Avoid Politics and Religion When Networking

Avoid Politics and Religion When Networkingstring(43) "Avoid Politics and Religion When Networking"

Before I did my graduate work in organizational behavior, I received a bachelor’s degree in political science. As a student, I was very interested in politics — and I still am. Even so, I do not discuss politics while I am networking. Why? Your politics simply aren’t relevant to your professional life and to the goal of building your business. A political discussion in the context of networking is distracting. Even worse, it can be divisive and detrimental to team building.

If you want to build a powerful personal network for business, it is all about collaboration and cooperation. But I have seen political discussions turn many networking groups into a hotbed of anger, anxiety, resentment, and conflict — clearly not a good environment for developing a healthy business network.

Choose Wisely

The topics we choose to discuss while networking are important. Some people say it’s their right to discuss politics, religion, or anything else they want when they network. I completely agree, but just because it is someone’s right doesn’t mean it is a good idea.

I understand that there are political and religious issues about which we have strong opinions — I certainly have some — but you risk damaging your business relationships by bringing them into the networking conversation.

I have been a registered voter since I was 18 years old. Since that time, I have voted in every major U.S. election as a citizen of the United States. I have also been very active spiritually and I have well-established religious beliefs. However, you don’t, and you won’t, know my political or religious views unless you are a close friend. They are irrelevant to my role as a business leader.

Our networking efforts are most effective when we focus on our business mission and goals. Whether inside your organization, during work-related meetings, or while networking, it is wise to avoid politics and religion. Keep the focus on building strong business relationships for your networking success.

How to Make Online Networking Work for You

How to Make Online Networking Work for Youstring(42) "How to Make Online Networking Work for You"

While anyone with a computer or phone can access social media sites, getting results from online networking takes forethought.

Consider your personal and time management preferences. Do you like computer-based interactions? Do you enjoy spending time online? How much time can you realistically devote to intentional networking? If online living isn’t your thing, that’s okay. There is no right or wrong, just degrees of preference.

Online networking is a means to an end

A little time online can be leveraged to great effect when you use that time for connecting with new contacts or doing follow-up with people you have already met. As I talk about in my book, Networking Like a Pro 2nd Edition, it is important to determine in advance how many hours per day or week you are truly willing to devote to online networking.

How do you prefer to use that time?

  • Keeping your profiles updated
  • Contributing to discussions in online groups
  • Posting to your blog
  • Reading and responding to comments
  • Which online networking platforms are best for you?

Pick the ones where your target market hangs out and is active. This will ensure that you are connecting with the people who are potential clients and customers. As with any kind of business networking, your objective is to develop social capital.

Your online interactions

Learn the difference between interactions that move you and your online community members toward productive relationship building, and those that simply suck time and energy.

If someone asks a question that you can answer, that is an opportunity to be helpful while displaying your knowledge. You can build professional credibility by sharing information about your expertise without giving a sales pitch. Be careful, though, when comments veer into opinion; an offhand remark may go viral and result in unintended consequences.

Will your investment of time, energy and caring on behalf of other networkers be reciprocated in ways that you find meaningful? Only you can define what meaningful means to you, and only you can decide whether your interactions and time investment are productive.

No matter how many sites you are active on, be very clear with yourself – and with others – about your motives and goals. Stay positive, informative, and value oriented. When done right, with proper respect and consistency, social media can be a legitimate tool in branding and raising the awareness people have of you in the business community.

Good Customer Service Alone Doesn’t Win Referralsstring(51) "Good Customer Service Alone Doesn’t Win Referrals"

Many businesspeople are under the impression that if they provide good customer service, people will automatically refer business to them. Of course, customer service is important. But good customer service is just a prerequisite; it is a minimum expectation.

Think about it. Would you refer somebody to me if I provided lousy customer service? Of course not. Your own credibility would suffer.

Good customer service is part of what the prospect expects when you refer them to me. If you are recommending me to them, I must be something pretty special, right? And if I want to keep that customer coming back, I have to provide more than the minimum expectation of simply good customer service. I will need to provide great, outstanding, memorable customer service to really stand out.

