Can't Spare the Time to Network? Can You Afford Not To?
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I occasionally hear people express concern about family obligations interfering with their ability to attend business meetings. When I conducted a large scale survey on gender issues in networking, I expected to see a dramatic difference between men and women relating to family obligations and time devoted to networking. Instead, what I saw surprised me.
Several women had told me over the years that attending networking meetings in the morning was very hard for them. This is understandable, because even though our society appears more gender-equal than in the past, a large number of women have told me that they still handle the lion’s share of household operations, organizing family events and taking kids to school.
Yet in our survey results, differences in scheduling preferences between men and women turned out to be very small. Only a few more women (9.3 percent) than men (8.4 percent) expressed difficulty with morning meetings. Almost 22 percent of men, compared with about 19 percent of women, said that it was always easier to attend networking functions in the morning. Although the women in our survey found morning meetings to be less convenient, it was not by a large factor.
It seems that the truth of the matter is this: The benefits of networking outweigh scheduling obstacles.
Both women and men understand that, and this is why I believe the results were so even.
First, let’s take a hard look at financial benefits. As you know, in any business there are both soft- and hard-money costs to consider. “Hard money” is that which you take out of your pocket and includes credit cards, cash, checks and other possessions with monetary value.
Related: Richard Branson on How to Network. Hint: Early and Often
The term “soft money” is used to assign value to services or invested time, otherwise known as sweat equity. It may come as a surprise to you, but the riches that invested time reaps are greater than hard money spent. You also get more value for your soft-money investments than you would for spending what you think the equivalent is in actual dollars.
If you were to add up the soft-money investments of labor, networking, connecting, and building relationships, you may be surprised at the financial value you’ve delivered to your business.
Let’s look at the array of positive wealth effects that networking brings, beyond just sales numbers.
• Added sales volume
• Higher average transaction amount per sale
• Greater closing ratio
• Referrals tend to be very qualified professionals
• Higher occurrences of leads and referrals
• More repeat business
• Greater positive word-of-mouth marketing benefits
• More customer loyalty
• Stronger community recognition
• Greater perceived value
The more solid relationships you build, the more credible you are. The more your credibility grows, the more people will hire and recommend you.
Even more important: The impression of quality is created through networking.
The impression of quality is a powerful one. It is well-known that consumers are willing to pay more for services and products that they equate to be high in both ethical and product value. From locally grown organic produce and safer foods, to fair-trade-produced coffee and businesses that donate a portion of their proceeds to philanthropic ventures, consumers, by their spending choices, are showing the market that ethics and quality are what they want.
What better way to convey the image of quality for your business than with the support vote of those who believe in you so much that they can’t stop talking about you?
By the validation of many people vouching for you, your name is passed along with more and more frequency and confidence. After you have repeatedly established proof of quality, you’ll be referred in such a manner that neither your rates nor quality are questioned. These benefits transcend gender differences.