Just say NO to low-level networking
Recently, I've felt kindof sheepish for discontinuing my involvement with a handful of networking groups. Truth be told, I just didn't think that the people participating were thinking (never mind operating) anywhere near the level I am/want to be. In two words: not ballers.
You know the types of organizations I'm talking about- they're the ones where everyone's content to socialize and thinks they're doing what it takes to grow but in reality it's a social club for people who are treading water. Harsh, but often the case.
I made the strategic move to ignore such groups on social media and not participate in their events because I want to be clear about the types of people I want to spend time around and do business with.
Instead of rushing around and saying yes to every coffee request, skype date, and $10 networking event, I decided that I wanted to be more strategic about my time and my people time.
And then, I started to feel guilty.
I felt bad that I was saying no to people, blowing them off, or otherwise avoiding their attempts to connect. I felt bad that I wasn't doing what I've been told is a required element of business building.
I felt bad that I was in some way judging them as "not good enough" for my purposes/intentions/goals and then felt even more badly.
Eeeeeewwwwww gross. As my man says (and he learned this from Handel Coaching), "Feeling bad is just a distraction; what are you going to DO about it?"
But we ladies (more than dudes) still have to deal with the fall out of feeling bad and THEN we have to own our powerful and strategic decisions in a way that feels better for us, honors others, and gets us where we want to go.
It is A-ok for me not to go to some events and socialize with some people if I'm not feeling it. No further explanation necessary; however, we also have little ego minds that demand analytical assessment for our actions.
If you're ready to shift away from low level networking to play with the ballers, here's what that looks like (according to moi):
1. Analyze your mojo. In this case, analyze your networking mojo. We just did this at my Be the CEO workshop and it's really enlightening.
First, write down the different streams of income you have on a sheet of paper.
1:1 coaching Corporate consulting/coaching Product sales
Next to each one, write down how much $ you have made in the past year from each of those. You could also do a ratio.
1:1 coaching- 45k+ Corporate consulting/coaching- 80k+ Product sales- 5k Other- ??? hahaha I need to get my book keeping game up
Next, write down the source of each piece of business and how much that business was worth in the past year.
For example: 1:1 coaching- (it's easiest to do this by name of client, amount of $ they spent with you and THEN how they found you. This is a super great exercise to gauge growth of new vs. existing business and then the inbound lead streams.) Here's my breakdown for 1:1 coaching: referral $1800, referral $3000, linkedin $1500, chance encounter- yoga! $4800, website/yoga class $6000, networking group/facebook $1500, friend $12000, referral- friend of chance friend $7500 etc.
Finally, what does it all mean?
Well, for me you can pretty much tell that my referrals are the source of my 1:1 coaching biz, that I have organic biz from online sources, and that chance stuff/yoga/going about my business in my own way generates revenue.
Hahahaha marketing people might not like seeing it, but those are my data points!
It looks like I could stand to be more effective on linkedin and online, and that nurturing organic connections is a GREAT way for me to grow my business. (Interesting to note: my highest value clients have come from in-person interactions/referrals.)
What are your data points? What patterns do you see now that you didn't see before?
Write 'em down.
2. Highlight your most impactful networking. According to the data points you discovered, what's working for you?
Clearly going to yoga works for me :) Also so does attending things I enjoy like speaking/workshop events and the like (I also wrote down how I met my referral sources.) Straight up networking things have almost never led to business for me. (Funny how that works.)
I meet corporate clients frequently at bars/out at restaurants or other social engagements. They usually try to hit on me!? That is a viable funnel for new clients, people. It's ok to think outside the box. (It helps that this method is also endorsed by my brothers and made much easier now that I'm engaged.)
I also just like to nurture my network. (Read Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi if you haven't yet.) I just wrote in an email to one Wokie that in lieu of joining one women's networking organization for $600 and dubious returns, I'd rather have four great meals with heavy hitters in my network.
3. Make guidelines. Here's where the hard part comes in. You have to create a baseline by which you assess all incoming invites, meeting requests, networking opportunities. Saying yes to everything indiscriminately is really saying, "I don't trust that there's More Than Enough work out there for me so I'm going to go to everything I possibly can and then maybe there will be enough..."
That feels gross, doesn't it?
Creating guidelines, though, says, "I trust that I show up in the right place at the right time to serve the people I'm meant to serve."
Ok, so what do guidelines look like? Well, mine are pretty easy:
For events: 1. Do I WANT to go? 2. Does it look fun and/or interesting? 3. Does it conflict with Date Night or my own self-care stuff or my friend stuff or my need to have silence? 4. If a cost is involved, can I expect a 5 or 10x return?
**Sometimes the psychic benefits outweigh the tangibles. If something is nudging you to attend something, heed the nudge.
For meeting requests: 1. Do I like this person (from what I know of him/her)? 2. Could we do skype or meet near my home? 3. What is our agenda? (Mine and hers.)
(In a separate post I'll write about how to gracefully decline meetings with people who give you the willies.)
If I'm not stoked about the event or meeting, then I don't take it. Further, I'm starting to be VERY picky about my scheduling. I am only doing new "networking" meetings one day every couple of weeks so it keeps those random meetings to a minimum as I prefer not to break up my day with all kinds of short chats here and there.
Finally, when I do go to an event, I have meaningful and memorable interactions with a few people (and preferably at least one of the speakers and/or hosts).
After that, I make my exit because I never want to be the last person at a networking event.
As for all that "I feel bad" shizzle, it's your ego rearing up and saying that it's scared that you are up-leveling. It's freaking out that you're wanting to operate in a different way. It's upset that you're not ok with status quo.
No wonder "feeling bad" and "feeling guilty" come up!
**The same thing happens with your friends groups too, btw, as you change who you are/what you do/how you live in the world.
If the ego roar is deafening, then please take some time and give it air space using Voice Dialog. My guess is that you have some pretty powerful information there if you're willing to hear it- information that will help you grow gracefully into the powerful vision of who you want to be.