We all want to do business with people we know and trust. So, how do you build rapport and create trust with new contacts at business networking events? One way is to offer value-added advice – solid, helpful information provided out of a genuine concern for another person.
For instance, a real estate agent may be talking with someone at a networking event who is not ready to buy a home today, however they are considering it soon. The agent could say something like this:
“Well, I know you’re not interested in buying a home right now. When you’re ready to start looking, I highly recommend checking out the north part of town. Many of my clients have seen their homes appreciate in the 10 to 20 percent range, and from what I understand, the city is thinking about building another high school in that area.”
This example shows that it is possible to offer relevant information that has something of value without being too salesy. A statement like this acknowledges that the person is not currently in the market, and yet it still demonstrates the real estate agent’s expertise, making them memorable when it’s time for the new contact to begin house hunting.
This model can be effective for consultants, accountants, financial planners, coaches, and for most professionals in a service-based industry in which knowledge is the main product.
Give a Little Test Drive
Some people are concerned about giving away their intellectual capital for free. I say look at it this way: very few people are going choose to work with you if they’re not sure you can do the job and provide what they need.
If your business does not have a tangible product, you only have your technical expertise to demonstrate your capability to help them solve their problem. Think about it – when 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 sign on the dotted line until you’ve taken the car for a test drive.
The same is true for your prospective customers. Give them a little test drive to show how it would feel to do business with you. If you are a marketing consultant, give them a few ideas on how they can increase the exposure of their business. Don’t go overboard; simply offer a technique you read about or tried with one of your clients. Just give them something they can try to see if it works for them.
This way of offering advice lead to a positive conversation with new contacts while you’re networking, and it also increases the likelihood of them contacting you when they have a future need for your type of service.
Prospective Referral Sources
Remember that your networking group members are also your prospective referral sources. Consider the ways that you can give them valuable advice related to your specialty or profession. Perhaps you can tell them about an upcoming change in procedures that will affect them, give tips on how to initiate the changes they will need to make, or provide other pertinent information that can help your chapter members achieve success.
One of the goals of a master connector is to help your networking partners feel that you are a link to privileged and helpful information. The advice you give may lead prospective referral sources to seek you out for answers to their own questions, which is a great way to remind them of what you can do for others.
Here are some tips to help you decide what to share with your network and how to share it with them:
- Make a list of the topics that you feel comfortable and confident giving advice on.
- Decide whether you will share information formally, such as in a newsletter or a presentation at your networking group, or informally, such as a personal note.
- Determine how frequently you will provide updates on the topics.
- Ask your sources to think of others who might benefit from your advice.
- Periodically ask your network members if they find your information useful. You can ask them if they have other questions or topics that you can share, too.
- Be sure that your network members know that they can tell you if they no longer wish to receive your updates.
Offering valuable information to your network will not only help them, it will also keep you on their minds and encourage them to refer you and speak highly of your professional knowledge to people they know.
A Giving Approach
I learned about the power of giving when I was in my first management position working for private industry. I went to each member of my team and asked, “How can I help you?” By offering to help people with this simple question, I built strong relationships with them and learned what it was that they needed most from me.
I later discovered that this approach worked very well in promoting my consulting services in my own business. I would find ways to help people – even if it meant not selling them my services. The attitude of helping with a ‘giving’ approach was a way to build my credibility and it brought people back to me later when they had a need.
When it comes to building rapport and creating trust, offering value-added advice is one of the best ways to do so. Everyone can benefit when you give valuable information to your business networking group and networking partners.
Have you found it beneficial to share some of your expertise with potential customers? I’d like to read about your experience in the Comment section.