Here is another of the rainmaking problems that I offer as topics for discussion. It’s one that I hate! I hope you will leave a comment with your thoughts on a solution to this problem.
I hate it! I just hate it! But someone always asks how big their network should be. It is a perfectly fair question. But I hate it, because my answer is so lame. It’s lame, because I simply don’t know. My fumbling answers usually start with, “That depends. On the one hand …” and are, at best, unconvincing. The other one I hear, “bigger than yours is now,” stinks of condescension.
It’s not only a fair question, it’s a good one. To be effective, networks need some bulk, because as a network grows, its power grows geometrically. Conceptually, at least, once your network reaches an optimum size, you can shift your focus to increasing its quality.
A few sizing parameters seem reasonable. If you sell a regularly recurring service, like accounting audits, your network needn’t be as big as the one needed if you sell a nonrecurring service. People who sell a lot of small projects need bigger networks than those who sell fewer, larger ones. Factors like these suggest that there isn’t one answer for all situations.
For the purposes of this discussion, a person’s active network will be defined as those business people with whom he or she has had personalized contact within the past six months in meetings, by phone or in writing (mass (e)mailings don’t count unless you have added a personalized note).
It would be interesting to learn any of the following:
- Research done on the effects of referral network sizes on their productivity. (There has probably been some.)
- Guidelines or methodologies for determining optimum network size. (There is a good chance that these don’t exist, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.)
- Your experiences with different sizes of networks. (Were there any tipping points or other indications that something significant had changed. Please note the kind of services you offer.)
I think this request is unusually difficult, so please don’t be shy about impressions, opinions and general comments on the subject. You can’t be doing any worse with this one than I am.
(Got a problem selling professional services? Feel free to email me your problem and it may become a future “Rainmaking Problem.”)