While coaching a fledgling solopreneur recently, we reviewed her networking habits to see what was working for her and what wasn’t. She had an active networking schedule, which was fine considering she was new in town and just getting her business started. Meeting lots of people was important to her at this stage, but she also had some concerns.
“With all the networking I’m doing, what happens when I start getting more clients? How will I have time to get my projects done?”
I asked my client what she meant.
“Every networking event turns into 5 or 6 invitations to coffee or lunch,” she replied. “I’m meeting people morning, noon and night for one-on-one’s. It’s getting kind of overwhelming.”
“You’re accepting every invitation?” I asked.
“Well, don’t I have to?”
Oh boy. I knew we had to have a serious chat about this. It was time for my client to get more focused and on-purpose with her networking.
And to answer her question: No, she didn’t have to accept every invitation. And neither do you. Here are a few reasons why:
1. You only have so many hours in each day. For my client it was time to create some strategic priorities and policies on how she wanted and needed to spend her precious time now that she was attracting more business. She decided three coffees and two lunches each week were the most she could do. When she got busier she would pare back further. With these policies in place people had to wait a little longer to get together with my client. As a result, many gave up quickly, an indication of how serious (or not) they were about their invitations in the first place.
Note: There will also be times when you just can’t fit in any coffees or lunches due to a heavy work load or other priorities. Simple say, “I’m so sorry. I’m staying really focused on other things for the next several weeks. Maybe another time when I’m not so busy.”
2. Not everyone you meet is a fit for you or your business. Take the time to figure out who would be a fit and accept those invitations only. And for the record, it’s perfectly okay to accept an invitation from someone you really enjoyed meeting and with whom you simply “clicked.” Even if there isn’t an obvious business reason. Some of the best and most rewarding networking connections never turn into business. But they still matter.
3. Many networkers are in it purely for themselves. They will boldly ask you to coffee or lunch because: a) they have nothing better to do and want to fill up their schedules or socialize, b) they only want to talk about themselves and their businesses, c) they want to pick your brain when they should be paying you for a consultation, or d) they want to sell you something (or get you to sell their product for them). Harsh and cynical, I know, but it’s reality. Hone your radar to identify and avoid these time-suckers before they hijack your schedule and take over your life.
If any of this resonates with you, get yourself a copy of my new book The Intentional Networker™: Attracting Powerful Relationships, Referrals & Results in Business. It’s earned 5 stars and a Highly Recommended rating from Midwest Book Review ( which I’m told is a pretty big deal).
I’m also very interested in what you have to say. What do you do about the endless parade of coffee invitations you get while out networking? Do you accept every invitation? Why or why not? Do you have policies or strategies? Or do you go with the flow? Leave your comments below.
I love what you had to say about this in your book! I’m still reading it actually. I’ll be buying another copy when it hits Kindle so I can highlight/note to my heart’s content (I’m a little weird about writing in my books LOL) – yes. I know.
Love this – I used to joke that I could work for coffee 60 hours a week if I accepted every invitation when I was doing a LOT of networking.
Another suggestion is to block time in your schedule each week say Friday from 2-4 and invite several people to come and join you instead of doing all of this 1-1. You can often get to know people in a small group of 4-6 people just as well as 1-1.
Great idea, Lisa! It becomes a nice little networking event that has multiple benefits. Thanks for this.