Stop the Insanity

Networking is NOT working!  The process has been hijacked.  Too many business owners attend traditional networking meetings only to find:

  1. The wrong people.
  2. The wrong process.
  3. The wrong philosophy.

The Wrong People

You can’t have a productive meeting with the wrong people in attendance.  A true network is designed around mutuality, you help me and I will help you.  In order for this process to work, like-minded people must be in attendance.   Most small-to-medium-size business owners who sell to other businesses (B2B) find few other B2B businesses at traditional networking meetings.  Instead, only chiropractors, realtors, solo lawyers, low-level salespeople, and professional networkers are there.

When the bulk of the attendees at a networking meeting are the wrong people, what’s the point?  Sure, there are many people in attendance.  But if they are not the right type of people, isn’t the meeting just a cocktail party?  A good meeting of un-networkers is full of like-minded business people with similar interests.

Business people attend networking meetings to get introductions to meaningful people, in particular, prospects.  But there are no prospects at networking meetings, only salespeople.  Never in the history of networking has someone said: 

“Gosh, our copier is acting up.  I think I will go to the networking meeting tonight and see if I can’t find someone to sell us a copier.”

At traditional networking meetings, virtually all of the attendees are there to sell something.  The room is full of people, and talking to lots of people can be enjoyable.  This enjoyment is what creates the buoyant feeling of networking but inevitably falls short of any meaningful relationship building.  Ask yourself:  Does the person you are talking to at a networking meeting have a need for your product, the decision-making power, and the financial ability to purchase it?  The answer is always “NO.”

Networking:  An uncontrollable compulsion to offer services to total strangers while ingesting small blocks of cheddar cheese on a five-inch circular foam dish.

Alternative Definition of Networking:  A business procedure that simulates all the work of selling but yields no results.

 

The Wrong Process

Traditional networking meetings use a broken process.  They use forced lead quotas.  Meetings have excessive frequency, i.e., weekly.  The meetings are held in places that are not conducive to doing business.  Most important, they focus on information sharing or card flipping rather than relationship building.

Referrals come from those who know, like, and trust us.  In order to build know, like, and trust, we must build relationships, not share information.  Traditional networking has tried to shortcut the relationship-building process and hijack it.

In fact, there is no such thing as networking.  A productive network is the RESULT of activities, not the activity itself.  A powerful network is the result of relationship building.  Relationship building happens indirectly, not directly.  Think of your most meaningful business connections.  Where did they come from?  Most likely they came from small, structured group activities designed for something completely unrelated to business like church groups, social clubs, charitable organizations, or neighbors.  The process was simple, spend time with like-minded people doing something other than “networking” and form a relationship.  Later, this relationship proved to be valuable in business.  It was simple and natural, relationship first, referral second.

At this point we have bad news and good news.  The bad news is relationship building takes time.  It happens over months, not minutes.   Traditional networking groups conveniently choose to ignore this fact.  They work under the illusion that meaningful business relationships can be made and referrals can be obtained from card flipping, the business version of speed dating.  All relationships begin with knowing, liking, and trusting each other.

A networking meeting does a decent job of knowing, and perhaps liking.  However, how can people build trust in an inherently distrustful environment?  Remember, virtually everyone attends a networking meeting to sell something.  Therefore, two people are conversing while trying to figure out how to pry money from the other.  How can trust be formed under these circumstances?

Paradoxically, the good news is relationship building produces results with incredible speed.  When a long-time “buddy” recommends you to someone, the deal is almost always done at the speed of light (or trust).  The deal is yours to lose.  Often the provider of this type of lead invests something of himself or herself in the deal.  The deal may also be imbedded in the context of favors you have done for one another.  This is the un-networking scenario.

The Wrong Philosophy

Most important, traditional networking adheres to the wrong philosophies.

Knowing someone is enough

Great business relationships come from those who know, like, AND trust us.  These relationships do not come from those who simply know us or have our business card.  Pretending that a transactional introduction can lead to a relationship sale is naïve.  Relationship sales require relationships.  Relationships are built over time, not from a card flip.

                The more the merrier

Many networking meetings have over one hundred people in attendance.  Here is the typical breakdown:

  • Small retailers including dentists, chiropractors, lawyers (50% of attendees)
  • Job hunters (10%)
  • Wanna-be business owners (10%)
  • Salespeople (20%)
  • Professional trollers, people who appear to be like-minded business owners but who never buy anything.  Instead, they hop from networking meeting to networking meeting all day, every day (5%)
  • Interesting business owners you would like to meet (5%)

Most business owners only need to meet the 5% of the attendees that are like-minded and similarly situated.   Ninety-five percent of the audience wants something from the business owner but has nothing to offer them.  They are takers, not givers.  There is no mutuality.  Bottom line, big group equals big problem.

Great networking cannot occur in a cafeteria  

When most business people think of powerful networking, they imagine the Old Boy Network meeting in a high-society club backroom.   This image may be outdated; however, let’s look at this model.  The Old Boy Network has never and will never go away.  It is the way business gets done all over the world.  Small groups of dynamic, influential people get together and, through trusted relationships, help each other get things done.  Simply put, small groups of Good Old Boys and Girls purposefully watch out for and take care of each other in business.

The Good Old Boys and Girls do not meet in a dingy basement or cafeteria.  This crowd is successful, and they meet in a setting commensurate with their success.  Meeting in an environment conducive to success is a vital component to powerful un-networking.  The right meeting place adds to the proper un-networking environment.

                Business people enjoy mingling with strangers

This is definitely false!  Most business people would prefer to drive an ice pick through their temple than be forced to mingle.  Granted, there are the unfortunate few who, driven by guilt and compulsion, make a feeble attempt at mingling.  Most do not.  Unstructured mingling is torturous.  The right type of un-networking group creates a comfortable environment through its setting and process.

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Carl Kinker
Carl Kinker
Partner, The Controllership Group
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Level 7 Un-Networking