In a recent article, I asked, “Is it possible to network too much?” The answer was a resounding Yes! Indy has become a hot bed of networking, leading many parts of the country with networking groups and meetings. We have Rainmakers, Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce, area chambers including Fishers and Carmel, BNI, IBN, NAG, PRE, Gold Star Referral Club; niche groups including Alpha Chicks, Indiana Dental Education and Resource Association, Central Indiana Real Estate Investors Association, Christian Business Networkers Association, Christian Professional Chamber, National Association Women Business Owners, National Organization of Women in Business, American Business Womens Association, Indiana Manufacturer’s Association, human resources, Catholic Business Exchange, and Techpoint; and the focus groups such as career transition oriented BPE and CEO. If I took an hour, I could post another 20 links. I have joked that a person could network in Indy over 40 hours a week—and never make a sale. Is that a problem?
We network to start the sales process, not get in the way of it. For most people, networking is a way to avoid cold calling to identify prospects—which is a pretty good reason to network. Cold calling will never be as effective as receiving a phone call from someone who got your name from a networking partner who said you were the person to solve their pressing need. Next to that utopian situation, networking is a tactical way to meet prospects and contacts who can fill your schedule with pre-qualified prospects who want to talk with you.
If you are networking in Indianapolis, a critical consideration is whether your choice of groups is working for you. How do you know if a group is working for you? First, make a list of every networking group you work and then add up over the last six months the total number of hours you spent on that group. Include meeting time, driving time, follow up phone and email time, appointment time, one on one time—everything that took time away from you doing anything else. Next, look at your sales during the same timeframe and tie each sale to the networking group where the lead for that sale first originated. Do this for every client and then add up the number of sales dollars under each networking group. When you are done, divide sales for each group by hours for that group, and you have sales per hour invested.
Compare your groups and go where you are making money. If an investment is working, you may want to invest more to get more of the high return. At the same time, the group at the bottom of your list needs to be taken off your schedule because there are too many great opportunities out there to let a bad group take up your valuable limited time. It’s a cold, hard, objective business decision on which group to dump—the one that is giving you the lowest sales per hour. If you wish to belong to a group that does not bring you value, that’s a charitable contribution decision that falls outside the discussion of sales and business development.