellent service if I refer business on to them. But this is not the hidden value.
Each week I get to learn more and more about my group, their businesses and what puts them above their competition and this is done by a series of presentations, masterclasses, round table discussions and hot seats. Members are invited to raise issues that they are currently having with their business and the other group members call upon their own experience to offer sound advice.
More is gained from this regular sharing of information and “why we do what we do” presentations than perhaps the pressured hard sell of each other’s businesses and the demand for names and numbers. That is because invariably someone has been there and done that. The advice given and received encourages each member to come back to the group week on week, early morning after early morning because they know that they are a member of a family that wants to help its members build their business which in turn could help the other members build theirs too.
Not all networking groups are the same and before my latest venture I would probably have never set foot in one again. However, I am pleased to say that, for now, I feel part of a family where my business interests are as much of a consideration as everyone else’s in the group.
If you fancy meeting up and joining us feel free to contact me. The family would love to have you along.