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CAELAN HUNTRESS
Digital Producer
San Isidro de el General, Perez Zeledon Costa Rica
Very helpful
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Networking groups--do they work?

The question is not whether or not they work at all. Rather, do networking groups work for you?
Written May 06, 2009, read 5384 times since then.
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If you've spent any significant time networking, chances are you have gone to a networking group.  By the term 'networking group' I am referring to hard networking, a group such as BNI (Business Networking International), HIPPnet, Le Tip, or one of the many similar groups of businesspeople trading business cards and referrals.

These groups obviously work for some people, or they would not still be attended.  If you have showed up at one or two groups, and concluded you could not get any business out of it, then this article is for you.

As both a member and creator of several networking groups, I have noticed they are attended by three general types of people.

  • Go getters

People who have become accomplished at networking.  They show up with lots of leads, and a bright attitude.  They also tend to receive most of the referrals.

  • Slow getters

These people show up regularly, but their businesses are not doing well.  They do not give, or receive, many referrals.

  • No getters

Somebody shows up to a networking group for the first time, delivers their pitch, and is affronted that nobody at the table wants to buy from them.  They don't come back.

Sell the network, not the networker

People do not come to networking groups to sell each other their services, although many long-term group members do end up doing business together.  This is because a long-term relationship is developed, including familiarity and trust.

When you go to a networking group, how valuable are you to the other people around the table?  How quick are you to refer your friends, your clients, and your contacts to the services of everyone else?

Networking is a giver's game

Earl Nightingale had a great analogy, of a man staring at an empty stove saying, "Give me some heat, and then I'll give you some wood!"  It doesn't follow.  If you have not received referrals from your networking contacts, be honest with yourself--how many have you given?  If you are not giving referrals to others, what incentive do they have to give referrals to you?

When you become known as someone who helps other people succeed in their business, it is a natural outcome that those people you helped will want to help you in return.

Is the group a good fit?

Do the people around the table like you?  This is important, because if they don't like you, they won't want to refer their clients to you, for fear of tarnishing their own reputation.  Be likeable.  Make friends.

And find a group that meets at a time that works for you.  Have you ever dragged yourself out of bed resentfully to sit in a stale office at 7 am, wishing you weren't there, hoping to get business from other tired and unhappy people?  That's absurd!  If you are not a morning person, find a group that meets at a time (and in a location) that you like.

If there is not a group that meets your criteria, start one.

You--the center of influence

The best way to form a strong network is to form a network.  Plant your flag, and others will flock to it!  Pick a time and place that works for you, and start a group on Meetup or BiznikTarget professionals who could refer you business, and who you could refer business to as well.  Invite them to your group.  You'll be surprised how many people want to help you succeed.  "You can get whatever you want," Zig Ziglar said, "if you can just help enough other people get what they want."

Learn more about the author, CAELAN HUNTRESS.

Comment on this article

  • Logo Apparel & Promotional Products  
Portland, Oregon 
Gary Powell
    Posted by Gary Powell, Portland, Oregon | May 07, 2009

    Interesting article, although I'm not sure how someone can be expected to show up with "lots" of leads, when they have no idea who they going to meet.

  • Digital Producer 
San Isidro de el General, Perez Zeledon Costa Rica 
CAELAN HUNTRESS
    Posted by CAELAN HUNTRESS, San Isidro de el General, Perez Zeledon Costa Rica | May 07, 2009

    Gary, this article is about 'hard' networking groups, where people show up week after week. There is usually membership criteria, and often dues. In these groups, you know who will be there.

    However, when I talk to anybody, I always ask what they need and what they want to do.

    When I go to any type of networking event, even if I don't know anyone there, I usually meet one or two people who provide a service that somebody else needs. I may not have their phone number with me right then, but by talking with many people every week, I position myself to facilitate a connection.

    The more you can do this for your network, the more you will be seen as a resource, who people want to do business with.

  • Logo Apparel & Promotional Products  
Portland, Oregon 
Gary Powell
    Posted by Gary Powell, Portland, Oregon | May 07, 2009

    Understood, thanks for clearing that up.

    Networking is new to me, so I must admit that I have a lot to learn. Being part of Biznik has opened some wonderful doors of possibilities though.

