The secret to getting more business through networking is. . . spending more time doing it!  OK, well, it’s a little more complicated than that because you have to spend time doing the right things. However, devoting the necessary time is the starting point. So how much networking time (or NetTime) should you spend developing your personal network and what kind of results can you expect to see? 

Based on a recent network survey conducted by the Referral Institute of over 12,000 business professionals from every populated continent in the world, we finally have a definitive answer to those questions. The study found that people who said “networking played a role” in their success spent an average of 6.3 hours a week participating in networking activities. On the other hand, the majority of people who claimed “networking did NOT play a role” in their success, spent only two hours or less per week developing their network.  

Clearly, those people who spent very little time engaged in the process felt that networking was not an effective way to build their business.  As with many other aspects of life, you clearly reap what you sow.  It’s no wonder that the people who didn’t invest as much time also did not realize as much reward or success.  This demonstrates the direct correlation between the amount of time you devote to the networking process and the degree of success that you will likely realize from it. 

The typical person in the survey who spent a little over six hours a week networking generated almost 47% of all their business through referrals and networking activities. Of the 12,000 global participants in the survey, women spent less time networking (6.19 hours compared to 6.44 for men), yet generated a higher percentage of their business through the process (49.44% compared to 43.96% for men).

Why would women spend less time and get a higher percentage of their business from referrals than men? Well, we discovered that men tended to be more transactional in their networking activities. That is, they were more likely than women to be focused on “business first and the relationship second.” On the other hand, women were more likely to be relational in their networking activities. In other words, they were more likely than men to “focus on the relationship first and do the business second.”

An emphasis on relationships first was clearly and undeniably a key factor in determining whether people were getting positive results from networking. When we looked at the responses from all the participants who said that networking had played a role in their success and then compared them to those people who focused on relationships first, we discovered that the majority of successful respondents correlated to those who felt that it was better to build the relationship first and then focus on the business. 

Consequently, regardless of gender, business professionals who focused on building relationships rather than going right for the sale tended to do better than those business people who did the opposite.  In other words, fostering relationships is the best way to bring in business when using networking as a strategy. The reason that women seem to have done better in the global study was that women tended to be better at relating to people more personally. 

Those who skip the relationship building and attempt to establish an “all business” interaction often discover that trust and goodwill are more than just window dressing – they are part of the social capital that energizes a mutually rewarding business relationship. People who bypass relationship building are more likely to feel that networking has not contributed to their success, and they are probably right – because they’re doing it wrong.   

You may be reading this article and thinking – OK, I now know that I need to be spending 6.5 hours a week networking and I have to focus on relationship building first, asking for the sale second. Well, that’s true IF you want to be average. But what successful business person wants to be average? If on the other hand, you’d like to be above average – you need to devote more time than that to the cause. The optimum amount of NetTime is more likely to be eight-to-ten hours a week if you want to be one of those people that are generating well over half their business from referrals. Most importantly, while you are spending the appropriate time networking, you also need to focus on truly building relationships and not just conducting transactions.

Dr. Ivan Misner is a New York Times bestselling author. He is the Founder and Chairman of BNI, the world’s largest business networking organization. He is also the Senior Partner of the Referral Institute, an international referral training company. His newest book on gender and networking can be viewed at www.IvanMisner.com.