One of the questions I get all the time is “How much time should I spend networking?”
It’s a good question, and unfortunately the real answer is “it depends.” It depends on where you are in your business. If you are new to business or networking, you’re going to spend more time at it than when you are established. But even established business owners need to spend some time networking.
My rule of thumb is one to two events a week and the same number of one on one meetings. You also need to allocate some time for follow up. I recommend 30 minutes per two hours of meetings.
Let me break those down a bit.
1. One to two networking meetings a week
That sounds like a lot of time, but you can control your time by attending morning and evening events. That way you retain most of your daytime hours for clients. I am not a fan of lunch meetings. With travel time, a typical lunch meeting can take 2 1/2 to 3 hours out of your day. Morning and evening meetings are more time effective. If you are going to attend a lunch meeting, make certain it’s advancing your goals.
2. One to two one on one meetings a week
These don’t always have to be in person. Meeting with new contacts in person is ideal, but once you have a relationship, you can maintain the relationship with phone meetings. I had a good one yesterday. A contact called me to work out if someone was a good referral for me. Turns out it wasn’t, but it was a good phone meeting and will make him more able to refer me in the future.
One on one meetings will dictate the number of networking meetings you need to attend. If your calendar is filled up with one on one meetings, then you can back off your networking meetings for a week or two. No use meeting more new people until you can schedule time to sit down with them.
3. Follow up time
I recommend 30 minutes of follow up time for every two hours of meetings. After networking events, that follow up time is for scheduling one on one meetings or perhaps making connections between people. After one on one meetings, that follow up time is almost always going to be for making or following up on referrals.
This 30 minutes is vital to your success. I know people who attend lots of meetings, sit down for lots of one on one meetings and the fall apart here. If you’re not following up, you are missing out on potential business and not meeting commitments. Both of those affect your reputation and your bottom line.
Does this help? Yes, it’s a lot of time. But good networking is an investment. If you spend the time to build and maintain a good network, you’ll spend less time overall prospecting and wasting time on sales calls with people who aren’t really interested in your products or services.