The Misconception about Customer Service

In my book, The World’s Best Known Marketing Secret, I say that some people are under the delusion that good customer service alone was enough to enable them to build their business through word-of-mouth. This misconception about customer services is one of the delusions people have about networking and referral marketing.

People don’t refer business to you because you meet their minimum expectations. They refer you because they expect you to do a good job which, in turn, enhances their relationship with the person they are referring to you. They expect you to provide outstanding value to the prospect. They want that person to come back to them and say, “Thanks for sending me to Joe Trueblue. He had just what I needed, and the service was great. You sure know some outstanding people!”

Your referral source has a strong interest in making sure everyone comes out a winner. They know that when the happy customer comes back to you again and again, you are more likely to send business their way when the need arises. The great service you provide to the customer comes back to you in the form of a stronger relationship with your referral partner.

My friend Bob Burg, author of Endless Referrals and The Go-Giver, shares his view on what it takes to consistently receive referrals:

Of course, having an excellent product is important. However, technology today has made that commonplace and expected. In order to have qualified prospects “beating a path to your door,” you must be able to network and to market yourself and your product or service in such a way that it makes people want to do business with you and refer you to others. You need to provide them with such a great buying experience that they know they made the right decision. However, to get them there in the first place, it’s the networking and marketing that’s most important.

Being in a referral group like BNI is one of several important parts of an effective word-of-mouth marketing plan. One of the things these groups emphasize is that you need to be very specific in what you do and in how your product or service is uniquely valuable. If you use general terms, you’re at the lowest level of competitive effectiveness. And if you say, “customer service,” that’s not what people are buying.

In the book Truth or Delusion, we say that you don’t sell the process; you sell the result:

Talking about what you do does not motivate people as much as what happens to their client or friend as a result of what you do. I used to sell copiers, and I never met anybody who was buying good customer service. They were buying the ability to make photocopies quickly and reliably. They weren’t shopping for customer service, because that’s a prerequisite. It is part of what creates that end result.

The Importance of Testimonials

Referral networks often feature third-party testimonials, in which someone who has used your product or service tells the group, “I’ve used Maria’s products, and I’m here to tell you, they’re the best I’ve ever found.” Hearing it directly from someone they know is often enough to get people to believe it and act on that belief.

Testimonials are crucial to the referral process, especially within referral and networking groups. When you stand up and say, “I’ve used this person’s business, and you should use this person too, because . . .” and then go on to explain why, it is powerful and can change how people view that service provider. Your experiences become my experiences. This makes it much easier for people to refer that provider–even if they haven’t personally used their services yet.

Remember, unhappy customers are 11 times more likely to talk about your business than happy customers. Good customer service only reduces negative word-of-mouth; it doesn’t necessarily increase your business through positive word-of-mouth. Build an effective network of strong business relationships to increase your referrals.

Be Self-Aware, Be Selfless, and Then be Selfishstring(47) "Be Self-Aware, Be Selfless, and Then be Selfish"

Let’s face it, networking is about…. you. Yet, that’s the problem. Every day, millions of business seekers go to networking events with one thing in mind: themselves. Don’t feel guilty; it’s totally natural. It’s also counterproductive. While you shouldn’t apologize for being a product of your baser (and selfish) instincts, you need to be aware of them when networking for new business.

Does that mean you are destined to be a self-centered, one-way, “What’s in It for Me” sponge? No! Here is some advice on how to manage it: Be Self-Aware, then Selfless, then Selfish.

Be Self-Aware

Never walk into an event or enter into a business relationship without knowing what you want from it. That is not being cold and impersonal. That is being realistic. Although most people think this way, not all will admit it. It is smart business because you need a plan. This is something you need to know before you begin networking.

You really need to think about, and fully understand, what your specific target market actually is. Does the person you’re speaking to in a meeting represent your target market? Do they have the ability to connect with people who can get you to your target market? Understanding yourself and your business, and what you want out of your networking efforts, is critical to being self-aware.

