If we were guaranteed to get business every time we met someone new, we’d all be networking all the time, right?

But instead, networking takes time, it takes finesse and relationship-building, and often, you’ll find yourself talking to someone who may not be giving your their business or they may not have business to give you. Two complaints about networking that I’ve heard frequently are “this person doesn’t benefit me” and “I haven’t gotten any business yet.” But are these always wasted efforts? 

Networking is never a waste

Does this scenario sound familiar? You’ve invested your time in speaking with someone and learning more about them, only to find out that they’re in another, unrelated industry. You realize that you are unlikely to get business from them, and you feel frustrated, like you’ve been wasting your time.

But if you connect with someone and get along with them, it doesn’t matter what industry they’re in, or whether they can give you business. You are enhancing your reputation simply by speaking with them, and you never know where your next referral will come from. (Also, it’s good networking practice)

Consider the following scenario – you speak at length with someone that is not in a position to give you business (and vice versa). They really like you as a person, and you exchange information, but you doubt it will be useful. Later that evening, the person is speaking with someone else at the networking event, and finds out that he or she needs a lawyer with your qualifications. Your new friends becomes a connector, and says, “I just met Bob, who is the perfect person to help you with that. Let me introduce you, since he’s here tonight too.”

We can’t predict where our next introduction, referral, or even reputation amplification will come from, so every connection we make is valuable. Plus, it’s just not very nice to go through life wondering what people can do for you – think about what you can do for them, and you’ll be happier AND find yourself with business!

Where’s all my business?

Related to that is the idea that you’re not getting business through a networking event or organization – and this complaint requires digging a bit deeper.

There are some cases where this happens because you’re not in the right organization, and no matter how much effort and care you put into it, you will never get business from it. If your main purpose is business networking (and not, say, volunteering), then you’ve identified that it doesn’t work for you, and you can move on to investing your energy elsewhere.

But to do so, you first need to ask yourself some key questions:

  • How long have I given the organization/event to work? Did I go to one event and leave without business, and now I think it doesn’t work for me? Or have I been going to events regularly for years without success? If it’s the former, you need to give it more time – networking is a marathon, not a sprint. You will rarely, if ever, go to one event and come out with business.
  • Did I speak with multiple people at the event, or just one? Did I introduce myself to new people, or stick with the same group that I’m comfortable with?
  • Did I arrive late and leave early? Or did I come early, chat with the event organizers to see if they could introduce me to key people after I shared my goals with them?
  • Did I arrange to follow up with the people that I met at the event, by connecting with them on LinkedIn, arranging to meet for lunch or to have a phone call with them? Did I send them something after the event to remind them of our conversation?
  • Did I set goals for myself for the event (such as meeting five new people) and meet those goals? Or did I stay a wallflower wondering if someone would introduce themselves to me?
  • Did I talk about myself and my practice the entire conversation, or did I ask questions that could help me identify where I could perhaps be the solution to someone’s problem? Did I volunteer to introduce the people that I met to my clients and connections, or was I waiting for them to introduce me to theirs? Did I introduce them to others in the room I felt could benefit from their expertise?

We all like to think networking is as easy as walking into a room, chatting to some people and being friendly, and walking out with more business. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.