Recently I had an email exchange with Ryan C m, another business owner.  Ryan burns the candle on 3 ends, he is raising a young family, he a full time law enforcement officer, and he sells life insurance. 

He indicated to me that he found it interesting that business people attend networking events,  exchange business cards, and perhaps connect on social media, but it seems to end there. He asked, “Why is that? And how can people really continue to grow that business connection?”

This is something I’ve heard before but it hasn’t been put in a defined question like Ryan did. Because he articulated the issue and question so well, I thought it deserved some blog time!

Let’s jump into it!

We have a few challenges here, so let me address them all:

  1. The networking: many people are really bad at this. They are interested in sales not relationships. So they come on strong and often never follow up or even follow through. If instead they were really focused on caring and connecting, then they wouldn’t come on so strong and they would see networking as a long term strategy rather than a short term sales activity!
  2. Not all connections are worth pursuing at a deeper level. Like it or not, we all make assumptions about the people we meet at events. Sometimes they really rub us the wrong way. I’m a firm believer that we do business with people that we know, like, trust, and care about.  These are the people that we can #High5 in any hallways we see them in! Additionally, there may already be people in your existing network that are doing a great job and you aren’t looking to replace them. As such if you meet someone that does the same thing, then you may likely not need to build a deep connection with this contact!  Focus on who you like, get along with, and who you need to have in your network, as not every connection is worth pursuing.
  3. Going deep means narrowing your focus, and that means less connections. While it would be awesome to meet three people at every networking event, if you attended 1 event per week, this would be 12 people per month, and that is 144 people per year that you are attempting to go deep. The problem with this is that it’s not maintainable! It might be achievable in the sense that you can connect with 144 people, but you can’t go really deep with them all. It’s too many people to go deep and connect with.  Think of it this way…you want to go deep with people you’d invite to a cookout at your house! 144 people is a lot of people to invite, not to mention you current set of contacts which greatly exceed this new set of contacts. Try to meet people, but go deep with just a few. Ultimately this means you’ll follow up with less contacts from these events.
  4. Some industries are unique and present a challenge. The financial services industries are notoriously hard to get good, deep, meaningful connections and that means it takes more time and effort on the financial professionals part.  If you work in this industry you’ll need to take complete ownership of the relationship, the reach out, the constant follow up, and the overall success of that relationship. I know that sucks, but that’s the reality. There are far more financial planners and life insurance agents than there are Chimney sweep professionals. As the young people say, “that’s what’s up!” 

Regardless of the industry you are in, the responsibility of growing your network is yours, and yours alone!  Build the right plan that works for you and stick to it! I assure you that this process works, and you’ll eventually break that glass ceiling of valuable contacts!