In one of my last articles, I asked, “Is it possible to network too much?” A related question is, “Should I stop networking in this group?” Depending on what is happening, the answer may be a resounding, “Yes!”
Sales today is about being vigilant in using limited time. Most salespeople spend less than 30% of their time in active selling and less than 50% of their total time in any aspect of selling. The rest of the week is filled with travel, marketing, company meetings, training, client problem resolution, and paperwork. All of these are part of sales so we can’t get rid of them. What we can get rid of is unproductive networking time.
Networking is a sales function inside another business—the networking group is its own business with income, expenses, and they hope profit. The group exists to make money by providing the service of connections. Think the chamber of commerce isn’t a business because it’s a not for profit? Ask their president how long they could survive if they took in less money than they spent and you’ll hear the answer: not very long! Most other networking groups are for-profit businesses whose ongoing success is based upon collecting dues money from members and meeting fees from visitors.
Is that bad? Not at all. In fact, it’s very good because it makes them deliver a product that you are willing to buy. If the group is working for you, you are (or should be) happy to pay your dues. If the group isn’t working for you, then you should take your business elsewhere and the group should understand that it failed to satisfy you.
How do you know if a group is working for you? First, make a list of every networking group you work and then add up over the last six months the total number of hours you spent on that group. Include meeting time, driving time, follow up phone and email time, appointment time, one on one time—everything that took time away from you doing anything else, and get a total for each group. Next, look at your sales during the same timeframe and tie each sale to the networking group where the lead for that sale first originated. Don’t stop at one generation, but go as far back as you can trace it. Maybe Ken called you because Mary gave him your number, but if Mary got your number several months ago from Larry, and you met Larry at Networkers Inc., then Networkers, Inc. was your source. Do this for every client and then add up the number of sales dollars under each networking group. When you are done, divide sales for each group by hours for that group, and you have sales per hour invested. Finally, compare your groups.
Are some groups more valuable than others? Most likely, yes. Is one group dominant? Could be. Either way, you should reward your best group—spend more time at it, take a leadership role, expand your reach in it. Go where you are making money. At the same time, the group at the bottom of your list needs to be taken off your schedule because there are too many great opportunities out there to let a bad group take up your valuable limited time. It’s a cold, hard, objective business decision on which group to dump—the one that is giving you the lowest sales per hour. If you wish to belong to a group that does not bring you value, that’s a charitable contribution decision that falls outside of sales.
Will the group you dropped complain and try to get you to reconsider? Probably as they are a business and their continuation is contingent on receiving income from members. But, at the end of the day, your first priority is to your business. When a group is not performing, dump it and find a new one or invest more time in the groups that are really ringing the bell.
There’s a lot more we could talk about on this and if you want additional details drop me a line or give me a call. Right now, it’s time to do some cold hard number crunching.
Jeff Bowe, Principal of ACTUM Group, is a sales trainer and outsourced sales manager who focuses on helping sales people make as much as they think they are worth, while increasing corporate profit as well. For more information, Jeff can be contacted at 317-577-3750 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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