Are you Networking Productively?

I’m currently taking the shotgun approach to networking.  I haven’t yet found that really productive niche or two, so instead I’m going to pretty much any event that I can within a 20 mile radius.  It’s pretty tiring, but I think it will pay off in the long run (and I’m meeting a lot of great people…!).

Here’s a partial list of my networking activities just in the last week or so:

  • Principal Connections :  This is one of my favorite networking events that I’ve found to date.  It’s once a month at a nice restaurant (Bonefish) and has some restrictions on attendance to keep the group focused.  You should check it out.
  • American Club Association – team meeting :  The ACA is the latest organization that I’ve joined and I actually think it has the most potential.  I have a team that meets twice a month and I can join several other clubs – I’m starting the entrepreneurs club on Friday.
  • Business Networking International (BNI) I really like the premise of BNI, their philosophy is ‘Givers Gain’ and it’s a very professional organization.  However my particular chapter is very small and we’re struggling to get to the right size.  The biggest issue is how much time and effort to put into building up the group before it becomes worthwhile.
  • Leawood Chamber  Kevin Jeffries and his team do a fantastic job with the Leawood chamber.  It’s a good place to meet people, but inherently Chambers are very difficult to really develop a referral base with.
  • Overland Park Chamber  Another good chamber that’s a bit more active / hectic than Leawood, but as mentioned Chambers are hard to leverage for business.
  • The Marty Connection – Marty (stands for meeting and Party) has multiple get togethers per month during a weeknight.  The idea is that you can meet and get to know people in a social setting, making it easier to build up a trusting relationship that encourages business.  There are a lot of great Marty members and the premise is good, but it is difficult to break free on weeknights and it can take a long time to really get to know people.

Wow – that’s a big list.  So the volume and the opportunities are there – now how do I make them productive?  This came up in my ACA team meeting this afternoon and there were a couple of interesting suggestions:

  1. Develop a very specific ‘target’ list of prospects that you’d like to meet and share it with your teams.  Obviously this wouldn’t work at a chamber, but most of the other groups would support the idea of requesting specific contacts.  The benefit is that this allows you to tap into the 6 degrees, the idea that someone in the room probably knows who you want to meet.
  2. Get to know your networking partners really well.  The suggestion is to actually do a presentation on someone else in the group as a way to insure you really know what they do.  The better you know them, the more likely you are to recognize how you could refer them and help them out.
  3. Work together – collaborate when possible on opportunities that could benefit multiple networking partners.

On top of that, the obvious answer is that you need to actively participate – in the meetings, in the discussion and frequent one on one meetings with other people. 

It’s also important to realize that things take time.  You’re not going to make any progress until someone Knows, Likes AND Trusts you, and that curve can take months to get through.

If you’ve got other ideas or suggestions on how to get the most out of your networking, I’d love to hear about them.

Shawn Kinkade

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