A few days in the year I set aside time to take fifteen-minute phone calls from anyone who wants to talk to me.  I’ve probably had fifty or sixty calls the last few days and have about one hundred more scheduled.  A common theme question I’ve heard on these calls concerns networking groups such as BNI or Chambers of Commerce.  Here are some tips to help you decide whether to join a networking group:

  1. Know yourself; are you a good networker? Personally, I am a TERRIBLE networker.  I would much rather crawl into a cave and sit there all by myself making a computer program than go to a networking event!  Therefore, I am not a member of any networking groups.  To join such a group would be a waste of time for me.  When you attend a social gathering, do you leave with new lifelong friends or do you leave early wishing you hadn’t gone?  Don’t fall into the trap of feeling that you are required to join local networking groups since you are a business person.  If you join a group which wastes your time, then you are wasting your money.  So, don’t do it!

 

  1. Will you accomplish your objectives by joining? Just because you make friends and connections easily doesn’t mean you should join a networking group.  For example, I understand that BNI sets up introductory meetings for members once or twice a month with a different group of members.  The seeming objective of these meetings is to meet new people with whom you can have opportunity for making sales.  However, sales people often become more enthused with networking for the sake of networking than for making money from it.  At some point you must ask for business.

 

I suggest you create a special offer for your networking group.  Create something for them with minimal or no risk, such as a trial period.  Then make sure you close the deal, ask them for something.  Say, “It was great to get to know more about your business.  Now, you know a little bit about mine.  One other thing I want to mention to you is the special offer I have for BNI members right now.  Here is what I can do for you.”  After your explanation, close the deal with this, “The next step would be ______.  Are you ready to take that step?”

 

Are you willing to risk the relationships you’re building in the networking group to make a sale?  Are you thinking, “If I close the sale, will this person get a bit upset?” or “What if my reputation at BNI is hurt?”  Unless you overcome that mindset, you probably should not belong to a networking group.  If those are your thoughts, your time will be more productively spent in the field talking cold turkey to a stranger so you can close sales.

 

  1. Make sure you have an objective. If your objective in joining a networking group is to sell a product or service, measure the time spent by the number of sales made.  Realize that prospecting and networking are the same activity rather than two separate ones.  Networking is guaranteed contacts for you to prospect.  You are in sales; go sell somebody.  If you can’t do that in your network group, I advise you to leave the group and stop wasting your time there.

 

  1. Know yourself – are you good at networking and moving those conversations toward a closing pitch? If that describes you, then my advice is join the networking groups and close deals like crazy!  The investment for those willing to close sales in networking groups is ridiculously low.  $100 here and there is nothing compared to closing a lot of sales.  Networking is a very good deal if you are willing to put in the time and close the sales.

My names is James Shepherd.  I hope these tips have helped you with your networking. 

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