Networking: Men, Women, and Diversity

Charlie&Ivan-MvWIN

 

In this video (click on the graphic above to access the video), I speak with Charlie Lawson, networking expert and National Director of BNI® UK & Ireland, to unfold the differences between men and women in networking.  While men tend to be more transactional in the way they network, women are more relational and understanding these differences can really be an advantage when it comes to achieving success from your networking efforts.

During a survey of 12,000 people, it was found that those who are more relational gain more business and are overall more proficient networkers.  However, just because women are more likely to generate new business through referrals, this doesn’t mean that only they should have a place in networking groups.  In order to have the most successful networking group possible, there needs to be a great amount of diversity.  It’s ideal to have a blend of different people because that diversity is an important aspect of successful networking.

The more diverse a group is, the more connected it becomes.  When networking groups become more connected, deeper relationships are formed, ultimately leading to more referrals and greater success.

Do you or your networking group have any good tactics for seeking out a diverse array of professionals with whom to network?   If so, please share them in the comment forum below.  If not, make it your goal this week to come up with some ways to do so–you have nothing to lose and a whole lot of untapped potential for new referrals to gain! 

BNI Business Index Results for 2013

Over 1,000 business people from every populated continent in the world responded to the BNI Business Index for year-end, 2013.  According to the survey results, almost 76% of the respondents felt that business was better today than in 2012.  That’s up over 9% from the 2011 survey.    In addition, only 6.1% felt that it was declining in the 2013 survey which is down from the 9.6% that said that business was declining in 2011.

How is Business

The most promising news was the hiring trend numbers.  The 2013 survey found that 55.3% of the respondents said that they would be or possibly would be, hiring in the 2013 survey compared to an anemic 42.9% in 2011.

Why the Improvement?

The three most common reasons cited for growth by the respondents was restructuring, niche marketing, and networking.

Restructuring was a common theme relating to many respondents.  Comments such as: “one of the reasons my business keeps growing is that I… adapt my offerings to support the goals [of my clients].”  Reorganizing showed up in responses like: I’ve “reorganized staff and cut expenses and it is starting to pay off.” “My number one goal was to reduce overhead to the max, and as well as “refocusing our services back to our core competencies… and better communication” has helped substantially.

Two comments that summed up many of the respondents beliefs were: “I’ve changed the way I do business,” and I “can’t keep doing the same old thing if it’s not working.  You have to re-invent yourself.”

Other respondents focused on a niche market.  Such as those who said things such as: “last year I became clearer about my target market, strategic partners and taking a hard look at my numbers and what work would be necessary to grow” and “many of my competitors were bought out and closed their doors.  I focused on my core business.”

Networking continued to be a strong business builder as represented by comments such as: “my business depends a lot on referrals and networking” and “my business is flourishing today as a result of my networking efforts both via the internet and face to face.”  Once respondent claimed that “my business has tripled its income over the past year due largely to my committed involvement to networking.”

Is Your Company Hiring

The one thing that came up by many people who said they were still struggling were complaints about government regulation which have been a constant since the BNI Business Index was first released in 2010.  Issues like the impact of health care reform, government regulation of businesses, and legislative incompetence showed up throughout the survey this year and every previous year.

I’d love to hear your feedback on the two questions posed in the graphs included in this blog post (How is business for you today compared to this time last year? ; Is your company hiring or planning on hiring people over the next few months?)–please share your answers in the comment forum below.  Thanks!

 

‘Why People Resist Networking’ Series: Part III–Impatience Resulting in Early Failure


In this third installment of the “Why People Resist Networking” Video Series, I discuss another popular theme surrounding why people tend to resist networking – impatience.  If new networkers don’t see immediate payoff from their efforts, they become impatient, inevitably resulting in failure early on in the networking process.

Quite often, people simply don’t understand the value of taking time to build fruitful relationships and, like it or not, fruitful relationships are the cornerstone of effective networking.

In this short video, I show a Power Point slide which offers eye-opening proof of the payoff that comes from being patient and consistently putting in the necessary time each week to diligently and strategically build networking relationships. 

I highly encourage you to watch the video to find out why you owe it to yourself (not to mention the business you’ve put so much hard work into) to adopt a systematic and patient approach to networking.  Remember, when you approach networking like a long distance marathon runner, you will reap sweet rewards; if you approach it like a sprinter, simply trying to reach the end as quickly as possible, chances are you’ll end up breaking your ankle (so to speak) and you will have failed before you ever have a chance to even reach the finish line–needless to say, there’s no prize in that.

