Networking Minus Follow-Through Equals a Waste of Time

Smart, enterprising businesspeople know the importance of networking and how it is a huge opportunity to increase word-of-mouth and gain business referrals. However, one of the biggest mistakes people can make is failing to follow through.

One of my employees recently told me a story that should serve as an important lesson to all of us on how networking without follow-through is nothing more than a waste of time.

Note: The names in this story have been changed to protect the innocent . . . and the guilty.

My employee, whom we’ll call Winnifred (since she’d like to remain anonymous and it’s the most unfitting name for her that I can think of . . . well, aside from maybe Gertrude ;-)), was in need of a graphic designer to assist her with the creation of a website for her father’s business. She attended a local networking mixer where she met a graphic designer, “Blake,” who seemed excited about the project and claimed he could accomplish exactly what she needed at a very reasonable price.

They exchanged contact information and connected the next week by phone to discuss the project in further detail. Winnifred was pleased with Blake’s ideas and liked the examples she’d seen of his work. She told him he seemed like the perfect person to help her with the project and that she’d like him to send her a price quote as soon as possible.

A week went by and Winnifred heard nothing from Blake.  When she called him, he said he was working on a quote and gave some lame excuse about being busy. Another week went by and, again, nothing from Blake. Frustrated, but willing to give Blake another chance because she really did like his work, she sent him an e-mail and left him a voicemail saying that she would love to give him her business and was really anxious to hear back from him.

After two weeks went by without hearing back from him, Winnifred found another graphic designer. To this day, Blake has never responded.

Here is what blows my mind . . . I know for a fact that this guy, “Blake,” is still frequenting local networking mixers (which cost money to attend, by the way) trying to drum up more business. Yet when he had money practically sitting on the table in front of him, he failed to follow through. No matter what his reason was for not getting back to Winnifred–being too busy, too lazy or whatever else–he shouldn’t be out there networking if he can’t follow through on what he claims to be able to deliver. He’s wasting his time (and money) and, more important, he’s wasting other people’s time–which is earning him nothing more than a bad name.

The moral of this story: If you aren’t prepared to follow through, networking is no more than a big waste of time.

If you have a “Blake the Flake” story of your own, I’d love to hear about your experience. Please feel free to share your story in the comments section.

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10 thoughts on “Networking Minus Follow-Through Equals a Waste of Time

  1. Ivan, it still surprises me when I have stories such as this, although I guess it shouldn’t. My years in business have taught me that 20% of success is showing up, and 80% of success is following through. It probably holds true for most things in life.

  2. I admire the direct, blunt, straight-from-the-hip message and the succinct story-telling.

    You make me question myself: when’s the last time I failed to follow through? What did I do to make it up to the person I disappointed? What am I doing to make sure I under-promise & over-deliver?

    You give this gift from your fund of experience – you may well have reminded me how vital it is I get this week right. You are a good man and I thank you – all the way from across the Atlantic Ocean.

  3. Of course – he may have been trying to make network links to get work later. Issue with single person companies is how to best manage the pipeline; he should have handled it better of course.

  4. Great post!

    I tell people all the time – if you don’t plan on following up, don’t bother showing up. I can’t tell you how many professionals don’t “get” that, yet its so simple! Thanks for the reminder! I will pass the article along!

  5. I’ve changed the name(s) to protect the privacy. Oh my, I was once “Blake… the flake.” It’s taken me a long time to see it from the business perspective. I just so did NOT want to admit that I really didn’t have enough time for my graphic/web design small business, because if I let go of that part of me then I was sure I’d be and have nothing. And going to those networking events, even the ones that cost money, well, they sort of helped to keep me sane until near the end. You see, I was caring for two dear family members that had long battles with many illnesses, including in the end, cancer. I know I disappointed a lot of important clients/people and I missed so many wonderful opportunities (with some now super awesome clients), but it wasn’t until way after the funerals that people really knew what happened, why it would seem like I disappeared. My point for sharing my story is maybe “Blake” has a reality wake-up call he hasn’t been able to admit to yet. Maybe his story is similar or maybe he has an alcohol/drug problem or suffers from depression. All these instances can make it appear as if “Blake… is a flake.” My reality lasted nearly 7 years and nobody knew what was going on until well into the 6th year of trying to juggle care-giving vs. business. I didn’t realize how much my family’s medical drama(s) cost me until about 10 months after the last funeral. Everyday is a climb up, a victory of sorts to bring my business part of my life back into reality and a true blessing when I’m able to connect with someone that remembers me, especially if it’s pre-cancer care-giving duties. There’s really no great excuse for my lack of good communication, but I know I truly failed at it in the midst of what seemed like mostly normal busy business days. Never once did I think my networking was a waste of time for me or for anyone else, but I do see how it matters now.

  6. People network for different reasons. Some network to build on and enhance the relationships they already have with specific individuals; others network to make new contacts in order to start relationships, which in turn, will lead to new… or more referrals. Networking is all about referrals in one way or another.

    However, in each case, follow-up is essential and is expected, yet it amazes me how some of the people who think of themselves as “great networkers” actually never follow up. (I talk about this and other disasters, in detail in my forthcoming book, “The World’s Worst Networker”). These days, there are so many means, tools and systems that make follow-up so easy (phone, email, the hand-written note, Sendoutcards.com, etc) — but you have to make time to do it.

    In a somewhat related experience, when I started shopping for a new car two weeks ago, I visited 6 dealerships. Of course, I expected to be innundated with phone calls, emails and high-pressured sales letters within 48 hours of my visit. Only 1 followed-up with a handwritten note saying “it was a pleasure to meet you, and when you’re ready to learn more or to buy, I’ll be here to serve you.” You can probably guess who I will probably deal with, should I decide to purchase that make and model car.

  7. Sara’s right. If you have cards on your desk that you haven’t actioned don’t go to another event until you have.

    Imagine Blake was at a mixer and found another “prospect” that turned out to be Winnifred’s Father. Would he fail twice over?

  8. I have had many successes in my life and most have happened because I have followed up and followed through on them again and again. Each time also building stronger and stronger relationships in the process.

    Thanks,
    Zurriane

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