(Read the whole ‘Becoming a Connector’ series)
Allan and I were having dinner last night, you know Allan right? He is this phenomenal Architect from Scotland who is absolutely crushing it in business right now.
Allan is an amazing friend of mine and we’re currently doing the the “first-time Dad thing” together. He was my one of my first proper friends in business and I truly value his guidance.
After the usual “I love you man” banter, we quickly get to talking about business. I’m asking Allan about networking, a perfect topic of conversation for me because well…I’m writing a book on the topic, and it’s exactly where Allan and I met.
Chris and Allan – Friends
Business networking is what got Allan’s business off the ground in the first few years, and he quit around the same I did.
Half way through our dinner Allan said “I’ll probably never go back to networking full time, Chris, but I’ll go to the visiting days, and substitute for people and stuff like that. I’ve been invited to a new chapter of BNI a few times, and I’ll probably go to that”
ME: “Allan, based on what we’ve just spoken about, tell me why you think you should be considering going to the BNI visiting day.”
ALLAN: “Well you never know what opportunities there might be there. I might meet someone that turns into a great contact or client. I mean, we met at networking, didn’t we?”
CM: “That’s true Allan. Tell me, who’s inviting you to the Chapter? Who are your main contacts there?”
ALLAN: “I have two main contacts there, John and Mark.”
ME: “How well do you know them?”
ALLAN: “Well, I’ve known John for years and we’re good friends. Mark has been my accountant for 5 years.”
ME: “I have a few other questions for you. How many potential leads do you have at the moment? How busy are you?”
To cut a short story even shorter…
Allan has somewhere around 40-50 leads on his books. He’s currently oversubscribed. He can’t get through them fast enough. He’s busy. Like, working harder than he ever has.
He doesn’t need any new customers, a fortunate position to be in.
Allan also has a busy personal life with his son Flynn and wife Emma.
Here’s a summary of Allan’s situation:
- He still feels like he should be going to business networking
- He’s extremely short on time
- He’s currently oversubscribed in terms of new potential customers
- He has some strong contacts in his network
I think Allan is completely wasting his time and energy even thinking about going to business networking – it shouldn’t even be on his radar.
Firstly, Allan knows John and Mark well, and therefore already has access to John and Mark’s network and contacts. Allan does not need to turn up in room every week to get value from knowing John and Mark.
A far better use of Allan’s time is to take Mark and John out for lunch or dinner and further understand how they can help each other with introductions. Get to know each other’s life and business at a deeper level.
Maybe they could each bring a guest along to that lunch to introduce to each other. Just a thought.
This is also a much better use of John and Mark’s time, because Allan will become a great connector for them.
Derek Coburn, the author of Networking Is Not Working: Stop Collecting Business Cards and Start Making Meaningful Connections, believes that traditional cattle-call gatherings fool us into believing we’ve been productive, when we’re actually wasting time with an un-targeted approach. (Source)
If you want to build strong connections with the right people, the best strategy is to organise your own events and control/curate who’s there.
Secondly, Allan doesn’t need any new customers, he’s oversubscribed in terms of leads and prospects. He has a few strong sources, none of which are business networking.
Not that he would turn down a potential prospect, but what Allan really needs, just like all of us, is help with his current challenges and opportunities. This is where his connections can help him with relevant introductions that will help to grow his business.
This is not about getting customer referrals, it’s about connecting the right kind of people at the right time, and building strong and trusted relationships.
Finally, just in case Allan isn’t convinced, before he agrees to attend the visiting day, this is what I think he should do:
Thank John and Mark for the invitation, and then ask the following questions:
- How do you think I will benefit from coming along?
- Who will be there that you think I should meet and why?
And, if you deem it to be a good use of your time, then go along. You do not need to turn up to a room full of random people every week to do build and strengthen your network. This is not the best way.
I would only go to a business networking event if I knew that those inviting me have my best interests at heart, and really understand how I am planning to grow my business.
I think business networking is a complete waste of time for everyone, especially when you can see the bigger picture and value of Becoming a Connector.
Read the whole ‘Becoming a Connector’ series
Got a question? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or jump into the comments section below.