A regular coaching client, Amy, called me the other day. She said that her business just wasn’t growing at the rate she expected and needed. We talked about how long she had been in business, where her sales leads were coming from, and where the majority of her business originated.
After asking Amy several questions it became apparent that Amy wasn’t getting in front of enough new people on a weekly basis to have the necessary opportunity to grow sales. “Sales is a numbers game. You have to meet enough people and have the opportunity to share what you do if you are going to increase your sales,” I told Amy.
The truth is that it is more then a numbers game. The quality of the numbers is also very important. Just putting yourself in front of bodies is a waste of time. You want to be speaking to qualified people, people who have a need and the ability to buy.
Amy and I decided that she needed to work on her networking skills and increase her networking opportunities. Below are the four specific areas we discussed.
1. Put yourself into situations where you can meet people.
If you are waiting for your phone to ring off of the hook you may be kidding yourself. When it comes to networking, it may be best to start small but think big. Look for one additional networking opportunity per week. Don’t try to over do it. If you add one opportunity a week that would be anywhere from 44 to 50 additional opportunities a year depending on how much time you set aside for vacations and rejuvenation.
By starting off small you have the chance to overcome any fears or apprehensions you may have. It will also give you the opportunity to hone your skills at delivering your finely tuned marketing message. Chamber of commerce meetings, service clubs, and trade associations are all great networking targets. If you are involved in one chamber of commerce, maybe think about adding one or two others. Certainly your choices will vary from community to community.
The key is to find people that have the need and the ability to buy. They may not know that they have the need for your product or service, but you can educate them.
2. Communicate the right message.
Poor communication or communicating the wrong message may be the biggest mistake that business professionals make. To be effective at networking you must be able to communicate a memorable marketing message in 10 seconds or less.
Do you accurately know why people buy from you? Are you positive of the specific markets and groups of people that can best use your product or service? Do you have the ability and confidence to deliver a message in 10 seconds or less that can catch someone’s attention, be remembered, and generate a response that will lead to business?
No matter how many additional people you put yourself in front of, if you can’t put into words the value you deliver and to whom you deliver that value, you will not be able to take advantage of those additional networking opportunities.
3. Follow-up appropriately
Just because you meet people who need your service, and you start building a relationship with them, it doesn’t mean that they will make the effort to follow-up with you. You must be responsible to follow-up with them.
There is a difference between being a pest and thorough efficient follow-up. When you conclude a meeting with someone always ask what the appropriate follow-up would be. In your closing question provide your prospect with an alternative of choice for your follow-up. This will help you maintain control and allow you the opportunity to further the process. An example might be, “John, it was great meeting today. What would be the best time frame to follow up? (do not pause here) Should I call you later this week, or would next Tuesday be best?”
Either choice is good for you. Make great notes and make the follow-up call when you promised.
4. Ask for referrals
A commonly overlooked way to network is through referrals. Many times we simply forget to ask the people we come in contact with for the names of others who “may” need your service. I like to use the word “may” because it is less committal on the part of the person you are asking the referral from. If you put them at ease, they are more apt to provide you with that valuable name.
You can ask for referrals from your clients, people who don’t buy from you, and people who you just happen to meet and network with. All of these groups of people will be willing to help you if you have taken the time to build a relationship up front.
Every time a client buys from you thank them and ask them for a referral. Your clients like and trust you and will be willing to recommend someone else who may need your product or service.
It is not unusual for someone to not buy from you at this time, but they will believe in you enough to recommend someone who will! Don’t overlook this valuable source of business.
At all of the additional networking opportunities you are going to go to try to meet people, and also try to get referrals from the new people you meet. That will really maximize your return on time.
When you put all four of these networking ideas to work, your referral base will grow, your sales will grow, and you will be on the road to Building a Better Biz!