If you belong to a regular networking group, you are probably always asking yourself is this a waste of time or a good investment? But are you asking yourself the right questions? How do you decide if it’s likely to be time well spent or whether it’s time to find another group? Here’s how:
Why did you join the group?
Most people join a networking group to get introduced to new customers. Assuming this is the reason you joined, then the group that is going to give you the biggest payoff is the group that has the greatest percentage of people in the group that: (1) can introduce you to new customers that need your products or services, (2) want to introduce you to new customers, and (3) when they make those introductions, they are effective enough to greatly reduce your close rate.
How many people in your group have referred you?
If you are in a group where only 5 out of the 25 people in your group have made an effort to refer you, then you’re probably in the wrong group. Just think about how much more effective the group would be if 20 out of 25 referred you – for the same time and money you get 4 times the amount of referrals. Keep in mind, if only 5 people are referring you then it’s likely the others either don’t have the connections or just don’t want to introduce you to a new customer.
Do the other group members have compatible networks with you?
Compatible networks means you “fish in the same pond.” For example: If you are B2B, then so are they. If you target local companies, then so do they. If you target COO’s, then so do they. If you target companies with sales between $5 – $20MM, then so do they. You get the point. The more people in your networking group who have the most overlap in the target market they are going after the better. If they target the same customers then they are more likely to have the right contacts they can introduce you to.
Are the other group members selfless net-workers?
Members of your group may have the right connections you need but if they are unwilling to share their connections then these connections will do you no good. I find there are two types of people in most groups: benefit of the doubt people vs. close to the vest people. The close to the vest people will be very cautious about passing referrals. You won’t get a referral from them if they think it won’t benefit their own interests or if they think there is a chance it might be detrimental to them in any way. If there are too many of these people in your group, then it’s going to be quite a while until you see any results if at all. If your group is filled with selfless net-workers who tend to give the other group members the benefit of the doubt, then they will assume the best about other group members, put other people’s interests first and referrals will flow throughout the group.
Are the referrals you are getting turning into sales?
How have the quality of the referrals been? The quality of the referrals you get is a reflection on how good your fellow group members are at listening to what you do, the quality of their network, the effort they are making plus their credibility with their network. If the referrals you’ve been getting all seem to end up in dead ends then either you are being introduced to the wrong people, you are being introduced the wrong way or your fellow group member carries no clout or little respect with his or her contacts. If the referrals you’re getting always give you the opportunity to express your value and start an open conversation discussing mutual benefits, then the referrer probably commands respect and credibility within their network of contacts. These are the type of people you want in your group.
Networking groups like other business expenses are an investment in the growth of your company or your individual practice. Given that we all have limited resources it’s important we get the biggest rate of return on our most valuable resources – your time and money. Keep in mind why you made the investment in your networking group and what return on that investment you expected within what time frame. Then continually ask yourself the right questions to determine if you made a wise investment of your time and money or if it’s time to cut your losses. Then before you join another group try to answer these same questions by asking current members about their results, so you can determine if it’s the right group for you.
Jonathan Rosen is the Founder of Collaberex, a B2B Lead Generation / Business Development company https://collaberex.com/team/jonathan-rosen/