Networking Tactics Archives - Page 2 of 4 - Dr. Ivan Misner®
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Giving Your Network a Boost

A question from India came to me via Twitter, and I found it to be such a universal topic that I thought I’d share it with you all.

(And BONUS–it was shot in my new home studio!)

 

What happens when your networking group hits a plateau?

https://youtu.be/OA73fq9Sza8

 

Quantity Is Fine, But Quality Is King

Photo Courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Photo Courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

One of the biggest misconceptions I’m aware of in regard to networking is the notion that it’s an “all you can eat” affair.  In other words, people go to an event, work the room in an effort to meet everyone there, and then judge their success by the number of cards they accumulate.  Although I see a certain superficial logic in that, there’s only one fatal flaw with this kind of thinking:  it assumes that the more people you meet at an event, the more successful your networking efforts are–and that’s simply not the case.  Instead, the quality of the connections you form is much more significant than the quantity of connections you make.

Businesspeople unfamiliar with referral networking sometimes lose track of the fact that networking is the means–not the end–of their business-building activities.  They attend three, four, even five events in a week in a desperate grasp for new business.  The predictable result is that they stay so busy meeting new people that they never have time to follow up and cultivate those relationships–and how can they expect to get that new business from someone they’ve only just met?  As one of these unfortunates remarked to me, “I feel like I’m always doing business but rarely getting anything done.”

I certainly agree that meeting new people is an integral part of networking, but it’s important to remember why we’re doing it in the first place: to develop a professional rapport with individuals that will deepen over time into a trusting relationship that will eventually lead to a mutually beneficial and continuous exchange of referrals.

When meeting someone for the first time, focus on the potential relationship you might form.  As hard as it may be to suppress your business reflexes, at this stage you cannot make it your goal to sell your services or promote your company.  You’re there to get to know a new person.  A friend of mine told me something his dad always said: “You don’t have to sell to friends.”  That’s especially good advice when interacting with new contacts.

This certainly doesn’t mean you’ll never get to sell anything to people you meet while networking; it does, however, mean that you’ll need to employ a different approach.  Networking isn’t about closing business or meeting hordes of new people; it’s about developing relationships in which future business can be closed.  Once you understand that, you’ll stand out from the crowd with everyone you meet.

When you’re networking like a pro and treating new contacts as future referral partners, you’ll absolutely blow away any competitors who still feel compelled to meet as many people as they possibly can.  Why?  Because when you call your contacts back, they’ll actually remember who you are and be willing to meet with you again.

If You’re Only Talking Shop, You’re Selling Yourself Short

Photo courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Photo courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

People often think that networking is all about talking business and exchanging cards, but that’s a definite misconception.

In a networking group, you should talk about more than just business. A referral relationship is more than just, “I do business, you do business, let’s do business.” A much better approach is to find common ground on a personal level, then relate your business to it.

The longer I’ve been involved in networking, the more I’ve seen the power of personal interests in making connections. Networking is about building personal relationships. If you remove the personal from the equation, you limit the amount of business that can happen.

In one networking group I worked with, I introduced an exercise called the GAINS Exchange, in which people share personal and professional information about themselves. Two of the participants in this group had known each other for more than a year but had never done business. During the exercise, they discovered they both coached their sons’ soccer teams. They quickly became close friends and were soon helping each other conduct soccer practices. After a few months, they began referring business to each other–two guys who had barely spoken to each other the first year because they seemed to have so little in common.

By finding a common interest and starting with that, we can make connections that have a very good chance of turning into business. Try this strategy out for a while and then come back and leave a comment to let me know what your experiences have been–I’d love to hear about them!

A Little Good Advice Can Go a Long Way

AdviceHorn

Photo Courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It’s no secret that we all want to do business with people whom we know and trust.  So, how do you build rapport and create trust with new contacts at networking events?  By offering value-added advice–solid, helpful information provided out of a genuine concern for another person.

