Although the full complexity of your network may not be apparent even to you, the results of a good referral networking system are measurable.
If you’re expecting to find a direct, immediate correlation between your networking activities and the dollars you harvest as a result, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. It’s not like cold calling, where you can check off 500 phone numbers and see that you talked to 50 people and closed 7 sales and that 493 of your calls were a huge waste of your time. It’s not like sending out 1,000 mailers and getting just three of them back, which gives you a hard number (exactly three-tenths of one percent) but pretty wimpy results (exactly three-tenths of one percent). If your goal is immediate results, no matter how poor, these alternatives may be right up your alley. Mass advertising? Sure, it works, but even that traditional method can’t tell you exactly how many customers came into your store as a result of the enormous sum of money you spent.
The returns you receive through networking are like the apples you pick from an orchard you started from a single seed. You don’t expect anything the first year, or even the second or third. But in the fourth year that tree will not only bear fruit, it will spread the seeds that ultimately become a whole grove of apple trees. With networking, the time scale is not that daunting; it may not take years to start seeing results, but it will probably take many months. You might get a few early referrals, but the real payoff in measurable business comes after you’ve stuck with it long enough to build a substantial referral network. That’s when you’ll find that you’re getting referrals from people you never knew about, people who are connected to you only though several intermediaries, so many and from so many sources you may not even know exactly how many are the result of your networking.
Although the full complexity of your network may not be apparent even to you, the results of a good referral networking system are measurable. No, this is not a direct measure of the sales you’re getting, but to an experienced business person the information on networking says volumes about the condition of your network and its implications in terms of your eventual sales and business volume.
Here’s another way to measure your networking success: of the people you meet at a networking event, what percentage of them remember you 72 hours later? This is one measure of your visible identity, and it’s only one factor, but a significant one, in determining how successfully you are networking. Networking is more than just meeting people, and it isn’t about how many sales you get from the people you meet. It’s about how well you are remembered by a new contact, and whether you differentiate yourself from the other five people she met that day.
One of the most important metrics is the number of “coffee connections” (follow-up meetings) you have with your new contacts-at least, the ones you want to network with. A contact that is not followed up is a contact that will never become part of your network. There will be no business-no sales, no referrals, no meeting the powerful CEO he knows-unless you follow through.
You can measure the results, but you have to be tracking the right networking activities. Most big companies have their sales people track the wrong activities, and they can’t understand why their networking efforts are not working. To get the results you expect, you’ve got to track the right efforts.