When I hear someone talk about a networking group, I kind of cringe.
Networking has earned a dirty title in my book since I have attended so many meetings where individuals are there for the sole purpose of shoving business cards into as many sets of hands as possible. This dive-bomber approach leaves me feeling like there is no interest in starting a genuine and authentic conversation; rather, I feel like a piece of livestock at the fair that is being sized up and judged as to whether I will be of use to them. If for some reason I do not measure up or meet their expectations, I am discarded and ignored as they move on to the next piece of livestock. Not exactly the start of a prosperous business relationship.
After years of participating in these groups as part of my role in the various companies I worked for, I often joked that if I were paid to go to networking groups, I would be a millionaire just from that. But these groups and meetings were not where I found great value or connection.
Instead, I learned that the value of networking is not in attending as many meetings as you can cram into your schedule or about joining as many groups as will accept you. The real value of your network lies in the relationships you establish with the people you know, like, and trust – and the people they know, like, and trust. If you sit down with a piece of paper and brainstorm who in your life you know, like, and trust, and then you ask those people (with whom you actually have a relationship) to introduce you to people that they know, like, and trust who you also want to know, THAT is using your network.
So your true network might more aptly be called your “knowwork” – who you know and who they know.
If you’re struggling to figure out which networking groups might be worth attending to grow your “knowwork,” consider using the 80/20 rule, which I reference in our “Death of a Salesman” Masterclass and generally live by as a simple rule applicable in many areas of my life.
For the purpose of networking groups, the 80/20 rule works like this:
I attend a networking group if the group is comprised of 80% of my ideal clients OR if 80% of my revenue comes from clients or referral sources within the group.
So if I visit a group where 10 people are attending, then I know 8 of those attending must be my ideal clients if I am to continue with the group. Alternately, if I make $10,000 a week, and $8000 of that comes from clients and referrals from that group, I will continue attending and possibly join. For example, if I were a mom blogger, I would seek out networking groups where at least 80% of the attendees are mothers or people who have referred me 80% of my business.
Will you know as soon as you walk into a room whether a networking group meets the 80/20 rule requirements? Maybe not. You may need to attend a group more than once to figure out whether the group makes the cut, or you can also ask an existing member or someone who has visited before to share their insight.
But rather than spending an exorbitant amount of time test-driving networking groups, spend the majority of your time focusing on your “knowwork.” Seek out those who know, like, and trust you, and ask them if they’d be willing to help you grow your current connections by providing meaningful and warm introductions to good prospects or strategic partners.
We invite you to dive into our sales strategy masterclass, where you’ll gain a completely new perspective on how to grow your business.