After watching the video, I’d love for you to leave your feedback, thoughts, and/or comments in the comment forum below. I would particularly like to hear your networking success stories (e.g., connections you never thought you’d be able to make yet achieved through your diligent networking efforts, business growth statistics attesting to the positive impact your networking efforts have made on your business, etc.). Thanks!

Seeking Engagement: A Critical Step for Networking Groups

Engagement involves a promise and an action.  In order to achieve success in your group of networking relationships, you and your relationships must promise to support one another and then take the actions necessary to fulfill that promise.

There are many ways that you can become engaged.  Have you taken the time to regularly meet with the people in your network?  Have you taken the time to educate them regularly on the key features of your business so that your products or services will be top of mind in the event they meet someone with a need for what you supply?  Have you taken the time to become educated on the key features of your networking relationships’ businesses so that you can do the same?

The higher the number of people in your network who are engaged in these activities, the more likely it is that the entire group will be generating more referrals.  The reason for this is a shared vision of success and a shared implementation of that vision.

Another way to be actively engaged and educated about each others’ businesses is to do regular and consistent meetings.  Over and over, I see that business owners who have regular one-to-one meetings with their business networking relationships tend to both give AND get more referrals.

Lastly, are you focusing on your “elevator pitch”?  The best way to ensure your referral sources are going to remember what you do is to focus on communicating your business to them by breaking it down into laser-specific elements.  Sharp-shoot your pitch, don’t shotgun it.  In each of your regular one-to-one meetings, talk about one key element, product, or benefit of what you do.

According to Psychology Today, research has found that people who are “actively engaged” in a business environment are “43% more productive” than those who are not.  Furthermore, they state that engagement includes “regular dialogue, quality of working relationships, perceptions of ethos and values of the organization, and recognition.”  There’s research behind my recommending reciprocal engagement between you and your referral partners.  In fact, it’s critical to your success–and theirs.

This week, think about new ways in which you can support your networking partners in order to promote engagement within your networking group.  I’d love to hear what ideas you come up with so please leave your thoughts in the comment forum below. Thanks!

 

 

Which Is Better–Online Networking or In-Person Networking?

 

In this brief video, Roger Green and I talk about online networking versus in-person networking and also what I discovered when doing research for the book Business Networking and Sex in regard to how much time is necessary to invest in networking in order to get results.

When it comes to networking, there’s online networking and there’s face to face networking.  The simple fact is–it’s not “either/or” . . . it’s “both/and.”  Online networking doesn’t impact face-to-face networking in a negative way. It enhances it.

If you want to be successful in building your personal network, you need diversity in your networks. I highly suggest that people join a few different networks, rather than just sticking with one.

What in-person networks do you currently belong to?  Which online networks do you currently belong to?  In the comments section, please share which networks (both in-person and online) you belong to that you’ve had the most success with–perhaps someone else might read about your experiences and gain success with those networks as well.

NetTime: How Much Time Should You Spend Networking?

The secret to getting more business through networking is. . . spending more time doing it!   OK, well, it’s a little more complicated than that because you have to spend time doing the right things.  However, devoting the necessary time is the starting point.  So how much networking time (or NetTime) should you spend developing your personal network and what kind of results can you expect to see?

Based on a survey that I helped to write and conduct of over 12,000 business professionals from every populated continent in the world, we finally have a definitive answer to those questions.  The study found that people who said “networking played a role” in their success spent an average of 6.3 hours a week participating in networking activities.  On the other hand, the majority of people who claimed that “networking did NOT play a role” in their success spent only 2 hours or less per week developing their network.  

Clearly, those people who spent very little time engaged in the process felt that networking was not an effective way to build their business.  As with many other aspects of life, you clearly reap what you sow.  It’s no wonder that the people who didn’t invest as much time also did not realize as much reward.  This demonstrates the direct correlation between the amount of time you devote to the networking process and the degree of success that you will likely realize from it.

The typical person in the survey who spent a little over six hours a week networking generated almost 47 percent of all their business through referrals and networking activities.  Of the 12,000 global participants in the survey, women spent less time networking (6.19 hours compared to 6.44 for men), yet generated a higher percentage of their business through the process (49.44 percent compared to 43.96 percent for men).

