Networking is easy for some people. It’s like a gift they have, to be able to talk about themselves and their businesses with ease.
For most people, networking takes a bit of practice and a lot of courage.
And half the battle is the nerves. It’s that knot or bunch of butterflies you feel in your stomach!
How many times have you walked into a networking meeting and shuffled around in the corner? Maybe you spoke to a few people and maybe made some connections.
But I bet you felt awkward, even if it was just a little bit.
And there’s a good reason why you feel awkward. Most of us grow up with advice from the grown-ups that it is a bad thing to talk about how good you are.
I think it’s taken a little out of context.
I believe what the grown-ups meant was that we shouldn’t be vain. But how many kids understand what the word vain means? Not so many. It is OK to talk about how good you are. Just don’t be annoying, and don’t go over the top.
The thing is, you need to be able to talk about your business if you want people to know about you! And as a manager, executive, founder, or CEO you need to be able to talk to people.
The Town Crier
Long before newspapers existed, a town crier would bellow out the news at the top of his lungs to bystanders.
It was a crude method, but it was effective.
The job description requires someone with a loud voice and an ability to speak in public.
And while you don’t have to be a town crier, you do have to speak in a confident voice.
Think of it this way, almost everyone at the event is thinking the same thing. How can I get out of this and still maintain my dignity?
But guess what? When you get into a conversation you don’t feel awkward anymore, do you?
The awkwardness goes away once you strike up a two-way banter. It’s because you start to get a shared understanding or reality about a topic.
I’m going to give you everything you need to be able to speak with confidence. Plus give you the blueprint for being a successful networker. If you want to get new customers I can show you how to use networking to build credibility and success.
What to talk about when networking.
Think of all the people you know, and I bet there is at least one person who can talk. And I mean the kind of person that dominates the conversation in a good or bad way.
Somehow they just find something to say. They often have stories to tell and they seem to have a point of view on everything.
If only you could be like your friend, you would just fly. Customers would come begging you to help them and they would be throwing cash at your door.
But how do you know what to say?
The golden rule is this, talk about the thing you do best. Simple, right?
If you are an expert in getting good organic Facebook leads, talk about how you can do that. Tell people how you can reduce their ad spend and increase their organic reach.
Or tell them how many extra leads you could get them in a short time.
If you are good at identifying lost potential in a clients database, tell them how much you could save them. Or tell them how much extra money they could be making if they bought your service.
But what if you don’t know what is going to be the best thing to talk about?
Finding your “thing”
I’ve used this technique with several clients, from start-ups to multi-million dollar companies. But it doesn’t matter what size your company is.
And it is super technical…
- Get your favourite pen and a piece of A4 paper.
- Write down a list of everything your company offers. One item per line.
- When you’ve listed all your products or services, rate them 1-5 in order of skill (1 is awesome and 5 is “pretty good”).
- Next to each of the numbers write another number. This time rate them 1-5 with how many customers buy this product or service. Where 1 is lots of customer and 5 is not so many customers.
- On a new piece of paper, re-write the list in numerical order.
If you got a service with a 1, 1 you are rare. A score of 1,1 would mean you have great skill in that area, and people really want to buy it. Most people get a 2, 1.
But your highest score is the “thing”. It’s what you need to talk about when you are networking. And it’s what you need to push on your promotion and website.
Nobody likes a taker.
Dale Carnegie wrote a book in 1936 called “How to win friends and influence people“. Apart from the intriguing title, Dale introduced many revolutionary ways of looking at business.
This is one of Dale’s quotes:
“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”
And It’s true. Plus, it pleases the grown-ups of our childhood because we aren’t talking about how good we are!
But, getting back to the statement…
People do like to talk about themselves and their businesses. But you will almost always find they like to have an introduction and have a two-way conversation. It just feels natural and less pushy.
You’ve been at a meeting before and seen the sleazy, cheesy know-it-all. They are the ones screaming, “Look at me”.
It’s kind of frustrating because their arrogance sometimes pays off. There you are trying hard to be natural and nice. Then you see this other fool acting as the “Big I Am” and winning deals left right and center. It’s just not fair!
