Column: In networking, it's not just about meeting more people
Photo by Tobias Wolter
There's a myth in networking that goes something like: "The more people you meet, the more referrals you get." This would be technically correct if you added "All other things being equal" to the beginning of the sentence.
Of course, the statement says nothing about the quality of those referrals. Nor does it say anything about the actual number of referrals either.
So, if you've met 100 people and you are currently getting one poorly-qualified referral a month, then it stands to reason that if you meet another 100 people (and treat them the exact same way as the first 100), then you can expect to receive two poorly-qualified referrals a month. I don't know about you, but that doesn't exactly motivate me to head out for the next chamber lunch.
The other problem with this is that even if you treat your connections poorly, you've simply got a limited amount of time for them. Eventually you will hit the limit on the number of people with whom you can maintain even a bad relationship. At that point you can't increase the number of stinky leads you are getting each month.
So, what's the trick then?
Focus on fewer but higher quality connections you maintain in your network. Of course, increasing the number of connections will increase the number of referrals. If you want those referrals to be good ones, however, it's the quality of the relationships which really matter.
Here's your choice: Maintain 400 weak connections in hopes of receiving four or five referrals which may or may not apply to you. Of course, you'll be spending a lot of time adding new connections to the list as the old ones drop off (since you have nothing to offer them that will keep them around).
The other option is to maintain four or five really strong, inner circle connections each of whom might deliver one or even two well-targeted, pre-qualified referrals a month. Of course, to do that, you'll be spending time with folks you know, laughing over coffee, sharing your dreams, doing favors for and referring to them.
So, which would you prefer? Take your time and think about it.