Article #53, January, 2007
Get More Clients Networking
Most of the small business owners I know (and I know a lot of them) are not really happy with the return they get from their networking. They keep going because there is a positive return, but they want more. There are easy actions you can take to improve your return!
One of the most important things to remember for most small business owners is NOT to sell your product/service at the meeting. You're selling the appointment! For example, I give a fr'ee coaching session - that's what I focus on selling at the meeting. If you have a Mary Kay business, you are selling the fr'ee facial. Perhaps you are trying to build your list for your email newsletter, in which case you are selling the fr'ee newsletter. Find a way for people to sample your product, and 'sell' the sales meeting - whatever form that takes.
Before you even enter the room, set an intention. What do you expect to gain at this meeting? Collect business cards from 4 potential strategic alliance partners, make 2 sales meeting appointments, give out samples to 12 potential clients, collect 6 email addresses - these are only a few possible examples of clear intentions.
Many networkers have been trained to network further with others by meeting for coffee or lunch to build a closer relationship. This activity is great - in concept. In reality, you mostly waste a lot of time meeting with people who never hire you or refer business to you. A better use of your time is to get together with 2 or 3 strategically selected people for coffee or lunch.
Two groups in my area regularly set up these meetings, and they have been extremely fruitful to me. There are rules to these meetings, however, and following these rules will yield far better results. Here are the rules as I see them:
- Don't say you are interested in the meeting if you really don't want to go.
- Be on time.
- Have a thorough understanding of your business and be dedicated to making a profit. If your business is merely a hobby, that's fine, but this isn't the meeting for you.
- Listen. Nobody wants you to monopolize the conversation - give everyone her fair share of the time.
- Focus on business. Spend 5-10 minutes bonding and connecting by discussing food, kids or sports, then move right into business.
- Have some idea of who your target market is. It will be very difficult for the other participants to refer business to you if you don't tell them who you want.
One more thing that will make your investment in networking go further is to keep showing up! The reason networking works for so many people is that they build relationships, and because of the trust built in these relationships, the referrals flow. You may know about leads groups like LeTip and BNI - they work because the members get to know each other very well through repeated exposure at weekly meetings.
Bottom line: Don't push your product at networking meetings, have reasonable, clear expectations and build relationships.