Be Selfless

This is what most of us were taught while growing up. Now that you’ve determined what it will take to grow your business, it’s time to motivate your potential referral sources to think of you when they hear of someone with a need for your products and services. The only way this will happen is if you are genuinely interested in the people you talk to and interact with.

Have you ever had a conversation with someone who hung on every word you said while making spectacular eye contact? Then every time you met them later, they did it again. Have you met someone like that? You can be like that, too. Strive to be more interested than interesting as you build business relationships.

Be Selfish

Some people are probably anxious for a couple of reasons. Some people are anxious about time. “I am networking, I want to get business.” Others may feel, “Givers gain. It’s not about being selfish.” A little bit of constructive selfishness is good.

Have you ever given a lot of business to someone and received nothing in return? If you know what you want from that relationship and you have invested social capital into it – you’ve helped them, supported them, been there for them, then examine the reasons why that person is not reciprocating. Perhaps you haven’t taken the time to properly educate them. Do they understand what kind of referrals you would like, of what quality, how many, and how you want to be introduced? Your referral partner may want to help you and they need to know how. So, arrange a time to meet with them and provide them with the information they need to start sending business your way.

There is a rhythm to the relationship process. Ask yourself the question, “Does my business rely on referrals?” If the answer is “yes,” then understand that referrals come from people. Referral marketing, unlike any other form of lead generation, is 100 percent reliant on other people to be successful. So why put forth the effort?  The answer lies in a survey conducted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce several years ago. Nationwide, business owners responded that while they closed only 2 percent of cold calls, 75 to 85 percent of referrals resulted in closed business. That makes referrals worth pursuing, worth having a system to go after them, and worth learning how to motivate people to give them to you.

Cultivating referrals takes time, patience, and a commitment to the process.  Are you willing to make that investment in your business relationships? Be Self-Aware – what do you want to get out of your networking efforts? Be Selfless – how do you help others? Be Selfish – it is okay to think about yourself as you are investing in others. It is okay to ask for help to make your networking efforts worthwhile.

MISNER AUDIO PROGRAMSstring(21) "MISNER AUDIO PROGRAMS"

For a limited time, ALL of the Misner Audio Programs, including the entire package, are 50% off the regular price with the special code IVAN50.

The MISNER AUDIO PROGRAMS help you learn the essential skills of networking, whether you are a seasoned BNI Member, or a professional who wants to grow your business.

These audios cover a wide variety of topics that can help you refresh and re-energize; get a new perception – be exposed to or reminded of new skills, ideas, and techniques. Did you know that retention is much higher in audio learning than video? These audio programs give you the best of both worlds, convenience, and effectiveness.

New to Business Networking?

If you are just getting started, “How to Build Your Business Through Networking & Word of Mouth” is for you. I believe word of mouth is a basic skill for success in any life. I first introduced this concept to the world through BNI. Now, 36 years later it is still fundamental for building strong interpersonal relationships that are the baseline of successful referrals. Seasoned entrepreneurs and even new graduates appreciate this program and consider it essential listening.

In “Truth or Delusion: Busting the Biggest Myths in Networking”, I talk about my favorite networking myths from my book by the same name. Is your business operating on information that is outdated? Find out this and more as I expand on some of the principles and give new insight to create business success.

For All Business Professionals

“Masters of Success” will help you reach your goals. Whatever your age or stage of life, this audio has important lessons for everyone. It is based on my #1 best-selling book and shares the five themes all successful people have, along with the skills they practice to stay successful.

Entrepreneurs are the everyday leaders who change the way the world does business. Learn what they don’t teach you in college in “Entrepreneurs: Everyday Leaders”. I share what worked for me, along with what didn’t work and why, to help you save years from having to learn this on your own.

Especially for BNI Members

Although each of these audio recordings has helpful information that all businesspeople will find beneficial, they are specifically created to enhance BNI Members’ experience.

In “BNI Networking Secrets” you will understand the impact of the time confidence curve for your business. Learn the difference between networking and selling, find out about the VCP Process®and how to apply it to increase your success, and much more. Get 25+ years of networking experience in less than 3 hours.

