Running a successful business used to be dependent on what you knew. Then, who you knew became important. In today's economy, it is far more critical to what you extent you know someone. So it's not what you know or who you know, but how well you know them that really determines the amount of business that can be generated by a contact.
Networking is the process of meeting people (also known as contacts), either through a contact that you initiate or through an introduction by a third party. Networking allows you to meet, and establish a relationship with, people who may not have heard of your business through any other means.
Like the name implies, this is work! It's not called Net-sit, Net-talk, or Net-eat. It's Net-work!! In order to make it productive for you, you need to learn proper way to do it. There are some important steps to follow for successful networking:
Pick Your Functions To Attend
Business people like to associate with other business people, so attend functions where these types of people will be. Pick those functions carefully. Make sure that the purpose of the function is to promote business and not just to socialize. Chambers of Commerce gatherings, trade shows, and networking organizations are excellent sources of business leads. The people who attend these are there for the same reason you are- to meet new people and to develop new business relationships. Social functions are fun and relaxing, but a person trying to do business or make contacts there could be very disappointed.
Dress appropriately- you are a representation of the type of work that you do. First impression advertising can make you the most money or be the most expensive advertising you will ever invest in if it causes you to lose business.
Always have a supply of business cards on you at all times. I know a man who met a prospective client from a large company while swimming in a pool in a hotel in Hawaii, while on vacation. He landed an account with the firm when he produced a business card (laminated of course), from his swimming trunks.
Make a Good Presentation
Remember that you know more about your business than your prospective client needs to on a first meeting. Save the details of your product or service for a second meeting unless specifically asked about them by the prospect. If you overwhelm them with information, you may never have chance to determine how you can help them with a problem they may have. The key to successful businesses is in solving problems for clients in a fair, efficient and cost effective way.
Mining for Referrals
All-important referrals come from happy clients. A referral from a client is a reflection of their judgment as well as a compliment to you and your product or service. Be sure to send out "thank You" cards to people who refer you business. Thank them for the opportunity to service their acquaintance and to perhaps help them in the future, as well.
Being loyal to those in your networking circle, through the sharing of business referrals, suppliers, and industry information, you build strong, mutually-beneficial business relationships. THOSE lead to business referrals
Networking is done at any time of day- morning , noon and night. One of the nicest benefits is the friendships you can make while pursuing common goals.
Once you have found the functions you feel would best help you accomplish your goals, your next step is understanding what to say at these functions to help accomplish those goals.
Once you have been asked about your firm, such as when someone says' "So what do YOU do?", you need to be prepared with something to say that IMMEDIATELY catches their attention. This phrase should be about 30 seconds long and should highlight your best benefit that the product or service offers it's clients.
Saying something like "I help people generate wealth", if you are a stockbroker, or "I help people keep your money out of the hands of the IRS", if you are a CPA, are examples. You may need to have several of these quick lines , because one may not work OR be appropriate in every situation.
After you say this, the obvious question next is "How do you do that?". Here the answer needs to be consolidated to 60 seconds or so because that is all people listen really closely to anyway.
There are specific facts that you should consider answering when you respond to this question. The reason I suggest this is because your response should give this person you are speaking the SPECIFICS they need to help refer someone your way. The better you get at specifics, the more effective feedback to you will be. You want to help this person focus on faces and the more specific you are the easier that will before them.
One of the challenges I regularly see in my line of work then people introduce themselves, is a tendency to say things that, although nice to know, don't really help us understand how we can help them and exactly what kind of clients they are looking for. The introductions or presentations are so general that we really can not focus on any faces of persons who we could refer to each other because "everyone in business is a good client for me". We cannot focus on "everyone". We need a smaller field to focus on to be able to help.
The following facts and specifics will help others find work for you. Remember, you want to speak this briefly, and SPECIFICALLY! You may not be able to incorporate ALL of this information in your introduction. Use what gets to the specific way someone can help, the fastest.
One of the most cost effective ways to generate revenue for your firm, is to have other business professionals refer your business. When this happens, it's like having a sales force out there working for you without having them on your payroll. The only way you can get other professionals to do this for you, though is if they know, like, and trust you. In other words, if they have a relationship with you.
But how do you build these relationships in a timely fashion and strong enough to ensure they WILL refer business your way when they run across it? The easiest way is to get business professionals together in the same place at the same time and have a program in place that allows them to build relationships with others.
That's where networking groups come in. They meet at the same time at the same place, like an appointment, at regular intervals to encourage this relationship-building. This can happen weekly, by-weekly, monthly or yearly. Studies have shown that the more exposure a person has to another person, the faster the relationship gets built. Using this information, it would be fair to expect that relationships you built in a group that meets weekly grow stronger faster than those that only meet monthly. In a year's time, a weekly meeting would expose business professionals to each other 52 times while with a monthly meeting, there would be only 12 times.
Groups also vary in their composition. Many groups are comprised of one business professional from any chosen field, thus eliminating competition within the group for specific business leads. Other groups place restrictions on length of time in business, or level of responsibility in the firm when deciding on the acceptance of specific members. Still others have no restrictions at all. Restrictions that are placed on the membership of a group often help ensure that the membership is comprised of business professionals who are all looking for the same thing. In other words, they are all playing by the same rules. These restrictions can also help eliminate conflict within a group, thus allowing an easier time for relationship-building.
Groups vary considerably when it comes to the cost of involvement. Fees for membership can range from nothing to thousands of dollars a year. The concept of networking groups is not a new one, by any means- some older groups have been around for over 50 years. Almost without a doubt, the groups that last that long, charge a fee to belong to them. This ensures that participants are not going to just breeze in, take what they can get and breeze out. That's not to say that doesn't happen, but it lowers the incidence of it. Charging a fee makes a prospective member make a commitment to the group. It also means that all members have made that same commitment.
The use of the fees varies from group to group as well. Some groups have a Corporate sponsor- a company that has a name that is recognized as a Professional Leads Group. In this case, fees are paid to Corporate and the benefits of a Corporate sponsor are assumed. One of these benefits is usually that Corporate provides a Representative to the group who is responsible for the marketing of the group, so that members can focus on the marketing of their own businesses. When the group does not have a Corporate sponsor, these fees are usually used for the needs of the group- marketing and advertising support is a common use . Members are expected to market the group as well as their own businesses.
The only way these groups will work to the maximum for any business professional is if that person participates in the group's activities. This participation would include but may not be limited to :
One of the easiest ways to help remember the wealth of business that can come from participation in networking groups, is to think of the group's functions as "appointments" instead of "meetings". You have the luxury of being able to meet with multiple prospective clients at the same place and time, in one "appointment", instead of each one individually.
Networking groups have different structures and focuses. Some of them can be very rigid and structured, others can be very loose. Effectiveness in a group is enhanced by being in a group that "feels" right- where the personalities and the group's dynamics suite the personality and dynamics of the individual members. Most groups will allow guests to visit at least once for free to get a feel for the group. This is strongly encouraged to ensure that, when a member joins a group, there is enough of a comfort level with the group dynamics to build strong business relationships.
Networking groups work. They help business professionals achieve their business goals and they help develop relationship-building skills that are just as effective out of the office as in. The process is called "Networking", which means it involves "work". Networking groups are one of the most effective types of work that can be done for business development.
For information on participating in our networking group contact us.
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