The three types of Networkers
The purpose of a networking group is to share.
Everybody should be passing leads around. But that doesn’t always happen. In any group or meeting, you will see 3 types of people.
- Givers.These people are helpful, pass leads to other members and they are generally fun to be around. They might not have referrals to give out every time, but they are still willing to help.
- Takers. As covered above, these people smile and thank you for giving them leads. Most often you will find they don’t give leads back in return. Or they will give out the occasional referral if benefits them in some way.
- Spectators. These people don’t desire much and don’t give much either. They just seem to enjoy coming and socialising. At worst, they turn up and try to “get through” the meeting.
By understanding the types of people you can make sure you are aiming to be the giver.
Just remember, nobody likes the taker. Well, apart from themselves!
The Gift that Keeps on Giving
If you want a steady stream of referrals you need to give more than you want.
It can seem hard to do. Maybe your cash flow is nonexistent or at an all time low. What you need is another client who pays your bill on time. The thing you need the least is to be doing things for free. I mean you could use that time to do something that generates cash for you.
But, there is an old saying that goes like this. “Give and ye shall receive”.
Look at the picture below. If you HAD to give money to one of them, which would you choose? While you may feel sympathy for the guy on the left, 8 out of 10 people would give to the man on the right. But why? Possibly because the cute dog pulls your heart strings, or because the musical tune brightens your day. The point is the man on the right is giving, knowing that he will receive.
I’m not suggesting you work for free, that would be bad business advice. But, if you are a good proofreader and someone is trying to launch a product. You could offer to help them by proofing their copy.
If you are good at it, you should be efficient. So, it’s not going to take you a long time to do. But it’s of high value to your fellow business person.
When you give out help, people feel compelled to give back. This mechanism is inbuilt in everyone and hidden in some. Maybe you won’t get something back straight away but just keep giving.
I think Bear Grylls might argue this point with me. But nobody can survive well on their own. At least not in business.
Look after your colleagues and they will look after you. Assuming you look after the givers and not the takers. This is why it’s important to tag each type of person.
The Needs of Business
There are few things that every business needs. Cash is one of them and the other is a product or service to exchange for cash or goodwill.
Not every business is equal. Even a business of the same type servicing the same target market can be different.
For example, one marketing company may need a physical office space. But another might work from home. So the requirements are different. Because one may need a phone system and the other just a mobile phone.
What I’m trying to get at is this. Your product or service isn’t needed by every business in your target market. I guarantee it. There is no way it would be 100% applicable to every business.
If you think it does, let me know. I’m more than willing to be wrong!
Assuming though that I’m right, how would you figure out who to talk to? I’m guessing that you don’t like to waste time. Many people don’t. So if you talked to everyone about your product or service you could be wasting your time.
Who to Talk to and Why
This is the single biggest time saver you will find in your business. It will apply to networking, to general sales, and to your marketing.
This is a bold statement. But if you identify your target market with laser precision you save time and money.
Let me show you how you can figure out who to talk to. now, this might seem like the chicken and egg scenario. But it’s not.
This customer focus is a simple formula. And it only requires you to ask yourself three questions.
Customer Focus – Question 1
The first question seems a little basic, and here it is:
What type of customers do you get the best results for?
The answer to this question doesn’t have to be generic. And while you could answer it with valid answers like small or medium or large businesses. You can also answer it with things like “people who don’t understand Facebook”. And even “people who can’t sell to save their lives”.
Customer Focus – Question 2
What kind of benefits are you delivering?
Do you think people buying a fancy sports car are buying it based on colour or engine specifications? OK some are, but most will buy the car because of the way it will make them feel.
People will buy your product or service because it solves a problem for them and provides a benefit.
Customer Focus – Question 3
What is the main objection that comes up time and time again?
We’re not looking for every objection under the sun, moon, and stars. you just want the one that is most frequent.
Most customers and people have more than one problem (objection) because that’s life. You just want the one objection which appears most often.
The Streamlined Elevator Pitch
Ahh, the elevator pitch. That old chestnut, hey! Some people will tell you the elevator pitch is robotic and predictable.
But, gravity is also predictable.
