I attended a seminar and had the great pleasure of hearing Brian Tracy speak. I was quite happy to hear him say that everyone in business needs to spend 80% of their time prospecting. As I attend numerous networking meetings, I had sometimes wondered if it was a good use of my time. I also had the privilege of hearing John Maxwell speak in and had a definite 'aha' moment. He said that just because we are busy does not mean we are being effective. So what does all this mean? Going to networking meetings will certainly keep us busy, however it's what we do when we're there and the follow-up that is the real value.
Is networking effective? You betcha! When I took early retirement from my corporate job and decided to work my part-time passion full time, I did an analysis of my current client list to see from where my clients had evolved. I found that 80% of them had come from the one networking group that I had been a member of for eight years. That told me that networking does work!
There is value in networking, however it's like taking a bath, 'you can't just attend just one meeting and expect to receive a pile of leads.' Networking works if you work it. Most people do business with someone they trust. Someone they have built a relationship with. Most people are not going to give you their business or a referral the first time they meet you. You have to build trust and a relationship by showing up again and again. That says that you are a hardworking, reliable, trust-worthy person. Participating actively and adding value helps to also build the relationship.
Here are some tips to further accelerate the networking process:
- Present the right image. Be dressed professional or what is appropriate for the group, i.e. if you know most of the people will be business casual, then business casual is appropriate.
- Always wear a name tag and wear it on your right shoulder
- Have plenty of business cards that are distinctive, colorful, and legible
- Approach people you already know so that they can introduce you to others. This is a good strategy for you also. Introduce those that could benefit from each other's services. (i.e. Like a real estate person and a mortgage person)
- Ask questions about their business so that you are clear on good leads for them. Listen carefully. Remember, you are NOT there to sell, but meet others and establish relationships.
- Mingle, Mingle, Mingle - Step out of your comfort zone. Look for the person who looks lost (usually first timers) introduce yourself and ask questions.
- Position yourself in the room near the food and/or drinks in order to be more visible and meet more people
- Always remember WIIFM (What's In It For Me) - This is what most people are thinking about. So be able to describe your business or product in terms of the benefit to the potential client. Does your product or service save time and/or money? Also, be able to describe your perfect client.
- Offer to get together for coffee or lunch with those that could be good business alliances Follow up with a note or phone call and if possible offer something of value like another networking group or meeting that might be of interest to them. Or perhaps send a promotional item the person would keep and use.
- Keep your name in front of them. If you have a newsletter or ezine you publish, ask if you may add them to your distribution list
- Send Congratulatory cards and letters. If you see their name in the paper for an accomplishment and/or promotion, call or send a note.
- Pass well qualified referrals and ask that they use your name.
- When you get a referral, even if you don't get the sale, Always thank the person who gave you the lead.
- Donate door prizes others will want and remember
- Be involved with 4 networking groups 1 closed, 2 open, and 1 volunteer.
- Take advantage of daily opportunities to meet people.
- Treat everyone you meet with equal consideration. When you're networking your way to the top, it pays to stay in everyone's good graces. Apply the Golden Rule to all of your networking relationships. Brain Tracy also said 'Good comes from Everything.'
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