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  • Aspire » Networking

    28 May

    fail

    Photo by skippyjon

    If you think networking is a waste of time and it doesn’t work…then you’re not doing it right! (how’s that for a slap in the face?).

    As a small business owner, one area where you have a clear advantage over a larger company is networking (people engage with other people, not corporations).  One of the things that I recommend to every business owner is that they should be networking effectively.  Networking is inexpensive, it’s targeted and done correctly it can be extremely effective way to drive opportunities.

    Think about this…when long term business owners talk about how they get most of their new leads, they will tell you word of mouth.  A chunk of that success comes from doing a great job with their customers, but a lot of it is having an effective networking presence.

    The case is clear, you should be networking…but if you ask around, many business owners struggle with it!  Here are 5 things that I see people do all the time that’s killing their networking mojo.

    It’s all about you

    True story – met with a guy as a networking introduction the other day and started out by asking him about his business, how he got started, etc.  That was enough to set him off, his company, his products, his services, details, features…all of it.  One very long hour later when I let him know I had to leave, he asked me as I was getting up “Now what is it that you do again?”!!! 

    It’s unfortunate for him because I know several people who would be good business contacts for this guy, but I’m not willing to introduce him to any of them because he doesn’t get it and I don’t want anyone else to have to endure the painful time suck I went through.

    Hanging out with friends

    You make the time to go to a networking event and then when you get there you spend all of your time talking to people you already know.  There’s a time and a place for that, but unless you already know everyone you ever need to know, the point is to challenge yourself to meet new people.

    Not following up

    Try this the next time you go out to a networking event.  Count the number of people who ended up talking to you and getting your business card and compare that to the number who actually follow up with you in some way.  My experience is around 10% of people will actually follow up.  Those who actually do, really stand out in a positive way.

    Networking is about building a relationship…it’s not a 1 time quickie at a chamber event.  You can’t hurry networking…and you have to follow up if you are going to build a 1 on 1 discussion.

    Only going to big events

    Chamber events or other networking events are a great place to start…but if that’s all you do for networking, you aren’t likely to make much headway.  The real benefit from networking is when you build relationships with the right people…which you can’t do until  you start meeting with people 1 on 1.  Bigger events are there to help you find people to follow up with…the starting point.

    Not Helping First

    If you want to build up trust and start a genuine relationship, then find a way to help the people you’re meeting with.  Make that the first thing you do (before asking for a favor, or an introduction or telling them about your product).  The motto of BNI (Business Networking International) is ‘Givers Gain’ – which may sound a little hokey, but it’s powered them to being the largest business networking  organization around.

    I’m a firm believer that giving can help you build your business – so the next time you’re talking to someone 1 on 1 or at a networking event, ask them, genuinely, how you can help them…and then follow through!  You’ll be surprised at how it works.

    Are your networking efforts paying off?  Are you building quality relationships with business contacts who could make a real difference to your business?  Are you doing any of the 5 things listed above?  Let me know your thoughts on networking – did I miss the boat?  Did I miss some other big issues?  Leave me a comment and let me know what you think.

    Shawn Kinkade    Kansas City Business Coach

    29 Aug

    pout

    If you want my business, I’m going to have to get to know you.  It’s important that I like you (or at least that I don’t dislike you), and I absolutely have to be able to trust you.  That feeling of Know, Like and Trust isn’t going to come from a cold call, it’s not going to come from a marketing brochure and it’s not going to come from you just handing me your business card at a networking meeting.

    It turns out that Diana Ross had it right a long time ago:

    “You can’t hurry love, No you just have to wait.  She said love don’t come easy – it’s a game of give and take.

    You can’t hurry love, No, you just have to wait.  You got to trust, give it time
    No matter how long it takes”

    But if you look at how most people approach networking, it’s the exact opposite.  Quick handshake, impersonal small talk and a quick rundown of what you do.  A rush relationship just isn’t going to cut it. 

    Effective networking isn’t about just showing up and it isn’t about the number of cards you can collect (or hand out).  You’re not going to connect with everyone at an event – and if you don’t take things slow, you’re not going to connect with anyone (at least not in a positive way).