Why would women spend less time and get a higher percentage of their business from referrals than men?  Well, we discovered that men tended to be more transactional in their networking activities.  That is they were more likely than women to be focused on the “business first and the relationship second.”  On the other hand, women were more likely to be relational in their networking activities.  In other words, they were more likely than men to “focus on the relationship first and do the business second.”

An emphasis on relationships first was clearly and undeniably a key factor in determining whether people were going to identify  networking as having played a role in their success. When we looked at the responses from all the participants who said that networking had played a role in their success and then compared them to those people who focus on relationships first, we discovered that the majority of respondents who felt they’ve achieved success through networking also felt that it was better to build the relationship first and then focus on the business.  Consequently, regardless of gender, business professionals who focused on the relationship first and the business second tended to do better than those business people who focused on the business first.

In other words, relationships beat transactions when it came to networking.  The reason that women seem to have done better in the global study was that women tended to be more relational then men.

Those who skip the relationship building and attempt to establish an “all business” interaction often discover that trust and goodwill are more than just window dressing – they are part of the social capital that energizes a mutually rewarding business relationship.  People who bypass relationship building are more likely to feel that networking has not contributed to their success, and they are probably right – because they’re doing it wrong or at least not doing it enough.

You may be reading this article and thinking – OK, I now know that I need to be spending at least 6 ½ hours a week networking.  Well, that’s true IF you want to be average (and what successful business person wants to be average)!   If on the other hand, you’d like to be above average – you need to devote more time than that to the cause.  The optimum amount of NetTime is more likely to be 8-10 hours a week if you want to be one of those people that are generating well over half their business from referrals.

How much NetTime do you spend each week?  More?  Less? and what percentage of business (total) do you get from your networking efforts?  Comment below.

Want to Earn More? You Need to Learn More…

It used to surprise me when I heard statistics such as this: 50% of all businesses fail in their first three years.  Now that I’ve been in business for several decades and have seen many entrepreneurs come and go, I’m more surprised that 50% of businesses actually make it past the first three years!

Maybe I’m being a tad harsh . . . but not much.  One thing I’ve learned is that most successful entrepreneurs embrace and engage in a culture of learning in order to excel.  Personal and professional self development is an ongoing journey–not a destination.  It’s always a work in progress.  Often, businesspeople get so caught up working “in” their business that they forget to spend time working “on” their business.  Part of working “on” a business is one’s professional development.

Most entrepreneurs only pay lip service to education (okay, maybe not you since you’re actually taking the time to read a blog post about business but I’m talking about the average entrepreneur).  Ask a number of entrepreneurs and businesspeople if they would be willing to attend a seminar on building their business and three quarters of them will say yes.  However, if you proceed to tell them that the seminar is four weeks from tomorrow at 7 p.m., only a handful of those who initially agreed they would go will actually sign up.

Benjamin Franklin once said, “If a man empties his purse into his head, no one can take it from him.  An investment in knowledge always pays the highest return.”

With that in mind, here’s an action item that will help get you started on the path to immersing and engaging in a culture of learning:

Look at your financials (or checkbook, or credit card statements) for the past year.  Have you invested money into any type of ongoing business education?  If you aren’t “emptying some of your purse into your head,” take a few minutes to think about what you want to learn to help you build your business and then sign up for something this week.

Remember, if you want to earn more, you need to learn more (and reading this blog from time to time won’t hurt either)!

Lastly, share with us something that someone once taught you (something from books and seminars are OK) that helped you in some important way.


Networking ROI

I recently co-authored an article about the return on investment (ROI) of membership in BNI (the organization I founded back in 1985).  My readers here may find some of the results interesting:

The average amount of business gained from referrals in the last 12 months was $37,055.  When asked about further orders they had received as the multiplier effect of participation, members were able to think of, on average, an additional $17,668 per year of membership.

Combining closed business in the last 12 months with the average value of 2nd and 3rd generation referrals in a year showed the true value of a seat as $54,720 per year.  On average, members who were involved in the group for 7 years generated $383,038 since they joined, thereby underpinning the lifetime value of participation.

An associate of mine is conducting an independent study regarding ROI for any networking organization.   He will share some of the results with me and I will publish them here on my blog.  Please take a few moments to take the short survey (it will only take 3 or 4 minutes).

*** Take the SURVEY HERE ***

After you take the survey, post a message here with any questions that YOU would like to see in a future survey that I’m doing or recommending (like this one).

Does Business Networking Have a Place in Formal Education?