Let’s say you’re a real estate agent talking with someone at a networking event who, although not ready to buy a home today, is heading in that direction.  You could say something like this:

Well, I know you’re not interested in buying a home right now.  But, when you’re ready to start looking, I highly recommend checking out the north part of town.  A lot of my clients are seeing their homes appreciate in the 10 to 20 percent range, and from what I understand, the city is thinking about building another middle school in that area.

See how it’s possible to offer some value-added advice without being too salesy?  A statement like this acknowledges that your prospect is not currently in the market (first sentence) but still demonstrates your expertise, so he will remember you when he’s ready to move.

This model works for consultants, CPAs, accountants, financial planners, coaches–just about anyone in a service-based industry in which knowledge is the main product. If you’re concerned about giving away your intellectual capital for free, look at it this way: few people are going to sign up to do business with you if they’re not sure you can do the job.  In the absence of a tangible product, you have nothing but your technical expertise to demonstrate that you have the goods.  And when you think about it, that makes sense.  Whenever you’re ready to buy an automobile, it doesn’t matter how much research you’ve done on a particular model, you’re probably not going to write your check until you’ve taken the car for a test drive.

The same is true for your prospects.  Give them a little test drive to show how it would feel to do business with you. If you’re a marketing consultant, give them a couple of ideas on how they can increase the exposure of their business.  Don’t go overboard; maybe offer a technique you read in a magazine or tried with one of your clients.  Just give them something they can try on to see if it works.

Not only will this open up a good conversation with new contacts while you’re out networking, if you play your cards right, whom do you think they’ll go to when they’re in need of your kind of service?  When it comes to building rapport and creating trust, nothing does it better than offering value-added advice.

The Power of Being Specific

In this video, I explain a great technique for getting your referral partners to really hone in on and start passing you more and more of the exact type of referrals that you ideally want. The technique is simply to focus on being as specific as possible.

In order to demonstrate just how powerful specificity can be, I take you through two 10-second exercises which clearly convey how results can be significantly greater when we take care to be specific. You’ll need a pen and a piece of paper to participate in the exercises so be sure to grab those two things before watching the video and please feel free to leave a comment sharing your thoughts on this video and/or any effective strategies you may have which help you focus on specificity with members of your network.

Is It Appropriate to Network Anywhere–Even at a Funeral?

In this video, ask you to consider whether or not you think it’s appropriate to network anywhere, any time, any place . . . even at a funeral.

What do you think? Do you think networking at a funeral is a good idea?  Chances are, most people reading this will answer with something along the lines of, “Heck no!  Passing out business cards at a funeral would be completely inappropriate–not to mention offensive”

Though I certainly agree that passing out business cards at a funeral would likely be one of the worst networking faux pas one could make, I am not necessarily in agreement that it would be inappropriate to network at a funeral.

What do I mean by this?  Well, you’ll have to watch the video to find out but I will tell you that you very well may change your thoughts on the appropriateness of networking absolutely anywhere after you hear the personal story I share about networking at a church function.

Do you have any stories, thoughts, or experiences relating to forming significant networking connections in places that at first seemed to be inappropriate networking venues?  If so, I’d really like to hear what you have to say.  Please leave a comment in the discussion forum below.   Thanks!

 

Want More Referrals?–Build Your Networking Skillset

So many times, I hear of people joining networking groups and then becoming disillusioned because the referrals don’t immediately start pouring in. The fact is, whatever you pay to join a referral/networking group is only an admission price–it gets you into the room where opportunities may come your way, but it doesn’t entitle you to referrals. It’s not enough to simply show up and participate. You must perform to make the most of these opportunities and new contacts.

(Image courtesy of suphakit73 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

(Image courtesy of suphakit73 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Despite the built-in structure and focus on referrals, a strong-contact group member can fail to generate referrals or to receive referrals for himself or herself. Networking skills are the number one requirement for generating more referrals. Being in the setting of a networking group simply makes it easier to use these skills. Simply being a member of a strong-contact group does not entitle you to expect or receive referrals. Nor does being a member of a casual-contact group limit the number of referrals you can generate or receive, if you have the skills and use them.

