Does Your Networking Group Put Enough Emphasis on Quality?

In order for a networking group to be successful and thus ensure optimum networking results for each of its members, the first thing the group needs to do is ensure they are embracing quality.

Embracing quality means being very selective about who you bring into the group.  The only people you should be inviting into the group are quality business professionals who have a positive, supportive attitude and are good at what they do.  If an individual does not meet these criteria, they should not be permitted into the group, period.

Effective networking is dependent on the quality of the relationships are developed within any given networking group, therefore it should go without saying that embracing quality also means building deep relationships among all referral partners in order to generate more referrals.  If your network is a mile wide and an inch deep, you won’t be getting the referrals you expect.

Another aspect of embracing quality is ensuring quality participation which means there absolutely must be accountability within the group.  One of the greatest strengths of a good network is that many of the members are friends.  One of the biggest weaknesses, however, is that . . . well . . . many of the members are friends; friends don’t generally like to hold other friends accountable.  You need to remember, as do your fellow networking group members, that the purpose of your group is not to be a friendship club–your purpose is to be a referral group and in order to generate quality referrals, all members of the group must hold each other accountable for maintaining quality participation.

If you expect the best from your fellow referral partners, you’ll get it.  Likewise, if you expect less than the best from them, you’re guaranteed to get that as well.  Why accept mediocrity when excellence is an option?  Accountability within a group will help all involved to achieve excellence.

The last part of embracing quality is applying the Givers Gain® philosophy within the networking group (i.e., when each member focuses on helping their fellow members achieve goals, gain referrals, and grow business, their fellow members will reciprocate by helping them back in the same way).  The more members who live this philosophy (particularly as it relates to referrals), the more successful a group will be.

How does your networking group currently excel at embracing quality?  Which aspects of embracing quality could your group stand to improve upon?  Please share your thoughts in the comments section and I’ll be more than happy to offer suggested solutions to any challenges your group may be having with putting enough emphasis on quality. Thanks!

Knowledge Networking vs. Referral Networking

Most people are involved in at least two types of formal networking groups.  The first is intraprofessional networking, or “Knowledge Networking,” as Megatrends author John Naisbitt calls it.  Knowledge Networks foster self-help, information exchange, improved productivity and work life, and shared resources, according to Naisbitt, who cited networking as one of the ten megatrends impacting our society.

The second type of networking is interprofessional networking: multidisciplinary professionals and occupational types who network to increase each other’s business.  In fact, the primary purpose of most interprofessional networking groups is to increase one another’s business through referrals.

In good interprofessional networking, participants get either the majority of their business or their best business through referrals.  Organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce, Jaycees, and BNI® are typical groups in this category.  Different groups offer different strengths and weaknesses in helping to generate word-of-mouth business and it’s important to look closely at the makeup and structure of the various organizations that you might join before selecting those that best fit your needs.

If you haven’t had much success in business organizations in the past, don’t let that get in the way of doing what needs to be done to build your business through word of mouth today.  The best way to begin the process of building a referral-based business is in a group or groups of other business professionals.  The only alternative is to meet one person at a time, which inevitably means you’re going to be working harder, not smarter.

The only people who are going to make referrals for you consistently are people who know you and trust you: your friends, associates, customers, patients, clients, peers, and family members.  Strangers are not going to consistently give you business.  You need to start spending time with the right people in structured professional environments.

If you’re interested in building your business through referral networking, here are four tips to help you do it efficiently:

  • Join several different types of networking groups and diversify your word-of-mouth activities.
  • Develop your company into a Hub Firm, a firm that other companies rely on to coordinate efforts in providing effective services.
  • Don’t be a cave dweller.  Get out and meet other business professionals in the myriad of business organizations which exist for that purpose.
  • The only people who are going to make referrals for you consistently are people who know you and trust you.  You need to start spending time with the right people in structured professional environments.

Do you have any additional tips or tactics which you’ve found particularly effective in building a referral-based business?  What has worked best for you?  I would love to hear your insights so please share your thoughts in the comment forum below.  Thanks!

Networking Is an Acquired Skill

The Third Law of Notable Networking: Networking Is an Acquired Skill
(Click Here to read about the First Law of Notable Networking and Click Here to read about the Second Law)

Most people are not born networkers; they develop the skills through education, training, the right attitude, and long practice.  Any technique of value requires a commitment to learning how to use it effectively.  The next generation of business professionals will operate under a different model of management, in which networking will be an integral element.  Take advantage of every opportunity you have to learn to network more effectively.  It is a skill that will only grow in importance.

Remember Will Rogers’ statement about being on the right track:  “If you’re just sitting there, you’re going to get run over!”  If you are active in a networking organization, you’re “on the right track.”  The key, however, is to take advantage of the opportunities that these groups have to offer.  This means you need to be an active participant in the networking process to get any substantive results.

Curiously, many people invest time in networking, but not in learning how.  This is like trying to play tennis or golf without lessons.  Sure, you can perform, but how well?  Simply attending meetings is not enough.  You need to listen to CDs, read books and articles, talk to people who network well, and most important, practice what you’ve learned.  This is no less than what you would do to learn how to play golf, manage people, or sell a product.

Always keep in mind that in order to develop a successful word-of-mouth-based business, you must attend every networking event that you can and practice, practice, practice!  Practice greeting people, handing out your card, asking for their cards, listening, excusing yourself, and introducing yourself to others.  If you have questions about what to do (and/or not do) in order to most effectively greet people, exchange cards, listen, excuse or introduce yourself, please let me know in the comment forum below.  I’m more than happy to do follow-up blog posts on any/all of those specific aspects of networking (as well as any other aspects you may have questions about). Thanks!

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.

Do You Know Your Mission?

You may think you know why you’re in business, but perhaps it’s been years since you gave it serious thought. There’s no better time than now to re-examine why you’re doing what you’re doing.  Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is my business mission? — Beyond simply making a living, what are my long-range professional goals? Do I wish to become the standard by which my competitors are judged? Is it my dream to help make the world a better place?
  • Where is my organization going? — Am I achieving my mission? Am I making plans to accomplish it? How can I change policies, procedures or personnel to improve my chances of achieving my mission?
  • What environment is my organization operating in? — What are the social, economic and technological trends that affect the way I do business and my progress toward my goals?
  • What are my core competencies? — What do I like to do? What is it that I do better than my competitors? Is my business mission compatible with my values and aptitudes?

I’ve seen too many business professionals and companies make the mistake of trying to be all things to all people. Starting out with the fundamentally sound goal of finding a niche that will make them successful, they go astray by changing direction every time a customer or associate suggests a new product or service. The mission gets lost in a frantic scramble for business before the original idea ever gets a chance to pay off.

So, even if you think you know your mission, it will serve you well to pause periodically, analyze your business and, if necessary, refocus on your mission and philosophy.

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