Networking just hasn't worked for you, possibly because your networking skills need work or, equally possible, because you're networking with the wrong people.
You might be better off establishing your own networking group.
That's what Barb Regnitz did. When she first became a financial adviser with a local brokerage firm in the early 2000s, "I was looking at several avenues to pursue," Regnitz says, "and getting into a networking group seemed obvious. The problem was I couldn't find one with an opening. Financial advisers are always the first to join."
Solution to the problem? Regnitz decided to create her own group. "I saw a chance to build a group that would be ideal for me (and also for others)," she says. Her criteria:
• B2B only. She thought a group whose members dealt in the business-to-business sector would be best.
• Regnitz wanted decision-makers in what is BSN, the Business Solutions Network, not just lots of people.
• She looked for "natural power partners," group members who could complement each other on sales calls. "It's a much more powerful presentation," Regnitz says, when, for example, her pitch on retirement plans is supplemented by a CPA power partner who talks tax issues -- even if that other BSN member gets the business Regnitz sought.
Leads are exchanged at BSN, but there's no lead offered blandly by members who saw a billboard on the way to the meeting; membership numbers generally are in the mid- to upper teens, and the members have come to know each other.
"We're trusted advisers," Regnitz says. As a result, round-the-table discussions reflect both knowledge of and interest in each member's business.
BSN works -- partly, Regnitz says, because others have shared leadership -- and could be an example if you choose to follow Regnitz' path and build your own networking group.
"The local chamber is a great place to start" trolling for members, says Beth Bridges, a Fresno, California networking motivator whose "Networking on Purpose" book is subtitled, "A Five-Part Success Plan to Build a Powerful & Profitable Business Network."
The typical chamber, Bridges says, "has put a lot of effort into finding people who want to network. Go to two events, meet a wide variety of people and start dialing in on the types of people you want in your network." Then, Bridges continues, repeat the process with a different, perhaps more specialized group, until you have your network in place.
Eventually your networking ability comes into play. "You have to know who you are and be able to verbalize that information in 15-20 seconds," says longtime networking guru Lillian Bjorseth, president, Duoforce Enterprises Inc., Lisle. "Focus first on the business, what you do. Then how you do it. Then who you are."
For every 10 people you meet at a networking event, Bjorseth says, you'll likely want to follow-up with two -- perhaps at coffee or a similar face-to-face opportunity.
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