Don't be a sheep!

19 Jun 2016 6:45 PMMike Bennett
Don't be a sheep!

Unless you are actually a sheep then please feel free to continue being a sheep. . . .

Networking! We all do it, we follow the so called etiquette, smile politely while losing the will to live as yet another salesperson tries to flog us the latest widget, gizmo or gadget to improve the quality of our water, air and everyday life. We are constantly told that it’s all about building relationships yet, seriously, how often have you come away from a networking event with the feeling that you’ve just lost 3 hours of your life that you’ll never get back?

Why do we continue to follow the same path, make the same mistakes and listen to presentations that are of absolutely no interest to us at all but feel that we’ll ‘miss out’ if we are not seen to be in attendance?

Back in the day, many business deals were secured on the golf course yet, despite not playing golf, we managed to run a very successful media training company for many years and didn’t feel that we were missing out. I’m sure that culture has continued but this obsession with networking has now reached saturation point and many events are now nothing more than social gatherings where card swapping is the norm but referrals and actual business is as rare as a politician answering a question directly during an election campaign!

I’ve been invited to several BNI events but have resisted as our line of work takes us away from home on a regular basis and, to be honest, I’m not a fan of compulsory breakfasts and strict rules involving membership of other networking groups. (I know, what a rebel eh?)

As we are a husband and wife team, we don’t have a huge list of replacements to call on for these events when we are interstate or overseas so that style of networking just doesn’t suit our needs.

Having just returned from running our relative responders and media training courses in the UK, it was interesting to note the differences in day to day business between the two countries. In the UK, if I want to pitch our courses to a company I’ll call up the head office, find the decision maker, make an appointment and ask for a 20 minute meeting to discuss what we can do for them. That’s all it takes and, as a rule, the decision maker will let you know if our services and support are useful. Here in Australia, it starts with a network event, progresses on to coffee (I don’t even drink coffee so that’s awkward!) where you exchange pleasantries about the weather, the family, holidays, sport (always a fun conversation when the word football comes into play!)and a morning’s worth of relationship building. . which invariably leads on to another coffee where we repeat the above. So, my question is simple. . . .why?

Just because “that’s the way we do business here” doesn’t mean it’s right for you so is it time to cut through the ‘bull’ (not a real bull and no animals were harmed during the writing of this blog!) and be more honest?

Maybe the social etiquette and general politeness needs to be replaced by total transparency. If we had enough work would we really be attending 3 or 4 networking events every week? Probably not so how about adopting more of the brilliant speed networking style event run by the IABC group a couple of months ago? You go into a room and pitch to each other without fear of breaking the rules. You ask if your product or service is of any interest to them while telling them a little about it and, if it’s not what they need or want to know about and vice versa, you simply move on to the next person. It’s a great way of saving time and people will admire your honesty.

If I have toothache and need some treatment do I need to invite a few dentists out for a coffee so I can get to know them before they fix my tooth? Nope, just fix my tooth please! How about buying a new TV or a car or some furniture? I wouldn’t ask the salesman to join me for a ‘one on one’ so we can get to know each other first – just sell me the car thanks!

With all of this in mind, for our business at least, we’re taking a long hard look at the value of networking full stop and will be putting quality in front of quantity when it comes to attending events.

Now, where’s the next ‘meet up’ for light bulb changers???? 


Don't be a sheep!janet culpittArrow Focus on

You are so right - well said. I felt exactly the same way some 3 years ago after my own networking which had started to meet other people for friendship and become involved in local community , had turned into me always being away from my work at some sort of event or catch up. My husband and I too have our own business and he had enough of me not being around , although he appreciated the referrals to our financial planning practice. I did a full networking audit and prepared a networking business plan and realised I could share this with others and hence my workshops and mentoring was formed. Results can be and should be achieved as you say. Too many business owner attend event for ' fear of missing out! ' and the become disgruntled as you do. I do drink coffee but will arrange a virtual follow up if needed to talk one on one to know more ,using technology so readily available these days.if I want something thoug I , like you , make an appointment and go and see. I do run my own ladies networking groups which are ultimately for relationship building and our aim is to give back to the community and recognise many groups of people who would not either network or be recognised by others for the work they do eg nurses, wives of police , firemen ,ambulance, teachers and the the like.

Don't be a sheep!Livia

Human beings are social butterflies, the ones that do it well spread joy for others to produce honey. But human beings are also pre-disposed hunters and gatherers and unfortunately the social butterfly has been hunted and killed by them...I see networking to be no more then that.

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