Are You Networking Enough?
by: Shannon McNay
I was recently having coffee with a friend and fellow business owner when I told him that my business has hit a snag. While I’ve recently had great conversations with potential clients who seem jazzed to work with me, I’ve been having trouble closing the deals (a salesperson I am not). What’s worse, my friend helped me admit the thing I didn’t want to admit to myself – that I’d much prefer to scale my business so I can take on a consultant role and allow others to execute the strategy I create for my clients. But if I want to hire, I need to obtain the money to do so through more new deals than I currently have in my pipeline. As my friend and I talked about my dilemma, he delivered advice that was so simple and obvious that it rendered me speechless:
“You need to get out there and network more.”
Oof. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel kind of like an idiot at that moment. Of course that’s what I should do! Here I am talking about the importance of networking every week on this blog, and yet I forgot to apply that principle to my own life.
It turns out that I fell prey to the very thing I’ve been warning all of you about. I’ve been spending so much of my time focusing on the actual work I do that I completely forgot that networking is an important part of that work. There’s no way to run a business without it. Without a steady stream of clients coming in, there would be no business to run.
Maybe networking doesn’t come naturally to you. I know it doesn’t to me! I’d much rather tout the services of my colleagues than tell other people why my work is valuable. And I could go on for days about the importance of content strategy…without ever saying I’m the one they should hire to do it. For better or for worse, I just don’t like to sell myself.
Luckily, what I do like is to connect with people. Although the thought of mingling at a party makes me want to hide, I do enjoy meeting new people. Therefore, the easiest way for me to get over my fear of mingling is to focus on the people I meet. And if I’m in the right kind of crowd (the kind that gives as much as it takes), then the conversation will eventually turn to what I do. Nine times out of ten, if that person has any need for content, they’ll get really excited and schedule a meeting to discuss working together. So, you see, all I really need to do is show up, tap into my natural desire to make new connections, and let the rest happen organically.
So then what is my problem, really?
Let’s go back to my friend’s advice: “You need to get out there and network more.” While I’m always tempted to start by saying networking the hardest part, I think the actual difficulty is in the “getting out there” part. If I have a lot of work to do, or if I’m in a good writing groove, the last thing I’ll want to do is stop the flow to attend a networking event. So I fall into my fear of networking and use that as an excuse to not go. I’ll convince myself that I’ll go for sure “next time” and the cycle repeats until what happened to me recently: the projects are turned in and there are no new clients to move on to.
No matter how good of a flow you’re in, no matter how much you might detest even the idea of selling yourself, you can prevent this from happening to you. Dedicate a certain amount of time every week to networking. Find events to go to, meet friends and colleagues for coffee, look for new conferences nearby. Don’t fall into the trap of burying your head in the work – because pretty soon there might not be work to do.
As for me, this all comes at fortuitous timing because I already had plans to attend a conference later this week. It’s one that I’ve been to a few times before so I already know a lot of people that will be there, making it just as much fun as it will be important to my business. Now, when I get on that plane, I’ll know not to squander the opportunity to build a new pipeline of clients – and to take my own advice and stay in touch with them for months to come. No more burying my head into my work, it’s time to get out there and network!