When you listen to “The BNI Visitor Experience”, you’ll hear how to apply the VCP Process with chapter visitors so at the end of the BNI meeting they say, “I can’t wait to be part of that!” Learn the specific things you and your chapter can do to make sure every visitor has a great experience EVERY time.

Your Leadership Team can master the effective leadership strategies that are needed to build high-performing BNI Chapters with the information I share in “The Secret to Great Leadership Teams”. Get clarity on what each leadership role is designed to do and identify old habits that may keep your chapter from moving to the next level.

Enjoy a Discount and Benefit the BNI Foundation

For a limited time, ALL of the Misner Audio Programs, including the entire package, are 50% off the regular price with the special code IVAN50. Additionally, I am donating all of the proceeds to the BNI Foundation. You can continue the BNI Core Value of Lifelong Learning with your purchase of these audio programs AND know that you are helping the BNI Foundation’s mission to meet children’s education needs. It’s a WIN-WIN!

Whether you are a current BNI Member and want to brush up on the fundamentals and maximize your experience, or you are a professional thinking about adding networking as an additional aspect of business development, this collection of valuable information will take you to the next level.

Visit www.misneraudioprograms.com to see all seven of the audio programs and the specially priced bundles. Remember that you can save 50% on everything on that website for a limited time with the code IVAN50. It is now easier than ever to access instant audio downloads from wherever you are in the world!

What is the best way to connect with your network

What is the best way to connect with your network?string(50) "What is the best way to connect with your network?"

Their way. To build a powerful professional network it is important to connect and engage with them via the communication platforms that they use. This is particularly important if you need to develop a relationship with someone and want to get to know them professionally.

You have to go where they are, not where you are.

I learned that lesson after my children moved out on their own. My eldest would not respond to emails; she would not even answer the phone when I called her. I discovered, however, that when I texted her, she responded immediately. Rather than try to get her to move over to my preferred platform – email, I realized I could keep a good line of communication open with her by text.

My second daughter wouldn’t use email and didn’t use the phone to talk or text. She communicated by What’s App, which I had never heard of. However, I got the app and found a great way to communicate with her, usually with an immediate reply.

My son didn’t use email, or the phone for talk, text, or What’s App. How was I going to connect with him? I realized that he was a big online gamer on the platform called Steam, which had an instant messaging feature. I downloaded Steam and purchased a game so that I could instant message my son. It worked! If I saw him online and messaged him, I would get an instantaneous response.

I realized if I wanted to communicate with my children, I needed to use their preferred platforms, not mine.

A Lesson in Networking

This has taught me a lesson in networking. To stay connected to the people I meet, I need to go where they are, not stay where I am. That’s another lesson in networking: it’s not about me. It is about them. This applies to face-to-face networking as well as online opportunities. If building a powerful network is important to you, you have to go where your connections are. Don’t expect them to always come to you.

When we are growing our business and trying to increase our sales, we want to build relationships. As I have always said, networking is more about farming than hunting. We need to be in their territory, not our territory; we have to go where they are. That is where we will have the opportunity to do business.

How to find THEIR way

When you meet someone and plan to contact them again, ask them, “What is the best way to reach you?” or, “How would you like me to send that information to you?” Their answer will tell you their preference for future communications.

I recommend that you put their response into their contact information. Something as simple as “Prefers email” or “Prefers to be called” will help you to connect with them in their preferred way.

Staying connected to your network is important to grow business relationships. My children taught me that connecting with people in the way that THEY like to communicate is the best way to strengthen those relationships.

Personal Messagestring(16) "Personal Message"

Back in 2012 I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. At that point, I was told I should get surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy. I chose to go a holistic route. It has now been over nine years and I have not had to get surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy.

A few years ago, certain markers increased and I went to a specialized holistic treatment center for care from a medical doctor. Last week, the markers for my health condition changed again and so next week I am returning to that medical center. I feel good and I expect the same kind of results I had before. I will be going through at least two weeks of treatments. My social media team will continue to post my writings, but I will not be able to respond to any specific requests.

I’ll be back online again soon.