In this short video, presented by Applied Transformation, Inc., Roger Green asks me about my view on the idea that high cost education doesn’t necessarily prepare students for the real world.

In answering him, I talk about my feelings on where business networking fits into the world of formal education and I share some statistics about the true effectiveness of networking which, to me, are mind boggling; I also tell a personal story about having lunch with the Dean of Business at a prominent university and how his words to me speak volumes about the current position business networking holds in the world of higher learning.

What are your personal feelings on where business networking currently fits into, or currently should fit into, the world of formal education?  Did you study business at the university level?  If so, what was your experience?–Did you receive any education about networking while you were working on your degree(s)?  Please share your thoughts/experiences in the comments section.

Survey Says: Summarized Conclusions about Business Networking & Gender

What have my Business Networking and Sex co-authors and I concluded after 12,000 individual surveys, almost 1,000 comments and stories, numerous interviews, months of research, and years of experience?  Below is a recap of the facts we uncovered.

Study Findings, Summarized

  • Men and women were closer together than we expected in most areas.
  • However, the perception of the difference is very dramatic.  Remember: The exception becomes the perception.
  • Women feel that networking has played a slightly larger role in their success than men.
  • Women use a much wider variety of techniques to learn their networking skills than men do.
  • Men are more likely to focus on business first than women are.  Women are a little more likely to focus on building the relationship first–then the business.
  • The time of day for networking was not a big issue for either gender.  This was a surprise to us.
  • Family obligations were more of a problem for women.
  • Women definitely did not feel as safe as men in attending evening events.
  • Men preferred either a structured or unstructured networking event.  Women felt okay with either.
  • Both men and women felt that other people were more uncomfortable networking than they felt about it themselves.
  • Men felt stronger about transactional aspects of networking.  Women felt stronger about relational aspects of networking.
  • Men spent a little more time networking.
  • Women received a higher percentage of their business from networking than men.
  • The more time either men or women spent in their networking efforts, the higher the percentage of business they generated.
  • The more often people used systems to track their business from networking, the more likely they were to feel that networking played a role in their success.

Men and women are not so different in the success they desire in business and networking.  However, the process, the mindset, and the way of making the results happen are very different.  The reason is that we have different ways of viewing the world.  Some of this comes from nature and some from nurture.  What it means is that if we want to be more effective, we must learn how to respect, appreciate, and embrace one another’s differences.  We must understand that we can work more effectively together as a team in business and in our networks.  We just need to learn to be adaptable, empathetic, sensitive, and understanding that THEY are not you.

You can and will beat the odds.  The exception doesn’t have to become the perception.  It can be you! 

Come back next week for some advice from the whole team of Business Networking and Sex co-authors–these tips will help you achieve your highest potential when it comes to networking and guide you into your brightest future in referral marketing.

People Hate to Network… Not!

I was recently contacted by a reporter from a major U.S. national newspaper who said:

“I was wondering if you might be able to point me in the direction of some research that says that many people don’t like networking?  I see that concept cited all over the web, but I can’t find anyone who has actually conducted a survey or done some sort of study to back it up.”

I sent her the chart in this blog, which comes from the research I did for the book: Business Networking And Sex, (not what you think).   She was very surprised by these results.  She said that she had always heard that people didn’t like to network and so she assumed it was true. 

As you can see in the graph, over 57% of the respondents were comfortable or loved to network!  Only 37% or just somewhat comfortable networking and less than 6% were uncomfortable or did not like networking.  This is substantially different than the impression the news reporter had about the process.

I think there may be two reasons why she may have believed that most people don’t like to network. 

  1. The “proximity effect.”  People tend to take on some of the beliefs of people that they hang out with.  Newspaper writers ‘tend’ to be around other writers and editors.  They generally do not hang out with sales people and entrepreneurs.  However, it is the small business person that is out there selling and networking.  The writer is writing about people she doesn’t tend to be with all the time and may get a point of view about networking from other people – not entrepreneurs.
  2. The “I’m better at this than others effect.” One of the things we learned in doing the research for this book was that most people think “they” are better at networking than “other” people.  This tends to create a belief that other people may not like it because they surely are awkward and poor at it (more to come on a future blog about this topic).

The bottom line is that the majority of business people do like to network or are somewhat comfortable networking.  It is a powerful way to generate business and it sure is a whole lot more interesting that cold-calling!

How about you – do you hate to network, love to network, or something in between???

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