Ever had that glazed look when you say what you do – ‘I’m a Health and Safety Professional’ – followed by ‘I deliver health and safety training to senior decision makers, their managers and supervisors and the shop floor’ … Reeaaally they say, trying to look fascinated in what I’ve just said and looking across my shoulders to see who else looks interesting.
I then started telling them ‘I keep CEOs and Managers out of jail’ they take the bait, look interested and say ‘Wow! How do you do that? Are you a lawyer?’ Having followed that up with the phrases above, the same reaction kicks in. Why is this? Well – it’s because most really senior decision makers, large PLC businesses and very successful SMEs who DO use my services DON’T actually need to network and are very rarely at these meetings. I once went to a network meeting that costs hundreds annually, then another pricey monthly lunch, to sit at table with ‘decision makers’. One time I was told that on my table was – yes – Virgin Trains! Wow I thought – now that’s what I need – the big boys! Well – he was a very nice man but was the Customer Services Manager at one of the small stations somewhere – nice though.
Needless to say I didn’t renew and before you all shout out ‘but it’s the people THEY know stupid!’ – been there, done that, at many a networking group, spent shed loads ‘o’ money and decided to cut my losses. Networking CAN work if you are a sole trader, a web designer or sell essential widgets, but you need to be realistic and decide what actually works for you. My profits have gone up, my expenses down and yes – I’m very busy thanks (targeted blogging, word of mouth, good recommendations). But there is one set of people that networking groups absolutely does work for and brings in massive returns – the network group organisers!