Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Ten Reasons Businesses Fail to Make Business Networking Work for Them

With the New Year fast approaching, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on what you might be doing to stop yourself making the most of your business networking. Have a look through this list and ask yourself where you are falling down.

Perhaps that will give you some food for thought as you consider your new year's resolutions on January 1st.

So here are ten reasons I believe businesses fail to make networking work for them. What would you add to this list?

1 - They don't have a clear message.

We all think that we communicate clearly what we do, but few of us do this successfully.
RESOLUTION TIP - Ask people in your network for their perception of what you do, who for and when people need your help.

2 - They don't know what success will look like

We join networks with a vague idea that they will help our business but without planning out exactly how.
RESOLUTION TIP - Work out the REAL cost of your networking to you, and then set yourself a challenging, yet realistic return which will justify your investment. How will you reach that return?

3 - They fail to commit

It's not enough just to join a network or plan a strategy, you have to see it through. It's an old cliche, but you really do get out what you are prepared to put in.
RESOLUTION TIP - Look at your networking memberships and goals and ask yourself what YOU have to do to get the results you are looking for. Then ask yourself how achievable it is. If it's too much, adjust your activity to make it more realistic. If it's easy, perhaps you could be doing more.

4 - They don't do their homework

"Fail to plan and you plan to fail". Before you attend a meeting, prepare for it. If you have to give a presentation, know exactly what you want to achieve from it and what you are going to say before you go.
RESOLUTION TIP - Put time in your diary each week or each month to look at forthcoming events and why you are going. Work out who you can catch up with or meet there and, if appropriate, contact people in advance to arrange to hook up. And plan any presentations you may have to give.

5 - They don't follow up their referrals

If you get a reputation for being unreliable, you won't get referrals. Whether you value the referral or not, FOLLOW IT UP. Even more importantly, make sure you feedback to the person who referred you and keep them in the loop.
RESOLUTION TIP - Keep a list to track all referrals received and latest action. If you are not responsible for following it up, make sure you know who is and get feedback from them to pass on. Most importantly, say thank you.

6 - They focus on the sale, not the relationship

Few people go to networking events to buy. So you have to ask yourself what the point is of trying to sell to people who aren't in buying mode. Think beyond the short-term gain and develop relationships. After all, wouldn't you prefer to get ten referrals from a long-term relationship than one sale from a passing contact?
RESOLUTION TIP - Go through your contact management system or business card file and pick ten people to whom you haven't spoken for a while. Re-establish contact and then stay in touch.

7 - They are '9 to 5 Networkers'

Many people believe that joining a network and either turning up to a meeting or logging in is enough. It isn't. The most successful networkers meet with their fellow members regularly OUTSIDE of meetings; whether socially or in 1-2-1 and small group meetings.
RESOLUTION TIP - Set time aside in your diary every week to meet people from your network, and make sure you fill that time. Attend your networking group's social events and get to know your fellow members even better.

8 - They are 'destructive' rather than 'constructive'

A network thrives on positive energy. If you are in a group that is struggling, use the meeting time to focus on making what you have work, keep concerns outside the meeting. If you want to contribute to blogs and discussions online, keep your comments positive and constructive, don't destroy other people's hard work with nasty or negative comments.
RESOLUTION TIP - Focus on being positive whenever you engage in your networking. People don't want to buy from or refer to negative people. If there are problems, keep your comments positive and constructive, focusing on the solution.

9 - They are collectors
Whether it's business cards at networking events or connections online, there are people who believe that he who has the most wins the game. Networking doesn't work like that.
RESOLUTION TIP - Collect and hand out cards if your conversation dictates it. Connect online with people with whom you have something in common, and talk about them when you connect, not yourself.

10 - They like their comfort zone
Many people attend events and find it a waste of time, because they've spent the whole time talking to their work colleagues and best friends.
RESOLUTION TIP - Don't let your nerves get in the way, break out of your comfort zone and meet new people. If you are going to talk to people you already know, make sure it fits with your strategy, not just because it's safe.


  1. Hi Andy,

    excellent post.

    Maybe you should write a book about that :-)

    I'd like to add something to tip 6:
    one tip I always give people in our training courses for sales people is to imagine that nobody they are going to meet will buy something from them BUT that they all know at least one person who will.

    So the only thing they need to do is explain to the people they meet what they do in such a way that they can pass the story on to their network.

    This gets the "selling" out of the conversation.

    Have a great 2009 !


    Jan Vermeiren, Founder of Networking Coach (www.networking-coach.com)

  2. I have read this a couple of times and agree with waht you say. I do, though, think there is a possible 11th reason. I knwo it comes under communication but there is not just unclear communication but also boring same old same old every week. How many times at our regular meeting when people stand up do you know exactly what they are going to say? How many times do they not say what they need or want? It is like saying "well I'm here..give me". It is not just what you say but how you say it. What captures the attention? What makes people want to listen? To want to help and give? A very important fact but all too often overlooked.

  3. Thanks for your comment Michael, you are spot on. Interestingly enough, I wrote these comments in my last newsletter:

    Knock their socks off
    Networking Skill Tip
    Do you attend a regular networking event where each member gives a short presentation on their business? Perhaps you are a member of NRG, BRX, BNI or 4 Networking for example.

    How much time and thought do you give to your presentation before delivering it? Is it a chore that you just want to leave until the last minute to worry about, or a pleasure that you anticipate with excitement? Do you think that how you feel about it and how much thought you have given it might transmit itself to your audience?

    That's right, your audience. Too often we forget that we are delivering a message to others in the hope they'll act on it. Instead we focus on basic, unexciting information just so that we can get it over with. We fail to inspire others to act on our behalf, we stand a better chance of sending them to sleep!

    Take some time out, ask yourself what you want to achieve from this opportunity and what your audience need to hear to help you achieve that goal. Make it interesting for them, keep it fresh.

    Knock their socks off and make it clear, ensure there's a strong message or call to action and make it memorable.