You can’t survive walking out of a plane at 40,0000ft by disagreeing with gravity. The natural laws of gravity tell you that you are going to plummet towards earth and go splat!
While the elevator pitch is nowhere near as exciting as gravity, it is just as predictable. Even though the elevator pitch gets short shrift, it works.
Taking the answers to the three questions above, merge them into the following sentence.
I help (segment) do (benefit). Even if (most common objection).
Here are a few examples of the kind of thing I want you to be producing.
- I help small business owners win more customers. Even if their sales skills are poor.
- I help large businesses improve profits. Even if they think they have tried it all.
- I help kids with special needs change their lives. Even if they have little hope or support.
Networking Tactics to Get More Referrals
Referrals are the holy grail of business owners and marketers. It is what drives us and makes us happy. Because if people tell other people to use our services the cost of acquisition goes down.
Who wouldn’t want a low acquisition cost?
I don’t want to brag, but I recently calculated my Lifetime Customer Value. It came out at $183,000 over a 5 year period. But the cool thing is that my acquisition cost is about $300 per customer. Plus around $1,000 retention cost over 5 years.
The reason the LTV is high and the acquisition cost is low is because I’m doing a lot of marketing consulting.
I charge a lot because I get my small to medium business clients more sales and other great results in a short time.
It’s worth it to them because their growth rate speeds up on average by about 300% compared to before I started with them.
The One Thing
If there is one thing you can do to get more referrals it’s this.
Deliver an awesome product or service. Treat each customer like a king or queen and deliver the best to each person.
It sounds obvious, doesn’t it? But most people can do more. And I think you can do better.
If you promise clients delivery within 5 days, do it in 1. Sometimes the little things can make a lot of difference to customer satisfaction. And what have you got without a satisfied customer?
The Second Most Important Referral Technique
I’m sorry if this sounds obvious. The next thing you can do to secure more referrals is this.
Ask people at the networking event who they can refer!
Engage people at the networking event, and deliver your streamlined elevator pitch. Once they are under your spell, ask them who they know that needs your [benefit].
It’s a tried and true technique.
But it takes a bit of courage to master. Though if you are confident in your service and in your ability to get results why not just grab the bull by the horns?
The thing is, people guard their contacts. I mean nobody wants to put a spammy salesman in front of their friends. Because most people want to help their friends. And as such you wouldn’t want to waste their time.
If your elevator pitch is “on the money” and addresses the right problem you will get the referrals. All you need to do is ask for them.
The Key To Everything is Follow-up
The reason that most people fail at networking is they don’t follow-up.
There are often promises made that don’t get fulfilled. And it’s not that people are full of hot air. It just happens because they are busy.
If you talk to any successful sales person they often tell you that most sales close on the 6th or 7th interaction. Or at least the 2nd interaction.
But the good salespeople are the ones who know the power of the follow-up.
So how can you use follow-up while networking?
Let’s say that you are talking to someone and they say they will get their friend to contact you. There are two ways you can handle this.
One Easy Way To Follow-up
One way that you get an advantage is this. Ask them to introduce the both of you on email with contact details for everyone.
This then allows you to later send a tentative email follow-up a few days later if they don’t contact you first. Of course, you don’t want to be pushy or look desperate.
I recently did a website design for a client. The client loved it and the service that I delivered. They told me that they had just referred me to 3 of their friendly competitors.
I didn’t need any more web work at the time so I left it at that. As a result only 1 person contacted me, the other 2 didn’t. But if I had requested the referral contact details I could have the opportunity to close the sale. The problem is I would just have to wait until they contacted me.
The 2nd Way to Follow-up
If you don’t feel it is appropriate to ask the person for their friends contact details there is another way.
Wait a few days and then contact them. Calling them would be better, but you can use this email template if you like.
It was good to meet you at [XYZ Event] the other day. I loved hearing about your [business type]. I’ll make sure I send people your way when they are in the market. I’ve checked out your website and I love what you are doing.
Did you get a chance to talk to your friend about me? I just want to make sure that I give them an extra special service. Let them know to mention your name when they call and I’ll look after them.
If the person didn’t tell their friend yet, this may remind them and prompt them.