Thanks.
Ivan

Laser-Sharp Networking

Laser-Sharp Networkingstring(22) "Laser-Sharp Networking"

Did you know that the energy put out by a normal light bulb is equal to the energy put out by a laser beam? A laser has a very tight beam and is very strong and concentrated. A light bulb, on the other hand, releases light in many directions, so the light is comparably weak and diffuse. The difference between the two allows the laser, with focused energy, to have the power to do very fine and delicate surgery, artistic etching, and play the broad, full sounds of an orchestral overture. Is that the kind of precision you want from your networking activities?

3 Ways to Achieve Laser-Sharp Focus

Here are three ways to bring your networking efforts into laser-sharp focus to make it an even more powerful way to build your business.

Focus on one aspect of your business each time you speak at a networking meeting.

Remember, your goal in the networking process should be to train a sales force, not close a sale. Therefore, each time you have an opportunity, focus on a specific product or service you offer, then educate people how to refer you in this area.

We often try to cover everything we do in one introduction. When you have the chance to be in front of the same group regularly, avoid the mistake most people make by painting with too broad a brush. Laser-sharp networking calls for you to be very specific and detailed about one thing at a time.

Sometimes businesspeople say they have a “full service” business. I think saying this alone is a mistake–full service doesn’t really mean anything to people who don’t understand the details of all the services you offer. Instead, talk about what you specialize in or what you are best known for. There is something that sets you apart from the competition–let others know about that aspect of your business.

When asking for referrals from your networking partners, be very specific about what you want.

Identify specific people to whom you wish to be introduced. Personal introductions can open doors for you that would have otherwise remained closed. If you don’t know the name of the manager of a particular business you wish to meet, find out–then ask specifically for a referral to that person.

Give vivid examples of the type of referral you wish to receive. I recommend reviewing a case study from a current client or past successful referral with your networking partners. Define what the needs were of that prospect and how your business met those needs. Be as detailed as you can be so your networking partners can really visualize the experience. They will have a clear picture of how you were able to meet this person’s needs. This will give them clarity and focus when they’re away from you and they meet another person with the same needs.

Meet with each person in your networking circle.

Take the time to have a one-to-one meeting with each person in your networking group, away from the general networking session. This will help to deepen the relationship and dial up the focus of your networking efforts.

I can’t stress enough the importance of deepening the relationships with your networking partners. To really maximize the energy of the partnership you are forging with your referral sources, it is critical to spend time with them. Just going to a social function or sitting side by side at a conference or networking event isn’t enough. You have to be face to face, talking and exploring commonalities and complimentary aspects of each of your businesses, to be as powerful a referral source for each other as you can be.

It’s important to take your time to get to know your referral sources and cultivate long-lasting and mutually profitable relationships. It’s true that “time is money,” however it is essential to invest your time in one-to-one relationships to develop the strong and deeply focused referral sources you need to grow your business. By focusing your efforts like a laser beam, you can fine-tune your networking message and increase your results.

Dear 2021string(9) "Dear 2021"

Dear 2021

I ended the year of 2020 with a humorous graphic on my social media that said:

“I don’t want any trouble from you. Just come in, sit in the corner, don’t touch anything, and keep your mouth shut”.

2021 is now half over. We are moving from ‘The Great Pause’ to ‘The Great Acceleration’.

What are your takeaways from the first half of 2021?  What was something positive that you learned so far?  Give some thought to this question and write down your observations.  I believe that this type of reflection will help us all to recognize the good that took place during a tough year. #2021

BNI Founder’s Day

The First Annual BNI Founder’s Daystring(36) "The First Annual BNI Founder’s Day"

In April of 2021, I announced an idea that I have been contemplating for some time: a special day of one-to-one meetings with BNI Members from around the world. More than 170 requests were received, and sixteen Members were selected to meet with me to ask any business and networking questions they had.

Last week on June 24th we had the first BNI Founder’s Day, an enjoyable and fun day of exclusive meetings with amazing BNI Members that I was honored to meet. It has been quite a while since I was able to have 1-2-1 meetings with Members and I found the questions and conversations to be very refreshing.

