Are there ways to become a better, more productive networker?
Absolutely! To be effective at business networking it takes time, effort and practice. Unfortunately, too many people think productive networking is going to as many events as possible, collecting and handing out business cards and/or linking to anyone and everyone via social media. Fruitful networking that produces results is a worthwhile marketing strategy but to be successful you need to exert some energy and implement some very specific tactics. The following six steps will outline what it takes to excel in your networking efforts.
Step 1 – Create a memorable, compelling and distinctive Elevator Promise. This is a very important step because if you can’t answer the question “what do you do” in a succinct, catchy yet personal way, people won’t listen to you. Developing a clear and unforgettable marketing message is essential for networking. Remember, a “pitch” is something you throw at some and a “promise” is something you do for someone. So it isn’t really about you but about how your help others. Create value statements about how you solve problems. Be confident and passionate about what you do and this will help you to stand apart from everyone else. These are the things to think about when you create that pivotal introductory statement about what you do.
Step 2 – Assess your message and ask others to provide feedback. Is your message clear in describing what you do, who you help and what problems you solve? Is it genuine and believable? Will it grab the attention of the person you are talking to? Is your message compelling and memorable? You don’t want to come off sounding like a telemarketer reading from a script. You will leave a much better first impression if you are natural and authentic.
Step 3 – Identify all potential sources of people you can network with. Ascertain the people you want to meet based on a qualification process you define. You need to be as specific as possible in your segmentation. Are there particular industries you specialize in? A certain age group that would use your product? Do you focus on a definitive size of organization? Review this list on a regular basis against your criteria and find ways to make connections with members of your target market or those who have access to your target market. Ask for introductions and referrals when appropriate.
Step 4 – Embrace practices that will help you to be a productive networker.
- Define what you want to accomplish when you talk to people. Do you want to be introduced to someone? Have some questions ready ahead of time that relate to problems that you can solve.
- Know how to actively listen. Resist the urge to pitch your products or services before learning more about the person you are talking to. You should spend more time listening than talking.
- Build rapport by being an engaging conversationalist. Establish eye contact, reinforce your discussion with positive body language by leaning forward and looking interested. Try not to look around the room while talking to someone. Give them your full attention. Inquire about what they do and ask them for more details.
* Step 5 – One of the most critical elements of networking is the follow-up. If you meet a bunch of people and then don’t do anything, you are wasting your time. Develop a follow-up process and create long-lasting relationships with your prospects. You can use something as simple as a spreadsheet or more robust like a customer relationship management system. No matter what you use, keep track of all contact information and also details about your conversations and interactions. Know when and why you need to follow-up. Then do it! Set aside time every day or week to focus on touching base with your contact list. You don’t have to reach out to everyone, but definitely have a process to prioritize your list and connect with everyone on a regular basis.
* Step 6 – How do you know you are making progress? Institute some networking goals like what your annual revenue target is, what your close ratio is and how many leads you need to reach your projections. Now measure how you stack up. Measurement is an important element in the networking process. Keep track of how many people you meet, how many you follow-up with, how often you follow-up and the number of leads that convert into sales. This will help you to establish if your networking activities are paying off and where you should invest future dollars.
Remember, networking is a process, so if you have a good market message, engage in prolific networking skills, follow-up and measure you are on your way to being a good, no great networker!
If you are looking for additional help with networking, take a look at the BD-PRo Networking PRo Toolkit at www.bdpromarketing.com. This resource contains everything you need to be a top-notch networker including a message rater software tool, follow-up tactics, and goal setting capabilities.