Does the term networking have a negative connotation for you? Why? If you get invited to join a leads group do you cringe like you were just pitched Amway?
What is networking anyway?
Hanging out with a group of people and handing out business cards?
Giving a 30 second elevator speech and hoping someone cares?
Going to lunch with a dozen other people from different industries and hoping they’ll buy from you?
Let’s talk about what networking really is:
In theory, networking is a group of people that meet often to help each other by sharing services or information.
We each “Network” so we can find more leads, or more prospects right? Not just prospects we want qualified prospects. What does that prospect look like? Someone who is interested in what you have to offer and MOST IMPORTANT, WILL buy from you. Networking is prospecting. Is networking selling? You bet it is. You have to sell yourself, your ideas, your products, your enthusiasm and passion for what you do.
So the goal of networking is to find prospects that will buy from you. You need an action plan.
Go to where your customers are.
Are your customers at their office? Are they at coffee shops? Are they at sporting events, kids activities, or public events? Do they ski, do they volunteer or go to the gym? Where are your customers?Is your message in a format that can be emailed? Do you blog, do you send out a newsletter? How about social media? Do they Facebook, do they Tweet, do they Instagram, do they watch Youtube? Are you meeting your prospects and clients on these platforms? By the way it’s better for you to stay out of the social media arena if you’re not committed. Social Media is not for the dabbler. Customers see and hear your message and this is key, so do their friends. Prospects become customers and repeat customers become your champions!
Get off your altruistic high horse.
Networking and prospecting isn’t just about giving everything away for free or getting free stuff. It’s great to do nice things for folks and you’ll win friends by sharing your resources. However, you should reserve your selfless ideals and philanthropy for your family, friends and folks that truly need it.
Ask for the business!
I can’t stress this enough. Now listen, this isn’t license to fall back on badgering or being a creep. You have to build report, build trust and bring value. You’ve got to follow through. You have to be persuasive, sell, and be persistent. If you do all of those things correctly and then forget the most important part then you should stop wasting your and everyone elses time. You have to have a plan for asking for the business. You have to close the deal. Nobody wins if you clam up and act like your putting your prospect out by asking them to buy. Let them decide what they can do. Don’t put limits on the equation. Price your products fairly and ask them to buy. If the value is there, they will buy.
Don’t just dump on people or use the shotgun approach.
You should target the folks you really want to do business with and then take an interest in them. People buy from people they like. If you are personable, friendly and genuinely interested in another persons business and success and not just in it for yourself, you’ll have a better opportunity to pitch your idea or product. Don’t be that guy, Don’t be the creeper, and don’t dominate the conversation. Ask questions about their needs and LISTEN to their response. Networking is about the relationship not the transaction. That will come later.
Be ready to network any time, any place. Prospect where your feet are.
Everyone has a different schedule. We all have activities in our day we have to do. My schedule runs from 8am-5pm most days and then from 8pm-12am. I am available for meetings during this time. I could also meet early in the morning if needed. Point is, are you organizing your schedule on a 9-5 and not thinking about the activities that happen outside that window? Does work happen while your fishing, or eating or watching your kid play at the park? When was the last time you had lunch or coffee with a prospect. Have you thought to invite a prospect to join you at the game? Prospects love to feel important. You have to get outside yourself if you want to meet people. Do you meet people where they are? Work life balance is great for people that are independently wealthy.
This isn’t the Jr. High dance. You can’t just hang back and not talk to anyone. You have to engage. You have to be willing to go up to someone you don’t know, introduce yourself and speak intelligently about what they do and what you do. If you just swallowed hard and thought to yourself, this isn’t me…then you better be prepared to do one of two things; 1. Become an expert at digital marketing and/or hire a damn good sales person. Don’t be cheap about it. A top notch sales person can take you to the next level. Unless you have a corner on the market or an unlimited marketing budget; if you are the business owner and you aren’t interested in networking or selling, you have a major problem. I’ll let you in on a secret,everything is sales. We are constantly selling each other on our opinion, point of view, needs, wants, desires, hell we’re even constantly selling ourselves. If you aren’t good at sales and you can’t afford to hire a kick ass sales person, then 2. You need to get yourself an education on sales and decide if you can do it. Don’t be half way about this. You have to engage. You have to approach people, and you have to be all in or all out.
Look for opportunities that aren’t the norm.
Speaking engagements are good examples. Could you book yourself to speak as an expert or authority to another group? Could you write a book about your work or your hobby? Could you sponsor an event. Could you volunteer for a board. If you are chained to your desk and constantly working in your business, it might be time to hire and or train some help so you can get to work on your business.
Last, be the Best.
Figure out what it is that makes you or your company special and tell that story. Stop telling someone elses story. If you are really good at something develop a way to exploit that and show the world what you’re doing. Make a video, have a unique and interesting business card, dress to impress, make sure everyone you meet knows that you are the best at whatever it is you do. Don’t be shy about this. You have to believe that you are the best and it should be a complete failure if they don’t buy from you. You are doing your prospect and yourself a huge disservice if you have the product they need and you are the best and they don’t buy from you. You should feel like everyone in your target market needs your product and if they don’t buy you have let them down. When in doubt see Ask for the Business above.
These aren’t hard and fast rules. They are proven to get results. It helps if you can be flexible and pivot quickly as you are testing the waters. Make a list of your top 20 prospects and start planning a way to get in front of them. Do it today.
It goes without saying that everyone of your top prospects knows someone right? If you execute well, you might just get a REFERRAL!