I want to say Thank You to the following BNI Members for their contributions in helping to establish this new tradition.

Elbert Or, Philippines
Chandana Bandara, Sri Lanka
Mahadevan R, India
Praveen Samuel, India
Soaham Panse, India
Jayant Agarwal, India
Michel Smeets, Belgium
Piotr Muszynski, Spain
Faye Goodwin, South Africa
Ilaria Salonna, Italy
Marjanne Deelen, Netherlands
David Whitehouse, UK
Ryan Sarkkinen, USA
Phyllis Whetsel, USA
Libby Bigolin, USA
Ingrid Misner, Canada

I invite everyone to join me in having a day filled with your own 1-2-1s next year when the second annual BNI Founder’s Day is held on the last Thursday in June.

Plan B

Involve Your Company In Charitable Activitiesstring(45) "Involve Your Company In Charitable Activities"

During the summer of 2013, while spending a week on Necker Island with Sir Richard Branson, I had the opportunity to discuss his “B Team” concept in depth with him. The B Team is a group of internationally renowned business and thought leaders that seek to accelerate the implementation of Plan B, an equal commitment to the planet and people, as well as profit. When I interviewed Sir Richard, he said, “We can’t leave every problem to government — non-profits alone cannot solve the tasks at hand. We cannot continue to do ‘business as usual”.

Plan A

Plan A for business has traditionally been to focus only on making the largest profit possible. You know that adage, “He who dies with the most toys wins?” That is how I have personally seen most people in business approach their corporate and personal success. Now we are seeing more and more successful businesses giving back in order to make the world a better place.

Conversations are taking place in the marketplace that reveal this shift happening. Books like Conscious Capitalism by my friends Dr. Raj Sisodia and John Mackey, and We First by my good friend, Simon Mainwaring, have become best sellers. It is encouraging to see that a new focus has reached critical mass and is rapidly moving toward the tipping point.

Plan B

As I interviewed Sir Richard about the B Team and Plan B, he began to inspire me question what it would look like within my own company if we were to seek to implement Plan B. Then my thoughts led me to consider what it would look like in our communities if not only my company implemented Plan B, but many others did so as well.

1. Create a nonprofit arm of your company.

While you may feel that it is too costly or needs a lot of administration to create your own nonprofit charity, that’s simply not true. Most cities and even states have community foundations in which you would be able to create a donor-advised fund. When my own company, BNI®, started to really become successful, we chose to start a corporate charity with a focus on children and education. The BNI Foundation awards grants to teachers who can’t secure funding from their school districts or states for the resources they need so badly.

2. Get to know the nonprofit organizations that are working hard to support life-changing and environment-sustaining causes.

For the BNI Foundation, that means learning what we can about organizations like the Boys and Girls Clubs, and Junior Achievement. They need resources, like computers and tablets, consultants and mentors, as well as host businesses so students can come in and learn about business — to find the inspiration to press through their challenges in order to graduate from high school or even to dare to dream that they may one day go to university. They also need community members to be involved on their boards and with their fund-raising efforts.

In order to reach in and help out, you have to know what the needs are. Keith Ferrazzi, in his book Never Eat Alone, encourages us to use our lunch breaks as power meetings with others with whom we want to network. You can set aside one lunch per week (or more, as your time allows) to have with the organizers of charities you want to get to know better. This is a great way to develop relationships with the people who are pouring into the causes that matter to you.

3. Bring your employees and clients along with you.

Show them how they, too, can help out. Consider holding a staff volunteer day at a school site that needs hands-on help. There are many ways your company can work together to address the many needs these schools have.

Without our help, inner-city high schools will continue to experience the average drop-out rate of nearly 40 percent. This is certainly not good for business! We need a strong, well-educated working class in our country. As we have implemented our call to action and are getting to know the educational support organizations in the major cities of our nation, we are learning that students who are able to access mentoring from the business community have a high-school graduation rate of between 95 to 100 percent. The BNI Foundation is starting an initiative we are calling Business VOICES  to let entrepreneurs know what needs are out there. You can start something similar as it relates to your company’s cause or join us. 

