I get it.
The first time I went along to a networking group I was like “get me out ASAP!”
It was a group of people who gave zero fucks about me or my business and even though I knew they didn’t have to, they also didn’t even want to.
When I left, I jumped on online and saw a blog post called “networking is dated and broken” and I was like preeeeeeach 🙌🏻
But then I saw an overwhelming number of blogs saying the exact opposite.
How does that work?
So I decided to give it a proper try.
After 12 months of constant networking, here are the common objections I hear about it and the solutions that, in my experience, work almost every time.
7 Problems With (and Solutions To) Networking
1. Networking just feels gross and uncomfortable
Just the thought of going along to a networking breakfast for lunch, feels like your mum set you up on a play date with other kids.
And hey, those kids may not like the same toys as you! But instead of kids, it’s business owners and instead of toys, it’s pretty much everything ever.
What’s so bad about play dates?
I mean sure, they may be awkward AF or you might just straight up not like the other kids. But there is always the chance that you’ll find someone on the same level as you, and it could be the start of a really great friendship.
Just like play dates are only for kids, Networking is really only for business owners. So rest easy knowing that you will have at least that in common and on some level they might be feeling hella awkward, too.
2. Your ideal client isn’t in the room
You’ve been along to a few networking groups but you are consistently Frustrated that there’s never anybody in the room that might actually like and buy your product. So now you have to sit through a bunch of irrelevant sales pitches when you could be on Instagram connecting with people who actually care.
Here’s a bit of a wake up call for you: your ideal client will almost never be in the room. No one has ever gone to a networking meeting for the purpose of buying something.
The thinking around networking needs to shift from selling “to the room” to selling “through the room”.
Obviously, the combined network of everyone in the room is much much larger then the number of people in the room. Yet we tend to forget this and get hung up on trying to sell to the people at the event.
Your ideal client could be the mother, daughter, cousin, or business partner of the person sitting next to you, who you think is irrelevant.
3. Networking is a boys club
Yeah, you're not wrong.
The gender disparity in business is not only present in the corporate world but it’s also evident in the social circles surrounding business.
You might be thinking “What good does it do me being in a room of people whose view of business doesn’t include me or the people I care about?”
“The trajectory of progress always happens in fits and starts… and you have to balance what you want and where you’re going with what is and what has been.
Sometimes the task is to make incremental improvements or try to steer the ocean liner 2 degrees north or south so that 10 years from now, suddenly we’re in a very different place than we were but at the moment people may feel like “we needed a 50 degree turn, we don’t need a 2 degree turn”. And you say, well, if I turn 50 degrees the whole ship turns. And you can’t turn 50 degrees… As long as they’re turning in the right direction and we’re making progress, then government is working sort of the way it’s supposed to.”
This is an incredible analogy for how to create and motivate change.
In my time networking, I've been fortunate to have met some truly incredible women, who are changing the face of the Australian business landscape in many ways. At a time when there was no one representing them, a few of these women put their hand up to be in the room and in doing so have been at the forefront of changing the gender-make up of business networking.
Being the first woman in the room would have been hard. The second? Slightly easier. The fiftieth? You get the picture.
Now, after many woman have made many 2 degree changes, we have entire flourishing networks of powerful and inspiring female business owners and entrepreneurs (Business Chicks, The Collective Hub, HerBusiness) who were willing to be the first in the room.
4. People are just trying to sell you all the time
You walk into a networking event, put your bag down, turn around, and someone is in your face.
There’s little to no introduction, their business card is already firmly in your hand, and you’re already three minutes into a five-minute pitch on why their business is the best that has ever existed.
This will always be the case. You will always find people who just don’t get it. But let me say this, this is not networking. This is bad business.
Because this has become the accepted norm, you have an incredible opportunity to stand out from these snake oil salesman by just being yourself, authentic, and real.
Lead by example, they will eventually wake up.
5. It takes too much time, I have a job to do
How can anyone be expected to be in business and get shit done, if they are always going to networking events and checking in on Facebook? Is networking just for people with no clients?
Hot tip: networking IS business.
No one ever made money by not selling their product. Getting out in front of people who may have a network of people you can sell to and developing relationships with these people is some of the most important work you will ever do.
If you play the game right, networking can be an extremely powerful and disproportionately affordable sales channel.
6. I get bad leads from networking
Anytime someone has recommended me to their friend or colleague, it has been a bad experience. Either they want discounts, special treatment, or just had no understanding of what I do.
OK so this one is actually entirely your bad.
If someone is referring you incorrectly, you haven’t done your job explaining what it is you do. The purpose of going to a networking event is to educate every person you meet on what you do and how they can tell everyone about it clearly and effectively. If you don’t, you’re wasting everyone’s time.
Learn to articulate what you do clearly and in several different ways, so you don’t become a broken record.
7. It’s just so expensive
I’m a small business owner, I don’t have an endless bank account to just go to breakfast all the time with no guarantee that I’ll make money out of it.
Let’s talk about cost for a moment.
The cost of networking is definitely more than the cost of eating at home while watching a business webinar.
It’s more than bumping into someone in the line at the supermarket and learning that they’re in business.
It’s more than messaging people on LinkedIn or Instagram or Facebook trying to connect.
However, the ratio of business owners to non-business owners at a networking event is 1:0. The ratio of business owners in those people’s wider network is probably also very close to 1:0. So, not only are you reaching more people at an exponential rate, the relevance and potency of that audience is far greater than any other form of connecting.
What would it cost you and your business to walk away from that audience?