Develop the skills of a master networker by constantly looking for ways to help or benefit your networking partners and earning a reputation as someone who can get things done, no matter what the organization or situation. For example, one extremely savvy and successful networker I know records the names and cell phone numbers of every member of her networking group, and when new members join, she adds them to her “tele-rolodex” immediately. She has found that she has a better chance of seeing closed business between her contact and the person to whom she makes the referral when she can introduce them immediately–right when she learns her contact’s needs.

For more information on developing the networking skills that will help you make the most of your networking opportunities, click here. For even more on networking skills, click here.

Is It Possible Your Follow-up Tactics Aren’t Doing You Any Favors?

I once had an interesting conversation with an associate who was surprised that she’d gotten flak from a referral source for taking five days to follow up with a prospect that the referral source had referred to her.  My associate explained to me that she doesn’t like to follow up with prospects for four or five days because she doesn’t want the prospect to feel like she’s too eager.

I told my associate that I strongly disagree with her follow-up strategy.  My reasons why are outlined in the following paragraphs . . .

When building relationships, it’s always important not to let much time lapse without following up the first contact. Within twenty-four to forty-eight hours, send your prospect a note expressing your pleasure in communicating with her. It’s still too early, though, to send business literature or make any move toward sales promotion.

Follow up early, but don’t push beyond the prospect’s comfort level. Once the prospect has expressed an interest in your products or services, provide information about them, but don’t force it on her. Continue presenting your products or services, but avoid the hard sell. Focus on fulfilling her needs and interests. Your goal should be to keep your prospect aware of your business without annoying her.

Remember, to secure the long-term loyalty of your prospect and convert her into a customer, you must first build a relationship, and that relationship must develop through the visibility, credibility and profitability stages. It may take a while, but if you’ve selected and briefed your sources well, you’ll speed up the process.

Always, always, always remember to follow up with people, in any situation, at the very least within seventy-two hours. There’s a reason people commonly say that the fortune is in the follow up . . . when you follow up quickly with people, your reputation will benefit, your business will benefit, and eventually your pocketbook will benefit as well.

Do you have any unique and effective ways of following up which have helped you attain success consistently?  If so, I’d love to hear your tactics–please share them in the comment forum below.  Thanks!

Are You Prepared?–A Networking Checklist

Have you ever attended a networking event where it was clear that some of the other networkers you interacted with were obviously not at all prepared?  Worse yet, have you found yourself unprepared in networking situations and been unsure about what you should be doing to set yourself up to make solid networking connections?  As networkers, preparation is extremely important  because, the fact is, if you haven’t done the simple, basic preparations to network properly then you’re not only wasting your time, you’re wasting the time of the other networkers you talk to.

 

Preparing to network is not difficult; you simply need to follow these basic networking commandments:

* Have the proper networking tools with you (name badge, business cards, contact info of your referral partners).

* Set a reachable goal for the number of people you’ll meet, and then get all their cards.

* Act like a host, not a guest.

* Listen and ask questions.

* Don’t try to close a deal.

* Give referrals whenever possible.

* Spend roughly 10 minutes or so with each person you meet.

* Exchange cards and write notes on the backs of cards you get so that you are sure to remember people clearly.

* Follow up!

No matter how long you’ve been networking, it’s always good to remind yourself to consistently follow these steps. If you do, you’re sure to get the best possible results from your networking efforts. And other networkers, like myself, will thank you for making good use of their time.

Do you have a tactic for preparing to network which isn’t listed above and has been particularly effective for you?  If so, please share it in the comment forum below.  I’d love to hear you ideas–thanks!

 

Spray and Pray Networking

An associate of mine once told me about an interesting experience she had when she struck up a conversation with a woman at a networking function.  When the woman asked my associate what she did for a living, my associate explained that she  helps small business owners build their businesses through networking and referrals.  The woman smiled quite confidently and said, “I’m a business owner myself and I’m actually really good at networking!  I’ve been doing it for a long, long time.”