Business VOICES:
  • Values 
  • Our 
  • Inner 
  • City 
  • Education & 
  • Schools

4. Host a Get-Acquainted Meeting for a nonprofit that is having a positive impact in your community.

You can be a gatekeeper for the organizations which need support. You might have space at your office to host a gathering there. If not, consider underwriting a get-acquainted meeting at a local establishment. Some of these organizations have regularly scheduled get-acquainted meetings and would benefit greatly from your support in sponsoring one or several of these events.

These are just some of the ways you can plug into Plan B and help make a difference. Charitable activities are an important part of building a powerful personal network. Things will change for the better when small companies adopt local issues and bigger companies adopt national issues and global companies adopt international issues. I believe business can be noble and change the world in thousands of positive ways!

networking plan

Three Questions About Your Networking Planstring(42) "Three Questions About Your Networking Plan"

As a time-strapped businessperson, how do you figure out which networking events to attend and which you should let go by the wayside? A networking plan can help you decide which events are worth your time. Here are three questions for you to answer to create a networking plan that will work for you.

Who are my best prospects?

Many business professionals cannot clearly define their best prospects. This is why they find themselves running all over town trying to attend every networking event that comes down the pike. To determine who your “ideal prospects” are, ask these questions about your past clients:

  • Who are your very best customers?
  • What industries are they in?
  • How long have they been in business?
  • Are your customers businesses or consumers?

For example, the best prospect for an owner of a vacuum center is NOT anyone who needs a vacuum cleaner. Instead, their ideal customer is clearly defined with specifics:

  • A woman
    • with children, pets, or both
  • Lives in a very nice neighborhood
  • Drives a Lexus, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, or Infiniti
  • Concerned with the health of her family
  • Purchases quality products
    • not someone shopping for a bargain-basement deal.

Why is it important to be this specific? Because a particular person is more likely to pop into your head. Once you’ve put together a profile of your past clients, pick up the phone and run it by a few trusted friends and colleagues. Those who are close to you often have insights into patterns that you tend to overlook.

Where can I meet my best prospects?

If you’re trying to meet more small business owners:

You’ll want to spend time at your local Chamber of Commerce, a local business association, or with a referral group. Not only do these groups have exactly the type of audience you want to meet, but also with referral groups, there’s typically a system in place that helps you – help others to get more referrals for you.

If your business is geared more towards consumers:

Become involved with your kids’ events—Little League, Girl Scouts, or your church’s youth group—is another good way to meet the right people.

Who, exactly, do I want to meet?

The greater the number of networks you are connected to, the greater the chance that there’s a short chain of contacts between you and anyone you’d care to meet. All you have to do is recognize that fact and ask a few people a specific question or two. The answers will either put you in direct contact with a prospect or lead you in the direction of the networking events you need to attend. Even if you can’t name the specific people you want to meet, the better you can describe them, the greater the chance that you’ll get to meet your ideal contact. The secret ingredient in this principle is specificity.

The way to meet the unknown contact is to be as detailed as possible without being too exclusive. You can do this by starting your question with: “Who do you know who…”, then complete the sentence with specifics:

  • “Who do you know who is a new parent?”
  • “Who do you know who belongs to an organization that builds houses for the homeless?”

By asking for a particular kind of contact, you focus the other person’s attention on details that remind them of a specific person. Finally, remember that it’s important to surround yourself with quality business contacts since the best way to your ideal contact very often is through someone you already know.

Sample networking plan for a downtown realtor:

  • My best prospects are :
    • First-time homebuyers
    • People interested in buying a downtown condo or home
  • I can meet my best prospects at:
    • Downtown networking events
    •  Young professionals’ networking events
  • I want to meet:
    • Who do you know who is thinking about moving out of their apartment and into a house?
    • Who do you know who is living in an apartment accumulating disposable income?

It’s just a matter of developing a networking plan that puts you in contact with the right people. That’s exactly what the three questions above will help you do. However, you must take action on your networking plan to achieve your goals.

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