    You have to think big picture!  The big goal is to develop customers and referral partners who love you…or at least love doing business with you.  Getting them to fall in love takes time and effort and often that starts with meeting someone at a networking event.  However if you try to rush through that first meeting, if you skip the getting to know you phase – all you’re going to do is annoy and alienate the people around you.

    Most successful business owners would agree that some form of networking is critical to their business, which is why it’s surprising that it’s continually done so poorly!

    Remember…it’s a game of give and take.  At a networking event, you are simply starting the process of building a relationship with a small number of the right people.  Really connecting with 1 person who can actually help your business is a lot better than exchanging business cards with 20 other people.  Spend your time finding the right person or two (no more than 3 or 4) at an event and start building a genuine relationship.

    You’ll be focusing on the other person.  Get them to talk.  Ask great open-ended questions that they’ll be excited to answer.  Be interested in what they have to say.  Ask them what they need…not in terms of your products or services, but in terms of their success…and then try to help give it to them.  In short…you’re working to become their friend.

    If it’s a promising contact, then set up a follow-up meeting, connect with them on LinkedIn.  Keep looking for ways to help them.  Make a great introduction for them.  Point them towards a strong resource – do something to positively start building a relationship.  Make sure you’re following all 10 Steps of Effective Networking (especially the follow-up)

    It can be  a lot of work and it’s an ongoing effort but the payoff of building a close network of great resources who will drive referrals to your business is worth it.  Imagine getting 50% or even 80% of the business you need from referrals!  It all starts with taking your time (not hurrying) and finding ways for the right people to start knowing, liking and trusting you.

    What are you doing to help people get to know you?  Why would they like you?  Am I way off base here?  I’d love to hear your thoughts – share them in the comments below.

    Shawn Kinkade  Kansas City Business Coach

    Photo by orangeacid

    10 May

    forkspoon  photo by jeffsmallwood

    If you do much networking, then you’ll quickly realize that everyone starts to blend in…which does absolutely nothing for you.  Garet King – a branch manager at CoreFirst Bank here in Kansas City shared the following article with me that does a great job of addressing this situation – take it away Garet:

    If you pay attention to the conversations you are a part of and that happen around you, you will notice that we are all saying the same things. We talk to people on a daily basis. Collectively, we talk to a lot of people on a daily basis and most of these conversations happen in the same way. These dialogues may be about the weather or how the kids are doing. Conversations may drift towards a golf game or other sporting events. Comments are made about weekend plans or future vacations. On fewer occasions, people will open up about their life. Regardless, almost all of these conversations start the same way. “What’s new?”

    “What’s new,” is an opportunity to talk about anything that you are working on. Whether this person is an advocate or acquaintance, they are opening the door and most of us waste the opportunity. The typical responses are, “same old, same old,” or “just work.” If you are having a challenging day, “same crap, different day,” might come out of your mouth or, “not much,” if you’re feeling indifferent. Regardless, these answers are a waste of a golden opportunity to create another connection.

    Read More…

    06 Jan

      photo by annia316 

    A lot of business owners talk about growing their business by networking.  You imagine a crowded chamber after hours meeting and it’s hard to picture generating business in that kind of setting.

    The reality is you can’t (or at least it’s unlikely).

    What you can do at those kinds of events is meet new people and determine if they have any potential to collaborate with you in the future.  If they do and you can develop a mutually beneficial win-win relationship  over time with someone you get to Know, Like and Trust.

    THEN you have some good potential to generate new business from networking!

    I had a great demonstration of this the other day over coffee.

    Read More…

    18 Aug

    Networking for your business is about making friends (you don’t have to kiss them…).

    Unfortunately most people don’t really ‘get’ the whole networking thing, which makes going to networking events sometimes very painful.  As an example, at an event I was at last week there was a woman that was waiting in a corner and if anyone made eye contact or walked to closely to her she immediately jumped into her sales pitch.  Sadly she may have felt like she had a productive meeting – she cornered at least 3 different people that I saw, but I guarantee none of them left with a positive impression of her.

    Networking is a great strategy for small business owners – people want to do business with other people (that they know, like and trust) not with some faceless company, so the playing field with the big guys is really leveled.  Networking is a marketing strategy that facilitates developing relationships that can generate referrals or business.

    But what’s the right way to go about doing that?  Read the rest of this article and feel free to download my in-depth (18 page) report if you’d like to learn more.

    Read More…