Not All Business Networking is Equal.
Ever heard someone complain, “Networking doesn’t work.” Or, “My networking group hasn’t brought me a single new business referral?”
On the other hand, you may have heard someone raving about their networking group as “The place to grow your business…quite the business referral generation machine.”
But let’s dig a little deeper.
Curiously, we are likely to find members of the “non-working useless” networking group who are growing their business by leaps and bounds through that group. And, there are members in the fantastic “business referral machine” networking group who have never received a single referral.
If we’re totally honest, the conclusion is that the success of networking depends at least as much on the individual in the group as on the members or the nature of the networking organization.
Actually, successful networking is a science, and like all science there is a process that produces results and a process that does not produce results. Let’s analyze a networking process that is most likely to produce great results in terms of:
- New business referrals
- Active, productive joint venture partner relationships
- The ability for you to offer more quality resources to your clients in terms of the trusted professionals you know.
- Enduring friendships
What are the steps to a successful networking process?
Attend your organization’s networking events consistently over time:
If you sell flowers, you may get a few immediate referrals. If you sell homes the referral process is going to take longer. Attending consistently over time helps you connect with and come to know the other members of the networking organization. It helps them to know you also. It’s often been said, people refer potential clients to people they know, like and trust. Expect these relationships of trust to develop over one or more years rather than in just a few meetings. Your consistent visibility helps create trust.
Consistently articulate your business message with clarity and impact.
The other members of your networking organization need to know the following with laser sharp clarity in order to bring you business:
A. What is your business?
B. What do you offer?
C. Who is your target market?
D. What is the value you offer to clients?
E. What is your character and how well do you work with others?
F. How effective a problem solver are you?
As a test, once you’ve been in a networking group for a month or so, interview other members and ask them to answer the above questions in relation to you and your business. If they have trouble answering these questions, chances are that they will have trouble generating business referrals for you.
Then, go a bit further and ask yourself if you can answer the above questions concerning the other members of you networking group. If you cannot, chances are you are having a hard time generating referrals for their business. And, if you’re not generating referrals for others, chances are great that they will not be generating referrals for you.
Take time to put the key elements of your business into a written document.
If you can put it into writing, you can share it both in a spoken presentation and also have a “leave behind” to help others remember what you said. What are the key elements to communicate?
- Basic business information: Where is your business located? How long have you been in business? What is your profession?
- Personal information: “People buy the person, not the product.” That’s a common saying with great truth. The more others know and identify with you, the greater connection they feel and that connection will lead to business. What are your interests? What are your goals? What’s your success philosophy? What are you’re past achievements?
- Identify your networks: What other organizations are you in? These are great resources both for you and for others in your networking organization. As you show your expanded circles, this elevates your credibility among all your contacts everywhere and grows additional trust.
- Clearly list your knowledge and skill areas: These are huge differentiating factors that set you apart from others who deliver your same services and products. They help firmly place you in the identity of “problem solver” without which you are competing with cut-rate businesses and websites that offer the same services and products.
- List your services and products: How often have you had a client who used one of your services go to another business for another of your services because they were unaware you offered that service or product. Your referral and joint venture partners may go elsewhere looking to refer others who offer your services simply because they knew you for a particular service or product and did not realize you offered much more.
- Identify your key Joint Venturing contacts. Joint venturing contacts are other businesses who offer complimentary services and products to your client base. For example, a Realtor and Mortgage Broker make excellent joint venturing contacts as they can send a stream of business to each other, they can conduct joint training, bundle services and conduct joint marketing campaigns creating a marketing multiplier effect.
- Identify your key Referral Sources. Referral sources differ from Joint Venture Partners in that the referral source may not necessarily serve your same client base. However, they are what we call, “natural networkers” who seem to deliver referrals with ease. A great example is the head of a networking organization.
- List your top 10 most recent customers. This further gives others a clear idea of whom you serve and who is attracted to your business. Where did they come from? What value did you bring them?
- List a few “triggers”. Triggers are statements people make when they need your services or products. For example, a trigger that let’s people know they are in the presence of someone who needs a Chiropractor might be the complaint: “My back hurts.” “I have a bad back and can’t lift anything more than a few pounds.”
- List a few referral generating statements: Referral generating statements are responses to give when people hear a trigger statement. For example: “How would it feel not to have that back pain?”
Document Other’s Core Business Information
Now, go one step further. Have a file with this same type of information on each of your networking partners. Now YOU are in a better position to generate referrals and new business for the others in your networking group which causes them in turn to work harder to bring you more new business.
Create a Networking Plan
Finally, systematically track your 1-2-1 networking meeting goals and progress. What should you track?
- People you have met 1-2-1
- People you intend to meet 1-2-1 because they are potential referral or joint venture partners.
- People in your networking groups.
- “Natural networkers”
- Referrals you’ve received and the source.
- Referrals you’ve given.
Create a tracking document and plan to meet at least 2 individuals on your list each month.
The Las Vegas Health & Fitness Chamber of Commerce has developed tracking document templates to help you create a successful networking process.
In addition, the Chamber mentors members to greater success in networking through individual coaching and group masterminds.
Consider the value of a steady stream of new clients for your business. The Chamber helps you to this value at a fraction of the cost of outsourced marketing, seminar expenses, personal coaches, marketing consultants and even the majority of mastermind groups available.