  • Realtor, Real Estate Investor, Connector, Educator 
Maple Valley, Washington 
Elsie  Chaudoin
    Posted by Elsie Chaudoin, Maple Valley, Washington | May 07, 2009

    Caelan -

    I appreciate the article. I work with several people who do belong to the hard networking groups and they think the world of it...I start to share Biznik and I get the "oh, that's good for you". They just missed the opportunity I was trying to share because not everyone sees opportunities when thinking outside of the box. The mission that these hard networking groups have in mind is "How can it help me?", when the concern really is "How can I help you?". You quoted Zig Ziglar so appropriately.

    I like to think of myself as a HUB for my business to business contacts and my past/present clients and friends. You have to give freely and it will be given back.

    Thanks for the article

    Elsie Chaudoin

  • Camps, fundraising, training and education 
Pflugerville, Texas 
Iliane Lorenz
    Posted by Iliane Lorenz, Pflugerville, Texas | May 08, 2009

    Great article! I agree!

    What works best for me, is to choose networking groups, that are not only random business owners, but have something in common, like "real estate networking" group or "green living" networking group. In those cases the networking has always seemed much more productive for me.

    My goal for networking groups is always to set at least 2 1-1 with interesting people that i didn't know before. Over coffee or lunch you can learn about and from that person. Getting to know each other better will make the referrals flow much quicker.

    Often the first referrals are more strategic business partners than clients. If people follow up with them, they are also likely to follow up with client referrals I send them.

    Iliane
    Texas Capital Real Estate

  • Managing Member 
Boise, Idaho 
Craig Jamieson
    Posted by Craig Jamieson, Boise, Idaho | May 09, 2009

    Great article and right on the money. I believe that BNI uses the phrase "Givers Get" and they do. The "go getters" are those who definitely thrive best in what some here are calling "hard" networking groups. I have been involved in these types of groups for close to 20 years and they do work.

    I have personally sold millions of dollars in products as a direct result of these group associations and many of my best clients, today, are based on relationships formed in groups like this.

    Ultimately, what you put in is what you are going to take out. You have to get to know folks and let them get to know you. My preference leans toward the "hard" group setting. As a matter of fact, the harder the better (smile).

    Thanks for letting me chip in!

    Craig

  • Director 
Hawthorne, New York 
Susan Palmer
    Posted by Susan Palmer, Hawthorne, New York | May 14, 2009

    Great article, Caeden. You really practice what you preach, too! You were a major asset to our Biznik luncheon yesterday, full of lots of ideas and referrals that were helpful to us all. Thanks for giving me a living example of a great network contributor :-)

  • SOHO & Sm Biz Mgmt Consultant/Bkkpr & Freelance Writer 
Portland, Oregon 
Lisa Sudo
    Posted by Lisa Sudo, Portland, Oregon | May 23, 2009

    I agree and disagree with most of the points in this article. Overall, as far as pointers, it's great. But, I am able to offer a pro or con, for or against, any given point when it comes to hard networking groups. Though, I can be rather Cartesian at times. I suppose y'all will call me the Devil's Advocate (*Smile!)

    Truly, net working is about establishing relationships, creating a web of influence and influential contacts. Like friendships, they take time to develop. I frequently attend groups as a 'guest' but my goal may be different than a few other people.

    I have a great network that I've built over many years, inside and outside of group meetings. What I generally look for is complimentary service providers that I can add to my own group. People that fill needs that are beneficial to my clients and persons I know I can send referrals to.

    I go to various groups and meetings because I like meeting new people and getting out of my office. If I can make one really, awesome contact at any given meeting, to me that's definitely worth the time of attendance and...I don't pay any member dues.

    Don't get me wrong, I don't think there is anything derogatory to be said about those that like to attend what you call hard networking groups. However, I suppose I may qualify for the 'thinking outside of the box method.' I personally don't care for the regulations that go along with a lot of the group memberships and/or the penalties for failure to perform, either.

    It's one of the reasons I love Biznik! I can attend meetings when I want and am not regulated to showing up every week or once a month to the same group.

    To me, networking is for facilitating the formation of friendships. I ask a similar question of every one I meet, "How Can I Help You?"

    I do however, disagree with the idea of not 'selling' to my friends. I think that often times, those are the ones you can count on most when you need an extra sale or two. And if they really are a part of your network, they will step up and help when you need it and you shouldn't be prohibited from asking.

    Friendships can be a powerful resource and they occur best, I think, in natural settings. You meet people, connect, talk, share coffee, etc. And this can be done anywhere and anytime with anyone, whether in an official group or not.

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