I hate shopping with the crowds. I will only do it if I think the results I’m going to get – great gifts for my wife and kids at bargain prices – will be worth the effort. I can do two things to make this formula work out (1) I can lower my expectations and only hope to get “OK gifts” at “decent prices.” Or (2) I can optimize my efforts so they result in the best use of my resources – my time and money. These same principles apply to business networking.
Set Your Expectations and DON’T COMPROMISE
Why would you ever put your self through the effort of shopping with the crowds so you can end up with mediocre gifts at small discounts? Many people do this because they go out to shop without a plan, get discouraged and buy whatever is marginally acceptable. The same applies to business networking groups. People join any random group with low expectations and end up with a few crappy introductions that do not lead to any business. What you need to do is specifically define what you are looking for – what your ideal goal is (great sweater at half price or warm referral to a CFO at a service company in the NY Metro Area with 200 + desk workers). Then you need to figure out where you’re going to find it.
Define Where You are Mostly Likely to Find What You’re Looking For.
When you shop, you can wander aimlessly around the mall hoping something pops into view that is the perfect gift. On the other hand, you’ll be much more likely to find that great gift at a great price if you give it some thought beforehand and then only go to the stores who carry those items at sale prices your are willing to pay. I’m shocked when I talk to people about what networking events they go to and they tell me they belong to three groups and two business associations. I guess any of those individual activities aren’t working out to well – the equivalent of wandering aimlessly around the mall. Instead people should only join groups where the great majority of the other people in the group are most likely to be able to provide you with what you are looking for – that CFO referral I mentioned above.
Value Your Time.
Wouldn’t you rather spend two hours doing all your shopping vs. two days? When networking, wouldn’t you rather belong to one group and the time associated with it vs. three groups (and three times the time it takes up)? Be honest with how much your time is worth. If you’re making $150K and you work 40 hours a week for 50 weeks per year, then your time is worth $75/hour. If your 3 networking groups require 5 hours a week of meetings and coffees, for 50 weeks, then you just spent $18,750 plus membership fees. Doesn’t sound like a great bargain to me.
Since networking is really just shopping (for different items), the same principles apply. If you take the time to set expectations, define what you are looking for and only “shop” where you are most likely to find these items, then you will make the best use of your resources and achieve your goals. Once you accelerate your business networking results you can then thank yourself because that is who you just bought a gift for.