At a recent workshop I ran, one of the attendees asked whether networking works.
I know people in business who swear by the power of networking meetings in growing their business. I also know people who swear just at the thought of going networking. The reality is that for some people it works, and for others it doesn't.
It's a little like Schrodinger's cat. Schrodinger imagined a thought experiment that goes as follows: imagine a cat in a sealed box. In the box there is also a piece of radioactive material that is decaying and will ultimately kill the cat (remember – this is an imaginary cat, not a real one!). How do you know the cat whether the cat is alive or dead? You can't know until you open the box1.
Networking is much the same: you won't know if it works for you until you try it. And whether networking will work for a particular person is down to two things.
First is the meeting itself. Who is there with you, and how they do their networking. I've been to many, many networking events where peoplpe were there to sell to the room. They button hole anyone who will listen, and thrust their cards at anyone who vaguely shows interest in them. But only as long as they are good prospects. If you're not in their target market they'll cut you dead.
That's not networking. That's swimming with sharks.
It also ignores that fact that while you may not be in their target market, you may have a dozen friends who are.
If your networking meeting is full of sharks, there's no point going along. They're not buying, and they're not looking for people they can refer on and be referred by.
The second factor is you. What are your reasons for networking? Do you see it as a useful extra channel for growing you business, and you enjoy meeting new people regardless of whether anything comes of it? Or are you there becuase your pipeline is empty and you need to find a stream of prospects pronto?
Are you there looking for opportunities to help people – and build reciprocity – or are you there to make a transaction? Are you there for the long haul, in other words, or to make a fast buck?
And finally, are you good at following up and creating relationships, or do you forget people if they don't buy at the first meeting?
In the meantime, is it time to open the box?
1No cats were harmed in the writing of this post.