Networking doesn’t work!
How can one person walk out of an event and think “That was awesome and so good for business!”
And another walk out and think “What a waste of 2 hours, that did nothing for my business!”
How is that possible?
Who is right?
The BWN has hosted thousands of events across the East of England for women in business around networking and business growth and are now in our 10th year and yet we still hear comments from both extremes. (Mostly we hasten to add exceptionally positive ones with women saying it’s the one thing in the month they will never miss.)
So what makes networking powerful and how can you ensure it wasn’t a waste of two hours?
No one bought anything from me!
If no one is buying from you it is not the fault of the networking organisation, it’s your fault. I actually heard someone say that “The people in this group don’t spend money” and the very next conversation I had that day a woman in business told me that she realised that in a year and half she had made just over £50k of sales from our network alone. Someone was definitely spending money!
So how could it be so different for these 2 business women in the same room of people?
A number of things impact on your networking success for sales;
- You have to be comfortable with your price. If your prices are too low then you will make people nervous that what you sell “isn’t very good”. Interestingly if you are comfortable with your price I rarely hear of a price that is too high, because if you know you offer an exceptional experience, care deeply about your customers, deliver exceptional standards and results, then people will pay. So yes, get comfortable with your price. (Interestingly it is often a conversation we see on the Insiders “I’m scared to put my prices up!” So if you are an Insider you can do some market research and test your pricing there confidentially.) If you aren’t comfortable with your prices, your potential customers won’t be either!
- You have to be comfortable with your product. Another reason that you aren’t selling (or people aren’t buying – depending on your viewpoint) is because you aren’t comfortable with what you offer. (Again the Insiders is somewhere we see people hone their offerings to get this just right.) If you are trying to sell something that no one wants then it’s going to be tough. On the other hand if you use your networking to carry out some market research with the people that you have grown to know, like and trust then you can hone your offerings to sell more. If you are comfortable with your products (and love them!) the passion will rub off on your network.
- You are there to build relationships not empires. Okay so we are more than happy to help you build your empire (as big as you like!) but before you can build empires you need to build a network. And if you speak to the most powerful and successful women in the world they will tell you there biggest mistake they have made in their careers was that they thought they could stop networking. Networking builds relationships. It nurtures your reputation. It ensure people know who you are, what you do and why you do it. They are people you want to enable to see they can trust you and if you don’t turn up every month to every event, that can’t happen. As I was advised many years ago networking is a marathon not a sprint. (There are things you can do to speed up results, but you will need to turn up.)
- Control your brand. I hear people say “It’s so frustrating that people don’t get what we can do for them” it’s not other peoples job to understand what you do, it is your job to help people to appreciate how you can help. An elevator pitch is a great opportunity to break down the barriers to what people think about your business and your products. Again you need to do this every month to ensure that after each elevator pitch you can find out what people thought. Did they understand what you do? What didn’t they understand? What did they think it was all about?
- If you are not in the room, you can’t control the conversation around your business. I can not stand gossip. However I’ve heard conversations in the room like these “I hear they aren’t trading any more” “I hear they don’t do that any more” “I don’t think they work with people like you anymore” If you aren’t in the room, you can’t control the conversation. Gossip does happen so if you want your brand to be positively represented you need to be visible. Great networking enables you to visible. (Even if you aren’t talking a great deal!) And as a side note, as a good networker I have fed back to the business that wasn’t in the room the incorrect gossip that was being spread. It was most definitely not an easy thing to do however as a great networker you want to help your network achieve great things and you should want to protect their businesses too. How could I have met that business owner in the future and felt comfortable knowing that some networkers were gossiping about their business?. Some conversations are not easy in business, it does not mean you shy away from them. (Again it’s a great chance to build your reputation and credibility as it did for me on that occasion and we’ve put work to each other for years.)
- Listening. The business women that I see do really well are often the ones that don’t speak a lot about their needs or business. They are the ones that are actively listening. They are likely to be thinking “How can I help this person?” “Who would it be good for this person to know?” “I will follow up with this person like this”To get the best out of networking know in the back of your mind what you want out of that networking event and then side step that to be on every other businesses agenda.
- Follow up. Those that do well out of networking, follow up just the way they said they would. Building relationships is the most important thing you can do to grow your business and your network. The bigger the network, the more opportunities, the more potential clients, the more knowledge, etc, etc. Build your reputation as someone that can be trusted by doing what you said you would do.
- New. The business women that benefit the greatest from networking know that it is not just about sales, reputation and building strong relationships in a strong network. It is also about learning new skills and knowing what is going on in the business world. When we are busy and profitable as a business we can take the decision to drop the networking. However you can get as much benefit out of the free flowing conversations after the structured content as you can out of the masterclass because other business women will know what’s happening in the US (If it’s over there, it will be over hear soon and you can be ahead of the wave!). You can find out about latest legislation that may have slipped by your offices attention. You can even find that someone else faces exactly the same issues as you and have ideas on how to fix it. Stay in the office and yes the to do list shrinks, but you don’t get the opportunities that aren’t so clearly definable. And I’ve seen this first hand be the case for literally hundreds and hundreds of business women.
- In it to win it. It will always make me a little sad to see someone attend for 3 months (a whole 7.5 hours of their 90 (ish) days) and get to know people and then they don’t make it one month, no big deal right? Except that is the month that the person you’ve had a general chit chat with has decided they are ready to buy and you aren’t there! The FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) is real on this occasion! I’ve seen so many business owners miss out from VA’s, Accountants and printers, to cosmetics companies, web designers to residual income opportunities. It’s shocking how easy it happens and depressing how easy it is to fix. If you are going to network, network every month and don’t let anything move it. It is as important as any other aspect of your business.
So can a network be good for one and not another? I think there is enough space for all of the networks and that ensures every business owner can network in a style that suits them. I also think that some business women don’t appreciate the full value of networking to grow a successful business and alas as the saying goes “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink!” And for me my career has rocketed in the last few years and yet I never miss the events I say I will attend. I know the true value of networking and how to maximise the benefits for myself and my network. And I’m happy to have a chat about that anytime.
Mandie Holgate Founder of The Business Womans Network, key note speaker and author of Fight the fear (the book that looks at the top 12 fears that impact on success) writes for our blog and you can meet Mandie at the Bury St Edmunds, Colchester and Braintree events. Mandie is happy to connect with all women in business so feel free to do this via her website – www.mandieholgate.co.uk