An Abundance Of Connections Foster New Business, But The Gold Mine Is Found In Our Existing Network
If you've built a network and you're still growing it instead of sustaining the relationships you've already established, you're taking the more difficult road towards success. The gold mine is not ahead of you, it's right in front of you.
A few years after moving from Arizona To Atlanta, I launched a small marketing business. Since I was building my network from ground zero (living in a new location), I had to do the hard work of meeting people and finding leads.
This involved cold calling both by phone and in-person. Unaware of the perpetual rejection I'd soon face, I actually stumbled upon a bit of success in this initiative.
Business Networking For Prospecting
If you've ever cold called, you know its no easy task and requires a volume of energy and connections to sustain. Eventually, I learned about an alternative business development strategy through networking groups and events. The big one that started me down this road was the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce.
Quickly I found a better way (for my approach and personality) to prospect, and this became my channel of choice for growing a book of paying clients. But, to meet enough people in need of my company’s marketing services led to attendance at an abundance of events. At times, I was visiting a dozen events per week and meeting hundreds of folks per month.
After several years of this perpetual activity, the size of my network grew into the thousands. There were too many people flowing into my database and many of the followup emails and meetings discussed quickly fell through the cracks.
While I tapped into a power source, I struggled to reap the benefits. Some research suggests five to twelve points of follow-up are required to close a deal. I was lucky if I accomplished one.
Maintaining My Network
The number of people I was meeting was unrealistic for effective relational maintenance (something I was not prioritizing at the time). While my network grew, most of it was shallow with little or no relationship development.
While seeing faces multiple times at different events did help organically keep up with the connections, my acquaintances and friends were neglected. Hiring salespeople helped, but it didn't resolve the root problem. I was meeting too many people and not going deep enough.
Eventually, I came to recognize quantity was the harder (but more fruitful) road and relationships really mattered. It also required less energy to sustain an existing relationship for building a book of business than the alternative.
I cut back on my networking (even though it was working), left many of my groups and shifted towards meeting regularly with people I had connected with along the way.
To help, I began hosting events where I could invite these people to reconnect and share connections. Meaningful relationships flowed from this regular engagement and we went deeper with our people and communities.
Reaping The Benefits of The Gold Mine
While we experienced the benefits of shifting towards a sustainable network model, it wasn't until I launched into freelancing that I truly got to see and experience the depth of this meaningful work.
During the concluding three months of my marketing business, I emailed, called and met with numerous people in my network about shutting down the company. This gave me an opportunity to share my motivation and bring others along. It also facilitated time for others to share their insights and wisdom as I explored my next career steps.
As the marketing company came to a conclusion, people in my network asked to work with me before I went and figured out what I would do next. Within a few months, there were numerous paying projects on my plate and I was freelancing.
Eight months later, it never stopped and I chose to embrace life as a freelancer and discover how to master it. During that time and the following three years, a majority of my paid client work came from people I knew (my network).
It was an unexpected blessing to receive such support and engagement from the people I knew, connected with and became friends. I couldn't do it alone, but together we were able to launch the new vocational path that financially provided for my family, and gave me an opportunity to deliver terrific value to small businesses.
So, while there are times where meeting new people is worthwhile, I've become a true believer in sustaining established relationships.
While it's challenging to do this with everyone, this blog, social media, phone calls, events, and in-person meetings all play a role in keeping the fire going with those that matter.
While I usually leave my agenda at the door, new work continues to flow from staying connected to those I know.