Networking often doesn’t get instant returns. Because not everyone has a friend in need of your service straight away.
It depends on what your business is and what you are selling. I was at an event a few days ago, and one business sharpened industrial tools and household knives.
He got zero leads for industrial tool sharpening. But, he got 5 leads for the household knife sharpening. Because everyone who attends a business event is also a consumer in one way or another.
At the same event, there was also a bookkeeper. She got zero leads from the event. Because most people have already got a bookkeeper or think they can do a good enough job themselves.
Where the bookkeeper would succeed is by perfecting her elevator pitch and then following-up.
The Main Factors of Networking ROI.
The key to making money is to measure your return.
But how can you measure the return from networking? You’ve got to take into consideration several factors.
- How much you are worth on an hourly basis.
- What your average customer Lifetime Value is.
- How long your sales cycle is.
- The average profit for your sale.
Let’s take an example.
Bob is a professional builder. He is worth $200 per hour and makes on average $3000 profit per sale. The average time it takes him to close a sale is 5 hours (maybe over a period of weeks).
If Bob spends 1 hours time networking and 5 hours time closing a sale what is his cost? It’s $1200.
So Bob’s actual profit isn’t $3000 it’s $1800.
So 1 hour spent networking could make Bob $1800. That’s 9 times more per hour than he would get by other means.
So networking is useful for Bob.
In it for the long-haul.
If you sell school uniforms the sales cycle is short. Because the client just needs to know if the clothes fit the child. If they do they buy. It’s not a tough decision because fashion style doesn’t enter the decision-making process.
If you sell real estate, your sales cycle lasts for a long time. And of course, the follow-up is the key factor in closing the sale.
The key thing is you need to put in effort in relation to the length of your sales cycle.
The realtor may need to attend the same networking event with the same people 20 or more times before he gets a lead. But once he gets that lead it can bring in a lot of revenue. So it’s worth it.
When I started in business 20 years ago a clever businessman gave me one solid piece of advice.
The advice was to start building your mailing list from day one.
I didn’t follow that advice because I was young and brash. And I thought I knew best.
When you have been in business for a while you have the benefit of hindsight. And when you are just starting out you have the benefit of innovation.
The highest performing businesses have a big list of customers or potential customers. The following statement is true for most businesses. The size of your customer or potential customer list determines your level of success.
The drawer full of business cards!
What do you do with the business card you collect at a networking event?
If you are like most people the cards end up in a drawer. Or worse, in the bin.
It’s a common scenario. But that is an identity you can add to your list. So why would you leave it sat in a drawer?
What are you going to do now?
You need to have a purpose.
You will get nowhere without a purpose. Think about a teenager you might know, they often don’t have a purpose and don’t achieve much. Of course, there are always exceptions and some of the best entrepreneurs are in their late teens.
But you’ve got to name your purpose for networking. Why are you attending these events and what do you hope to achieve?
Are you attending because you are aiming for brand awareness?
Or are you attending because you want to make more sales?
Most people I know attend network events because they want to make more sales. But then they don’t follow up and don’t impinge enough when they are there.
Name your purpose, because it will give you great focus.
Fail to plan and you plan to fail
Once you’ve got a good purpose for networking the next thing you need is a strategy. Because strategy wins over skill every time.
You’ve got to figure out what your expected ROI is. Because without an idea of how much money you are going to get you won’t know how much effort to put in.
Part of the strategy involves nailing your elevator pitch. Take some time here to craft the best pitch. This is one of the best uses of your time. Because a good pitch is going to win you a ton of sales. As a result, it makes sense to put the effort in here.
The next part of the strategy is planning a follow-up sequence. How are you going to ensure you get leads from the group? If you don’t have a problem asking direct questions then that’s going to be your way of doing it. If you are like most people and have a modest approach you need a subtle follow-up.
You’ve just got to figure out what is going to work for you.
Practice Makes Perfect
I’d like to help.
If you want to test your elevator pitch I’m quite happy to talk to you on Skype for 20 minutes. For free.
I’ll help you fine-tune your pitch and get something that is going to work wonders for you.
If you want to test your pitch, email me and we’ll fix up a time to chat on Skype.