Networking is a new concept for me.
For most of my life, I have worked for employers where sales were the responsibility of others. The only kind of salesmanship I had to do was to do good work and treat my customers the way they deserved to be treated. This resulted in a good number of repeat business for my firm.
Being in a situation where I am now as a sole proprietor, I need to develop new business and retain existing clients. Not having had much experience in sales, I have followed the lead of people I have met along the way.
In my current circle of business relationships, I have met a fair number of business owners. Some are extremely active in business networking. They attend multiple networking events week after week. I have not adopted the extreme version of this model, but I do regularly attend one networking meeting per week.
Recently an article from Harvard business school entitled “Don’t Waste Your Time on Networking Events” suggested that networking events were a lose-lose proposition resulting in few if any successful connections. The author rationalizes that attendees of networking events all come to these events with their own agendas making it difficult to promote your own.
As an alternative, the article recommends more targeted approaches to networking. One such approach was to host customer appreciation events. Another idea was to reconnect with old colleagues and friends from previous companies.
Personally I have yet to host my own event, but I have already begun reaching out to old colleagues. The latter has been quite successful.
I’m not doubting the value or benefit of the authors suggested approaches. In fact, I think they’re both very viable. I do however question whether or not the suggestion that networking events are a waste of time is valid.
So today I wanted to put the question out to you. Do you find networking events to be valuable? How many of leads have these events develop for you? How many of those leads have been turned into sales? I suspect the answer will depend strongly on what kind of business you’re in. Perhaps it’s not whether or not the networking is a waste of time, but whether or not the networking event you attend is suited for your business. I would love to hear your thoughts.
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I think it really depends on the event you go to. Keep in mind that at every networking event, you are in a room with other salespeople promoting their own agenda and rarely interested in your own. I have found great promise in networking events that are specifically “By Decision Makers For Decision Makers”.
These types of events tend to promote the “How can I help you attitude?” that encourages learning about each others businesses and increase your referral base. They are hard to find and weed through, but they are great when you get to them.