By Toni R. Harris, Speaker, Trainer, Coach & Author
Have you attended breakfasts, lunches, dinners, happy hours and mixers with a view to drumming up new business only to come up empty handed? This article will introduce you to a different way of networking so that you can turn your new “friends” into your own referral network.
The first thing I want to acknowledge is that networking is work. Yes, the events are fun and social and you meet really nice people, but let us not forget that the purpose for being there is to work. The good news is that, although they may not realize it, everyone that is at the event is there to work also. This article will outline six steps to help you make your networking work for you.
Step 1 – Set a goal
How many events a month do you want to attend? A good rule of thumb is 2-3 events a month. This should be a manageable number so that attending events doesn’t distract from your real work of selling and building your business. Once you locate the event, book it. Register, pay and put it on your calendar. This way the event is stuck like glue and you won’t blow it off for a night of TV.
How many people do you want to meet? If you meet 3 to 5 new people per event, this will allow you to make a one-on-one connection with at least 9-15 new people a month. This will turn into at least 108 new personal connections for the year.
Step 2 – Make small talk
When you meet someone at the event, you want to find out about them. Who are they? Where are they from? What do they do? Show a genuine interest in them. Give them an appropriate compliment. It’s important that you listen carefully. Ask if you may contact them so you can meet one-on-one to find out how you can help them with their business (who can say no to that?). When you part company, jot down something memorable about them on their business card and recall the information at the appropriate time during your one-on-one visit.
Step 3 – Act NOW!
Follow up with them immediately. You’ve received their permission at the event to contact them. Now do it! Email or phone them requesting 30 minutes to sit down. Remind them that your one-on-one meeting is so that you can find out more about who they are and how you can help them in their business. Try to keep the meeting place neutral. A coffee shop, library, restaurant or bookstore are all great places. Try not to meet in your offices as this could make the meeting feel more like a sales call.
Step 4 – It’s all about them
This is where you start to build a relationship. Find out more about who they are and what they do. Ask them what they need within the next 30 days. If you can give them a referral, then by all means do so. Of course, in turn they are going to ask you about your business. THIS IS NOT THE TIME TO SELL THEM! Tell them what’s a good referral for you and how they can help you. They will recognize themselves as a potential referral if you do a good job describing who you are and what you do. It is appropriate to ask them if they know anyone who fits your ideal client profile.
Step 5 – Who’s in your Top 10?
Do you have a list of the Top 10 people you want to meet? If not, you should have one. You can present your list to them and ask them if they have a connection to any of the persons or companies on your list. Who knows, they say there’s six degrees of separation between people and they may be able to bring you closer to one of the people on your list.
Step 6 – Follow up
Send a “thank you” note thanking them for their time. Remind them of anything they promised to get to you and deliver anything you promised to get to them. Stay in touch with them. Ask their permission to put them on your distribution list for any of your constant contact lists. Stay in front of them and remember to send them referrals as you meet people who fit their ideal client description.
Now that you’ve got the foundation to networking proactively, you’ll be able to turn your networking into real relationships that will ultimately turn to business. Better yet, you’ll create a gang of new friends who are talking about you and your business. Using these techniques will make your attendance at these events worthwhile and the money well spent.
Toni Harris, also known as the Turnaround Queen®, is an Authorized Local Expert with Constant Contact, Radio Show Host, Business Coach® and Author. Listen to Toni’s radio show every Friday from 9-10 CST at www.drasticstepswithtoniharris.com or email her at [email protected]