Saturday, February 12, 2011

Stop Networking! You Already Know Enough People.

The golfer steps up to the tee, pulls out a driver and swings. The ball soars perfectly straight, right down the middle of the fairway.

Without even admiring the drive (or where the ball eventually stops), the golfer places another ball on the tee and swings again. Another great drive! Also right down the middle of the fairway. This one skips twice, hits one of the many other balls (just white dots from where the golfer stands) and the two balls roll forward a few feet before they stop, both hitting other balls along the way.

The golfer places yet another ball on the tee...

For many people, this golfing analogy describes their networking (and sadly, entire business development) strategy. Stand at the tee, hit lots of balls onto the fairway and either hope for a hole-in-one or that, by some miracle, one of the balls will knock another one onto the green. Once the ball is on the green, we suddenly notice it and try to putt it into the hole. The problem is that the fairway is often littered with balls that have sat there for years and years and years.


I promised I'd assess the last three years of networking coaching efforts to determine how many professionals and companies needed more contacts in order to reach their business development goals.

Individuals: 12/79 (15%)
Organizations: 4/10 (40%)

Of 79 individuals, I can recall only 12 that didn't already have plenty of contacts to fuel their business development plans. This counts two professionals who had long lists of contact, but after review it was determined that they didn't have enough of the right contacts, so did need to meet new (more targeted) people.

Organizationally, only 4 of the 10 companies needed lead generation efforts; they had enough names in their contact databases.
|>A caveat: No one nor any company should ever stop marketing. Using the analogy above, you should have a plan to continually drive balls onto the fairway. But if your business development effort does not include a strategic, step-by-step plan for moving these people from 1) initial meeting to 2) engaged community member to 3) referral source/prospect, then you are wasting your time meeting them.<|
Recently, I asked a professional to print out his contact list so we could assess it for potential clients, promoters and centers of influence. His administrative assistant contacted me with some desperation in her voice.

"Do you really need a print out? It's eighty-four pages."
I asked, "How many per page?"
A long pause as she counted. "Thirty-seven."

Let's do the math: 84 x 37 = 3,108 contacts! To be fair, the last page only had 27 names on it, so we didn't quite hit 3,100. Also to be fair, this professional knew he had enough network contacts already. However, we both looked at this list and wondered where we would even start. The list itself was overwhelming.
|>The question is: If you output all your contacts onto a spreadsheet, how many would you have?

A better question is: How many more do you need? Odds are (85% likely by my non-statistical count), the answer is none. You already have enough.<|
So... Put down your driver, get out an iron and start clubbing those balls down the fairway and onto the green. The good news is that no one is counting strokes*. They only care about how many balls you get onto the green and into the hole.

And here's a question for the business leaders out there: Can you see all those white dots out on the fairway? That's wasted opportunity! And wasted cost of getting the balls out there. (Do that math if you need additional motivation.)

*Many companies do track the number of tee shots. Some even compensate on this. We can argue whether or not this is valuable and that is arguable. However, if you are only measuring tee shots and sunk balls, then you deserve what you are getting, which is a lot of wasted time and money meeting people who will be contacted once and then left to rot on the fairway.

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