What To Do "Before" You Start Networking

I met someone recently who said she’s been having a hard time building her network because people can’t seem to understand or relate to her business.  I asked her why she thought that was and she responded that her business is pretty complicated and when she tries to explain what it’s all about, she can almost see people’s eyes spinning in their heads.

I told her that before she can even begin to network effectively, she needs to find a way to explain her business in a way that people will easily understand.  We ALL need to heed this rule of thumb and be able to clearly and simply communicate what it is that we do by pinpointing key aspects of our business for our potential referral sources. 

My advice to anyone confused about how to clearly explain what it is that they do is to ask yourself these questions and write down your answers:

  • Why are you in business (other than to make a living)?  Why do you do what you do?  How does your business serve others?
  • What do you sell?  Most important, what are the benefits—not the features—of your products or services?
  • Who are your customers?  What are your target markets?  Be specific.  Look at all segments of your business to determine the niche or niches you prefer to work with.
  • What are your core competencies, and what do you do best?
  • How well do you compete?  How do you stand out from your competition?

These questions will help you explain what your business is all about, and make you more effective at implementing a comprehensive referral system.  By communicating these aspects of your business to referral sources, they’re learning how they can refer you; and that’s what networking is all about. 

4 thoughts on “What To Do "Before" You Start Networking

  1. I remember a few years ago, I was doing business development for an engineering consulting company. I can remember several people who said to me, “Brian, I really want to refer you, but I don’t have ANY clue what you do as an engineer!” (Now this was after I had explained what I did dozens of times already!) With me being an engineer and engineering being a field that is perceived as being hard to understand, it really made it difficult for them to know where to begin.

    Since these folks had a desire to refer me, I taught them questions that they could ask when they meet a potential referral. For example, when you meet an architect, I asked them to say, “Are you happy with the engineers you are working with?” or “Are your consultants keeping you from meeting YOUR schedule?” Next they could say, “Would you like to meet Brian?” No technical details were needed.

    Usually people want to know what your complicated service or product will do for THEM and very often that is not complicated at all. I remember a mentor who used to tell the young engineers before a “dog and pony show” (sales presentation) to “tell them what time it is, not how to build the watch.”

  2. Hi Ivan,

    I am a REALTOR in Oakville, Ontario and member of newly launched BNI Ignite! I have zeroed in on “what are the benefits of what I bring to the table” rather than just “features” of my service. This led me to a four part value proposition:


    And these are things I provide on an ongoing way for friends and clients in the field of real estate. BNI has forced me to clarify and communicate why people should do business with me. Loving it! Hilary

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