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Networking, the Dark Side.
Seven Networking Nasties and how to avoid them
When you go into business one of the first things you’re told is how important networking is and I’d be the last person to disagree with that. However, what you often don’t hear is the dark side of networking and I think it’s something every new business owner needs to know… so here goes…
By Brenda Thomson
12 January 2019
1. THE ODDS ARE THAT YOU WON’T FIND NEW CUSTOMERS AT NETWORKING EVENTS.
Nobody goes to a networking event to be sold to. If you want to buy something you’re going to ask someone whose opinion you respect or you’ll Google it. You don’t think to yourself “Oh – I need to buy a widget, I’ll pay for a ticket, give up a couple of hours of my time to go to a random networking event full of people I’ve never met and see if there happens to be a widget seller there”.
2. YOU WIND UP WITH A STACK OF BUSINESS CARDS THAT YOU’LL NEVER LOOK AT AGAIN AND CONVERSELY YOU’LL FIND YOURSELF ON A LOAD OF MAILING LISTS YOU NEVER ASKED FOR.
You don’t have to exchange business cards with everyone. Where possible I only exchange cards with people with whom I genuinely want to reconnect. Of course there are cultural and courtesy conventions which you need to observe and respect, however look out for those people who ask for your business card without telling you why they would like to have it. I’ve seen people collect cards from everyone at a networking event simply to add them to their database.
3. YOU’LL GET INFORMATION OVERLOAD AND FIND YOURSELF CONFUSED BY TOO MANY CONFLICTING POINTS OF VIEW.
It’s easy to get sucked into attending every workshop, seminar or webinar around in order to try and figure out what you need to know and what you need to do to achieve the results you’re looking for in business. Plus you’ll get lots of conflicting advice from people you meet at networking events and on social media. Which leads to point 4.
4. IF YOU’RE NOT CAREFUL, YOU’LL FIND YOURSELF BUYING A HEAP OF THINGS YOU NEITHER WANT NOR NEED.
There can be something a bit insidious about networking events. You meet someone who tells you all about the problems that they solve. All of a sudden you start to think that you have this problem (even though you didn’t know it even existed five minutes ago). You start to believe that it’s the most important problem you have right now and that this person you have just met is exactly the right person to solve it for you. All of a sudden you’re committing money or time or both to solving a problem that didn’t exist for you five minutes ago and that certainly isn’t in the budget or the plan. Now sometimes it may be the right thing to do… just saying “buyer beware”!
5.YOU’LL WASTE COUNTLESS HOURS ON COFFEE MEETINGS THAT GO NO-WHERE.
Most networking events provide very little time for people to get to know one another. Typically you’ll meet 10 – 20 people and perhaps have the start of a quality conversation with 5 or 6. The usual post script to those conversations goes something like “ let’s catch up for a coffee and find out more about each other’s businesses”. How many cups of coffee do you have time to have with the wrong people? When I started my business half of my time was filled with coffee meetings, 99% of which were fruitless, and most of which turned into someone trying to sell me something – which leads to point 6.
6. YOU MAY END UP DOING BUSINESS WITH PEOPLE WHO ARE NOT THE BEST FIT FOR YOU AND YOUR BUSINESS.
Once you’ve had a coffee with someone and started to develop a relationship it gets harder and harder to say no. Unfortunately meeting someone at a networking event, and having a coffee with them doesn’t automatically make them the best supplier or the best alliance partner for you and your business.
7. YOU’LL FIND YOURSELF CHASING A LOT OF BRIGHT SHINY OBJECTS – EXPLORING NEW OPPORTUNITIES THAT ARE NOT A GOOD FIT FOR YOU AND YOUR BUSINESS.
And out of that sea of information and connections will emerge a few great connections. People who share your values and your target market and with whom you may genuinely be able to build a valuable WIN WIN relationships. But beware of bright shiny objects. It’s really easy to get distracted by something that looks attractive but which diverts you from your core goals and objectives. No matter how good a potential alliance looks – if it won’t help BOTH OF YOU achieve your goals at less cost, in less time, with fewer mistakes, or with less stress, then you probably shouldn’t be doing it.
7 TIPS TO AVOID THE NETWORKING NASTIES
Ok – so that’s all the bad stuff. So how do you avoid the Networking Nasties? Here are my seven top tips.
- First – live, eat and breathe your values, NEVER compromise them. If something or someone isn’t aligned with your core values RUN!!!!
- Know your business goals and objectives. If you don’t know where you are going, how can you hope to figure out how to get there or who might be in the best position to help you?
- Have a plan and stick to it. OK – I agree plans can and often should change. But beware of distractions which don’t lead to achieving your goals and objectives. Every time you are faced with a new and exciting opportunity – ask yourself “Will this help me meet or exceed my business goals at less cost, in less time, with fewer mistakes, or with less stress?” If the answer is no – then why are you doing it?
- Don’t network for customers – network for mentors, alliance partners and advisors – people who CAN help and support you to meet your goals and objectives in less time, with fewer mistakes and with less stress.
- Do your homework – don’t jump into bed with the first person you meet. Seek out the RIGHT people for you to work with. Most importantly people who share your values. Find mentors who have the knowledge and experience to advise and support you best and alliance partners who share your ideal clients and who are aligned with your goals and objectives.
- Evaluate and consolidate: don’t just network for the sake of it. Regularly look at what’s working and what’s not. Focus on quality not quantity. Spend your time investing in building and extending on quality relationships rather than constantly trying to make new ones.
- And finally – look for ways to help and support others. All of the first six points have been about you, but networking and relationships are a two way street … never lose sight of how you can help others. Be the person who asks others about their goals and objectives, who looks for ways to help them achieve them at less cost, in less time, with fewer mistakes, or with less stress.
Articles in the Networking Resource Pack
How to create a networking plan
Where should I network?
Who do you want to meet at a networking event?
What are strategic partnerships and why should I care?
Seven steps to effective networking follow up
How to evaluate the effectiveness of your networking efforts
CEO and Founder, Synergy48 Group
Brenda has an honours degree in organizational psychology and a Graduate Certificate in training and development and she is an experienced trainer, facilitator and counsellor. She is a firm believer in mutual collaboration combined with a practical, hands on tools, strategies and systems as the most effective way to achieve real results in business.
Brenda has over 20 years of experience training in communication, team work, time management, productivity, organisation and strategic planning in large organisations. She is also the developer of the Business Benchmarking Toolkit used by Synergy48 Group members and clients to identify areas for improvement in their business processes.
Brenda is a sought after mentor, speaker and trainer in the areas of strategic partnerships and networking with a difference. She is passionate about actively giving back to the community. In addition to donating her speaking fees and a proportion of every Synergy48 Group membership to provide microfinance to help women in Malawi to start their own businesses, Brenda has climbed the Himalayas to raise money for Kids Help Line and helped lay a pipeline to supply water to a remote village in Tanzania.