This, of course, ignited my associate’s interest so she said to the woman, “I’m always interested in the tactics of successful networkers; do you mind if I ask you what your secret is?”  The woman flashed a self-satisfied smirk, stood up straight with an air of accomplishment, and said, “Well, I always make sure to go to networking functions with a friend and when we enter the room we draw an imaginary line right down the middle.  If my friend takes the right side, I take the left side and vice versa.    Once we each choose the side of the room we’re going to cover, we agree to meet back together at a certain time, and then we spend the entire time networking only on our individual side of the room trying to gather as many business cards as possible.  When the time comes for us to reconvene with each other, we compare how many business cards we each collected and whoever has the least is the loser so they then have to buy lunch for the one who collected the most.”

My associate inquired further, “So what do you do each do with all of the business cards you gather?”  Donning her proud smile yet again, the business woman said, “That’s the beauty of it.  I enter them into my prospect list and begin to send them information about my services!  Since I have all their contact information, I figure why not pitch my services to them–they’re all potentially good prospects, right?”

When my associate told me this story, she was appalled that the woman would network in this way and I wholeheartedly agree that this is NOT an effective way to network.  Instead, it’s a classic example of how some people use networking as a “face-to-face cold-calling” technique which I like to call “spray and pray”–it’s basically just like taking a networking spray can (so to speak) full of meaningless information, dousing the room of people with your spray, and praying that you’ll hit a few people who will respond to the generic concoction you’ve sprayed them with.

Networking is not . . . I repeat NOT . . . about simply gathering contact information and spamming people at a later date.  In reality, that’s nothing more than glorified cold calling–Brrrrr–it gives me the chills!  I used to teach cold calling techniques to business people many, many years ago and though cold calling may work some of the time, I did it long enough to know that I didn’t ever want do it again.  Nearly three decades ago, I decided to devote my entire career to teaching the global business community  that there is a much better way to build long-term business than “spraying and praying”–not only is it better, it is the absolute best way to grow any business–the secret to effective networking and long term business success is investing in strong, mutually beneficial business relationships based on trust.

Have you ever had an experience with someone who adopted the “spray and pray” networking style, or have you ever been a “spray and pray” networker yourself?  If so, please share your story here–I’d love to hear your experiences!

Networking During the Holidays

The holiday party is a great time to meet people but . . . you should have a plan!

Everybody goes to parties, and the holiday season is full of them. It’s also a business slowdown season for many of us who are not in retail. The holiday parties are NOT just a place for free food and drinks.

Holiday parties and other social mixers bring new opportunities to network, even more than the rest of the year.   The holidays are times when we are more likely to see people in a social setting, and this setting definitely lends itself to building relationships.

Most people think of networking only in traditional networking venues, such as the chamber, strong-contact referral groups like BNI, and other business-oriented gatherings. But that’s not using the power of networking to its fullest.

It can be the best time to introduce yourself or have a friendly conversation with one of your superiors. Making an impact on someone important can be a real career booster; it could open the door for new job opportunities, promotions and/or new business.

