The 9 Step Networking Plan
First step Plan Ahead.
The biggest investment you make into networking is your time. And most people don't budget it adequately to maximize their results. They show up late and leave to connect with people before and after meetings officially start.
» Step 1
Here is a little secret I'm going to share with you that very few people do. Plan and block time to evaluate your results after the meeting. Was that group a good match for you? Look through the business cards you collected - did you have an opportunity to really connect with those people? How will you follow up?
These are just a few questions you should be asking yourself after each meeting. This is just as important as showing up in the first place. Most people skip this step and end up frustrated and overwhelmed because they don't take the time to "get organized."
Step number two. Choose wisely where and who you network with.
Again and again people ask me, "There are so many different groups, what are the basic groups and where can I get the biggest bang for a buck?"
First, you have to know that there are no right and wrong groups in general they are just right or wrong for you.
There are basically four main categories of groups out there: Professional associations. Most every larger city will have local chapters of organizations that bring together professionals involved in the same trade. Attorneys, Consultants, Contractors, Manufacturers, and so on all like to hang out together. With a bit of research you can easily find such groups near you.
Non-profit organizations. Personally, I think everyone should be involved in some organization that allows them to give back to community. And there are a lot of good causes to get involved in. This gives you good visibility, and access to other local leaders you might find hard to meet otherwise. Plus it's just a good habit to contribute time and money to help others.
While you shouldn't count on getting business from these groups right away, when you do it will be worth your while many times over trust me.
Professional networking meetings. Like those organized by your local Chamber of Commerce or other, privately owned groups. While probably the most popular, these can often be a "total mixed bag", and unless you have a solid plan to "penetrate" the group fast and position yourself as a highly visible COI (more on that later) you'll be terribly disappointed with results you get from such groups.
Lead Exchange Groups. These typically allow only one person in each profession and meet regularly only for the sole purpose of exchanging leads with each other. While groups composed of well established professionals can be really effective in cross promoting each other's businesses, in most lead-exchange groups there just two or three people that end up giving and getting most referrals and everyone else just isn't getting it. Frankly, I think that unless you find a group with really savvy, well-established professionals in it these groups are totally ineffective for the amount of time and money that you are asked to invest in them.
Finally, remember that depending on your business and who your clients are, your best place to network could be a golf-club membership and weekly round of golf. Or a monthly first class flight from one major city to another. And don't overlook people who already have you as a client. Hey, I stumbled upon an entirely new niche, simply because my daughters needed braces!
Step number three is to prepare your ABC - and that stands for Audio Business Card. People judge you by their first impressions of you. And if what you say to them in the first few seconds isn't clear, compelling and memorable well, you'll just slip into oblivion like dozens of others we run into every day and then quickly forget them.
I bet you took at least a few hours, if not a few days, to design your printed business card. But did you take at least 15 minutes to develop and practice your ABC?! I bet not!
Teaching you how to develop a good ABC is a subject for whole new lesson, but here is just the gist of what works and what doesn't.
Don't say: Your title, like "I'm the president of Blah, Blah, and Blah, Inc" - boring! Your label, like "I'm a consultant" OK, good for you, now tell me "what do you do"? Where you live and work I've never met anyone who's hired me because of my street address! How long you've been in business people really don't care if I stepped off the boat yesterday, or if I've lived here my entire life. All they want to know is if and how I can help them.
Who your ideal clients are. What are their biggest problems you solve for your clients. How your clients are better off as a result of working with you. How to best start benefiting from your services right away (more on that in a moment)
This is really a critical skill. If you don't know how to create magnetic first impressions and don't have an effective Audio Business Card don't bother leaving your office. Your getting any business from networking will be purely accidental, and your chances for landing a new client or referral are as good as those of being struck by a lightning if you catch my drift.
Step number four is positioning. Simply put, most people in the networking environment are prospecting looking for potential clients. Positioning is about reversing this process allowing potential clients to FIND YOU. It's a big difference when you have people coming to you versus you chasing them.
There is an entire process I teach my clients around this concept. And it starts long before you even show up for any meeting. It's not hard to do. With a bit of cleverness, and some advanced planning, anyone can do it.
Step number five is about preparing bait. You must have Attraction Tools in place. Finding clients is a bit like going fishing. You may love strawberries, but you would never put a strawberry on a fishing hook and throw it in the water because fish don't like strawberries. So you have to think about what kind of bait your audience likes and prepare that bait.
When I first got started I quickly build a database of over two thousand subscribers to my newsletter, simply by offering an attractive bait, and promoting it effectively by turning my printed business card into an advertising billboard.
Step number six is about meeting COI and becoming a COI or a Center of Influence! Every group has a number of core members a higher echelon reserved for top movers and shakers. These few savvy entrepreneurs likely exchange more business amongst each other than the rest of the group combined.
Your job is to become part of this group as quickly as possible. Effective networking is not only about who you know, but even more importantly about who knows you. So becoming one of the big fish in a small pond is like hitting a lottery jackpot new business will just keep coming in!
Step number seven is about delivering immediate value. One of the easiest ways to build relationships and deliver value is by being interested in other people. We all love to talk about ourselves. But when you network, if you are able to temporarily suspend your own need to blabber on about yourself you'll instantly be better off than 99% of other people in the room.
Next, keep in mind that people are naturally lazy communicators and lazy thinkers. They tend to say the same thing to everyone they meet. So even a slight variation from their typical pattern makes the moment of meeting you more memorable.
Actually it's not that hard to say memorable things in an environment where most everyone else is trying to sell something. Simply DON'T ASK FOR THE BUSINESS! Be curious, ask engaging, challenging questions. Or you can develop a Polish accent (OK, so this one may not work for you as well as it works for me but it's worth a try, right?)
Step number eight is about getting maximum visibility. Once you've invested your money and time into actually getting together with other people, you might as well get the biggest bang for your buck out of it, right?
Most people are simply invisible! Even if you meet them, they seem to work so hard on making any impression on you, that you likely forget them right as you turn around to "Hi" to the next person.
Getting visibility is easy if you know how. Here are just a few simple tips: - Volunteer to run the registration table. - Appoint yourself an official greeter and meet everyone as they walk into the room. - Stand up and share a great resource with everyone in the room - Ask the speaker a question that will allow everyone else to see your expertise in certain subjects.
Step number nine is simple - Follow up. Follow up. Follow up...
In the last five years I can probably think of less than a dozen people who have actually followed up with me as they promised! Even fewer followed up with me more than once or twice. This is terrible. Some of those people I really wanted to do business with but they frankly let me down by disappearing.
Aren't you concerned about how much business you lose by "disappearing" on people after you've invested so much of your efforts into connecting with them in the first place?
I learned my ultimate lesson about following up when I was courting my wife. I might have thought I was prince charming, but it took me two years, and multiple "irresistible offers" before she thought that too and bought into the deal. I've been now married for fourteen years and have two gorgeous daughters. It would've never happened if I didn't follow-up, and follow-up, and follow-up for two long years!
Bottom line, you must have a system in place that will allow you to effortlessly and automatically keep in touch with potential clients "till they buy or die!"
The biggest investment you make into networking is your time. And most people dont budget it adequately to maximize their results.