“I’m networking my ass off! I don’t know why I’m not getting any business.”
A colleague said this. We were in a group, so I resisted the urge to shout, “I do!”…and tried to smile supportively instead. But it was true. He was networking like a mofo and his business was still tanking.
Despite what you may have heard, networking is not a magic elixir. Especially if you do it wrong. And, man, a lot of people do it wrong. I suspect you’ve crossed paths with those people. Hell, maybe you are one of those people.
If your networking isn’t working for you, here are three reasons why and what to do about it.
1. You’re hustling too hard.
In other words, you’re doing it wrong.
Ever been at a conference and had someone shove their business card in your face before you even finish saying hello? Ew. Don’t be that guy.
I don’t know about you, but the moment I get a whiff of desperation is the same moment I decide that I’m not giving that guy any of my time or money.
If you are feeling desperate, remember these three words: “Easy there, tiger.” You can give someone your business card at the end of a conversation, or when somebody asks you for it, or when somebody gives you theirs. Otherwise, keep it in your pants.
I shove a lot of the random business cards I receive in a box, many of them never to be seen again. It’s the conversations I remember and I only follow-up with someone if I dig their vibe.
2. You’re talking to the wrong people.
Any time I do a speaking gig I make sure I’m either paid appropriately or that the audience is made up of my ideal clients (who end up hiring me and, thus, I get paid indirectly).
With that said, one of my speaking gigs this year was a bust. I didn’t do my research and agreed to give a talk for job seekers. You’d think the fit would be great because I’m a career coach, but I’m a high-end career coach and most of my clients are currently employed (in other words, they’re making money that they can pay me with). The folks in this audience were out of work and couldn’t afford to work with me.
The lesson? Be strategic about your networking. I hadn’t asked enough questions to ensure that my ideal clients were in the audience. Hint: If they can’t pay you, they aren’t your ideal clients.
3. It’s getting in the way of your real work.
Sometimes you just need to keep your head down and do your work.
A lot of people I know like to get together with colleagues for coffee and chit chat. They call it networking. It’s not. Not unless it enhances your work in some way. Are you hoping to learn something new? Collaborate on a project? Bounce some ideas around?
I’m all for building a tribe, but too much coffee with the tribe can be a sneaky form of procrastination. For this reason, I’ve cut out most coffee dates unless I sense that it’s going to be mutually beneficial. In my line of work, people who say we should “catch up” are usually looking for free coaching or business advice. No thanks. I’m a nice person, but I’ve got shit to do.
Still not sure if what you’re doing is productive networking? Treat yourself like a paid employee. Would you pay someone to do what you’re doing? Is there a potential payoff linked to an important outcome? If not, skip it.
Published at Entrepreneur.