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.