Networking Is an Acquired Skill

The Third Law of Notable Networking: Networking Is an Acquired Skill
(Click Here to read about the First Law of Notable Networking and Click Here to read about the Second Law)

Most people are not born networkers; they develop the skills through education, training, the right attitude, and long practice.  Any technique of value requires a commitment to learning how to use it effectively.  The next generation of business professionals will operate under a different model of management, in which networking will be an integral element.  Take advantage of every opportunity you have to learn to network more effectively.  It is a skill that will only grow in importance.

Remember Will Rogers’ statement about being on the right track:  “If you’re just sitting there, you’re going to get run over!”  If you are active in a networking organization, you’re “on the right track.”  The key, however, is to take advantage of the opportunities that these groups have to offer.  This means you need to be an active participant in the networking process to get any substantive results.

Curiously, many people invest time in networking, but not in learning how.  This is like trying to play tennis or golf without lessons.  Sure, you can perform, but how well?  Simply attending meetings is not enough.  You need to listen to CDs, read books and articles, talk to people who network well, and most important, practice what you’ve learned.  This is no less than what you would do to learn how to play golf, manage people, or sell a product.

Always keep in mind that in order to develop a successful word-of-mouth-based business, you must attend every networking event that you can and practice, practice, practice!  Practice greeting people, handing out your card, asking for their cards, listening, excusing yourself, and introducing yourself to others.  If you have questions about what to do (and/or not do) in order to most effectively greet people, exchange cards, listen, excuse or introduce yourself, please let me know in the comment forum below.  I’m more than happy to do follow-up blog posts on any/all of those specific aspects of networking (as well as any other aspects you may have questions about). Thanks!

Are You Using Networking Tools Effectively?

The Second Law of Notable Networking: Learn How to Use Networking Tools Effectively
(Click Here to read about the First Law of Notable Networking)

A Notable Networker must have and use the right tools to network skillfully.  All professionals need the tools of their trade to conduct business.  A painter needs a brush, a teacher needs a blackboard, and an administrative professional needs a computer.  To achieve success, networkers need their own tools as well.   Good networkers’ tools include:

  • name tags to identify themselves to others,
  • card holders to carry their business cards, and most important,
  • card files to carry other people’s business cards.

It has been said that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce coined the term “networking.”  Over the years, I’ve gone to many Chamber of Commerce business mixers.  Unfortunately, too many of them seem to practice a passive form of the technique.  However, depending on the chamber, some mixers can be an outstanding way to meet many new people.  At Chamber of Commerce mixers, people from a variety of businesses get together with the idea of meeting one another.

At these meetings, I often encounter people who don’t wear a name tag.  Of those who do, many neglect to put their company name or profession on the badge.  I can’t imagine anyone going to a business meeting and not telling everyone what business he or she is in!  You’ve got to let people know who you are and what business you’re in if you want to reap the full rewards of networking.

I also run into people who don’t have any business cards with them.  Business cards are one of the most inexpensive forms of advertising available and a crucial tool for networking.  They should be well designed and present a professional image.  Most important, you need to have them in your possession!  A large stack of cards sitting in the desk drawer at your office doesn’t help much at a business mixer.  Always carry a small card case full of business cards with you and keep a large box of business cards in the glove compartment or trunk of your car for restocking your card case on the spot.  Use the backs of any cards you get from others to make notes that will jog your memory about each individual or about the conversation you had.

In addition, you should go a step further and carry a vinyl or leather card-carrying case or book for the cards of the people you network with.  These are people in your own personal network of contacts, people who presumably are storing your cards and referring you as well.  Always keep three or four of their cards so you can hand one to anyone interested in their services.

One way to enhance your networking efforts is to use computer software.  When you get back to your office, you can enter the new names and information you’ve acquired into a contact management program to help you organize your information and enable you to easily handle follow-up activities.  In addition to these, several general database programs, such as Relate2Profit, provide contact management capabilities.  You can log in new information and contacts, get reports of your progress, and reminders.  If you’re not already using a program such as this, rest assured that the learning time is a couple of hours or less.

Do you have a favorite networking tool or a particular software program that you’ve found to be especially useful in enhancing your networking efforts?  If so, please write about it in the comment forum below–I’m always interested in hearing about new tools for increasing networking effectiveness. Thanks!

 

Stand and Deliver

Whether you’re introducing yourself to an individual or to a group, you have a choice of how you deliver your message. The primary vehicle for your introduction is your verbal presentation.  Does your introduction work?StandandDeliver

People will judge not only the message, but the messenger as well. How you look, carry yourself, listen, and leave the conversation will affect what others do with the message you’ve delivered.  The important thing to remember is to speak as if you’re addressing a single person, a good friend.

As you network with friends and associates and tell them what you do, your underlying hope is that they will use your services and pass the message to others, who will also use your services and in turn keep spreading your message.  When someone such as a strong or casual contact speaks on your behalf, the same rules apply.  What you do and say sets the pattern for duplication. As in the “telephone game” you may have played as a child, you need to keep checking down the line to ensure that your original message is being accurately passed along.  As you continue to build your word-of-mouth network, you need to know how much information your fellow networkers are actually hearing and understanding and, at times, you may need to make adjustments in the way you disseminate your message.

Each messenger may have used a different technique and had different motives for participating in the race, but the essence of each message is what needs to cross the finish line.

A Win-Win Way to Reward Referral Sources

If you’re looking for creative ways to give referral incentives, it’s worth considering a technique I like to call “Incentive Triangulation.” This is a powerful way of leveraging other people’s services to benefit your customers, clients or patients and reward those who refer you.

The concept is simple and can be designed to fit the needs or requirements of any business. For example, a retailer might negotiate an arrangement with another local business, such as a florist, printer or appliance store owner, whereby that store will provide its customers with a discount of 10 percent or more on their next purchase. After that, each time someone gives you a referral, reward him with whatever you would normally give as an incentive and also a coupon good for the discount at the prearranged business.

This form of joint venture is beneficial for all three parties, hence the term “Incentive Triangulation.”  You benefit because you are providing another incentive for people to refer you. The other business benefits because you are sending your clients to it, along with a recommendation, of course.

Finally, your clients will benefit because they got recognition for their effort as well as an additional product or service at a reduced rate.

If you have an example of how you’ve successfully used Incentive Triangulation, leave a comment and explain how you’ve used it. Your example could spark great ideas for other blog readers on how they might use the technique for their business.

Results Talk. Everything Else is an Excuse.

I had a conversation with a franchisee a few weeks ago and I’ve been thinking about it for some time since.  We were talking about a marketing strategy that has proven to be very successful for many franchises within his company for many years.

When I asked the franchisee why he wasn’t participating in the program he said, “I don’t want to do that.  I don’t think it works.”  I said, “Really?  The top three franchisees around the country use it– just what about the technique is it that you don’t think works?”  He said, “I think the technique reduces client retention.”  I pointed out that the retention of the top three franchisees mentioned above was HIGHER than the client retention of his franchise.   He said “Yeah, but I just don’t think it would work in my area.”

I still can’t believe he really said that.  This is an intelligent individual who gave me one of the lamest answers I’ve ever heard for not doing something that works.

The bottom line is that the marketing strategy in question is in fact, hard work.  I believe that he just didn’t want to do all the hard work necessary to implement the strategy and he rationalized his position with half-baked excuses.

When a strategy works in many places and yields big results then all the excuses in the world for not implementing the strategy are just that–excuses!

Have you ever had a conversaton with someone like this?  If so, I’d love to hear about it and find out out how you handled it.

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