Many people only network at networking meetings and events. Big mistake! Opportunities to expand your network and make powerful connections are anywhere and everywhere. On airplanes, in classes and seminars, at parties, attending trade shows, at the gym, at your child's school, and even when out with existing customers.
While sweating at the gym, I made a major business connection. In New York, most people are quick to come and go, but I try to be friendly (in a New York minute). After a few weeks of seeing the same people in my weekly Saturday workout class, it was clear we shared something: our love for the instructor and his kick-ass class. That bond made a quick conversation starter and rapport builder before the class began.
I connected with some of the class-goers and learned that one was a principal of an elementary school. I was selling educational software to elementary schools, and after hearing about my work, the principal asked me to demo my solutions for her and her staff. Wow! Because of my networking connection, I didn't need to cold call the school, instead the decision-maker was asking me for a meeting. Within weeks I got the sale (note the average sales cycle was three+ months). And, she referred me to a few other principals in the area!
Lesson: What made this gym interaction so successful? I used a shared love for the class to make connections, I was friendly, I asked questions to find out who did what, I created trust and demonstrated my reliability by following up, and I scored.
Think about everywhere you go each day, and ask yourself how many missed engagements and connections are all around you? Then ask yourself, if a connection opportunity presented itself, how ready would you be?
The big question is: Are you making the right connections, or are you letting opportunities pass you by?
I've built my business through face-to-face networking, making follow-up appointments, and finalizing sales. Successful networking is all about getting new business, creating positive word-of-mouth referrals, and building rich relationships.
Being proactive is the key. Talk to everyone you can, and make a friendly, favorable impression at EVERY opportunity. Make the person you're talking to WANT to continue the conversation and meet again. This will lead to you becoming known as both interesting and valuable.
Jeffrey Gitomer says, "In sales it's not who you know, in sales it's who knows you." I say it's not only who knows you, but also how highly they think of you. What's your word-of-mouth and word-of-mouse reputation?
A Google search will uncover your word-of-mouse reputation in a nanosecond. Are you known for doing what you say you will do, or are you known for lousy follow up? Are you known for high-quality service, or are you known for not caring about your customers? Make sure all the positive things about you are online, and take action to repair any damaging claims about you or your job performance.
If you want to make more meaningful, powerful, lucrative networking connections, here's the five-part secret:
FIRST: Go where your customers and prospects go, and get involved in the group.
SECOND: Go where the people in the group do business with people you want to do business with.
THIRD: Go where the people in the group are positive and willing to give as much as they want to take. If you immerse yourself in these environments and take value-driven actions with people who will reciprocate, you'll make more genuine connections and more sales.
FOURTH: Look sharp. Just being at the right place at the right time is where networking starts. Imagine you just ran into your dream customer at an event. How do you want to look? Dress with style to impress with your look first, and your brain second. Your new customer could be right in front of you, and your job is to be ready to attract with your appearance AND your brain. Double the attraction equals double the leads, double the connections, and ultimately double the sales. (Hit doubles and home runs will follow.)
FIFTH: You are your word. Follow-up by doing what you promised. What you do after you meet someone makes all the difference.
Become a networking elephant. Never forget what was said or promised by writing a note on their business card. Do this immediately. Personal Tip: Sometimes I take a bathroom break at big networking meetings to write notes.
After the event is the all-critical follow up. If you promised to connect them with someone, or offered to email a recent blog post or article that relates to their industry, do it within 24-hours! Connect with them on LinkedIn so that you can stay in touch. This is how you will get them to remember you, and how you also build credibility and trust.
If you focus on your networking prowess, business leads will present themselves.
- Are you paying enough attention to see your networking opportunities?
- Are you immersing yourself in the right kinds of groups with the right people?
- Are you taking value-driven actions?
- Are you presenting a person that people want to do business with?
- Are you following up once your foot is in the door?
When you can say "YES" to those questions, you can sit back and watch your net-work increase your net-worth.