In order to make the most of “holiday party networking,” here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Be prepared! If you’re going to hobnob, try to know whom you are talking to, what their job and role in the company are and what they’ve done this year for the organization.  Use this info as a way to start a conversation. If you know some of the people who will be in attendance, do a Google search on them.  Do some homework.
  • Ask questions. Some suggestions: How did you start the business? How did you take the business international?  How did you start franchising? What were some of the challenges with . . . ? Have you read any good books lately? (My favorite is: How can I help you?)
  • Have a “teaser” topic ready. Approaching the end of the year, every business wants to increase profits and performance in the New Year. Have an idea ready that describes how you can improve your sector in the coming year. (Word to the wise: Don’t give away the goose; set up a meeting to discuss the details.)
  • Use this introduction as a segue for a future meeting. As mentioned above, you don’t want to “end” the conversation at the party. The end game here is to open the door for follow-up. You want to be able to connect with the person after the party, one-to-one.
  • Don’t have more than a couple drinks. It’s a party, but it’s not YOUR party. You don’t want to be stinking of liquor when you approach the people you want to connect with. Impressions count. Make the right one.
  • Be confident of your value. Introducing yourself to an executive can be an intimidating experience, so give yourself an informed pep talk. Before the event, make a list of the things you’ve done over the past year and understand how what you do may integrate into discussions. Once you’ve got this down, there’s no reason you shouldn’t feel good about yourself. Consider how what you’ve done can integrate with the executive’s interests.
  • Honor the event. Make sure when networking at a holiday party–or any non-traditional networking event–that networking is supplementary to the reason people are there, so don’t treat it like a chamber mixer.  Be sincere.

Don’t act as if you’re in the boardroom giving a presentation; keep it natural and leave them intrigued. The real emphasis must be on “finesse” at a company holiday party. Yes, it is a great networking opportunity–but if you overtly “sell,” you may turn people off! After all, it is a holiday.

You can network anywhere, including events where it might not at first occur to you to try it–and, paradoxically, it’s at these non-traditional networking settings where you’ll often get the most bang for your buck.

What Should You Bring on a Business Trip?

……………………….

This week I am in Bangkok and Hong Kong speaking to business professionals about networking.  When you travel (especially internationally) it is easy to forget something you really need while you are in meetings or speaking to groups of people.  Last month,  I did an interview with an international magazine on this very topic.  The reporter asked me “what should business people think about taking with them on business trips that they might not normally think about?”

First, I had to give the things that may be obvious but that you don’t want to ever forget.  Things like:

  1. Plenty of business cards.  It is never a good idea to run out of business cards while traveling.  Tuck extras in your suit pockets, wallet/purse, briefcase, luggage, etc.  I put stacks in many places to ensure I always have extra.
  2. A badge.  If you do any networking while traveling on business, have your own professional badge.  Don’t rely on the hosting organization to do your badge and do it right.
  3. Extra pens.  Make sure you have a pen with you while you are doing meetings.  I always find that I need to write some reminders down while I’m talking to people.  It’s troublesome to track down a pen while you are networking.

Somewhat less obvious things

  1. The contact information (or business cards) of all your referral partners.  I sometimes find that having that information at my fingertips allows me to give referrals to people while I’m out networking.
  2. Hand sanitizer.  I know, I’m sounding a little bit like “Mr. Monk” the germ-a-phobe title character of a television series.  However, I have found that since I’ve started using hand sanitizer after shaking many, many hands, that I have been getting far less colds than I used to get.  Just be tactful about the way you use it.  Don’t desperately spray your hands every time you shake someone’s hands or else you will be acting like Monk.
  3. Breath mints.  As obvious as it may sound – I can assure you from experience that many people have no idea they need them!
  4. A memory stick.  Many times I have either needed to get a copy of something OR give a copy of a file or presentation to people while out networking.  Having a memory stick handy has been very helpful on several occasions.
  5. A camera and/or video.  A camera is great if you want to memorialize some occasion or a meeting with someone important to you.  A video is important for anyone that blogs.  It gives you a chance to interview someone during your travels.  I do this almost every time I travel.
  6. Tools for your business.  For me, that includes many copies of my bio for introductions whenever I speak.  Despite the fact that my team sends the bio in advance, there are many times when I arrive and they don’t have the bio handy.  Another tool for me is a PowerPoint remote clicker.  This is really important for me because I don’t want to rely on someone else to move the slides forward as a I present.  Also, that memory stick I mentioned earlier.  I have copies of my talk(s) on there just in case the group I’m speaking to has misplaced my presentation material.

There’s more, but this is a pretty good list.  What do you think is important to bring along with you on business trips?  Share it with us here in the comments section.

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