Formal networking groups can be a waste of time or a great opportunity. It all depends on how you “work it.”
I don’t remember who said it, but the saying goes something like “It’s not called net-sit, or net-eat. It’s called net-work.” Here’s a checklist of five habits you want to establish to make the most out of a networking strategy.
1) Be referable.
This is, by far, the most important item on the list. If your networking colleagues don’t fully understand how you provide value to your prospects and clients, they won’t refer you. And if they don’t like you and trust you, they won’t refer you. You have to have both conditions going for you.
One way to accomplish this is to talk about why you do what you do. Talk about your value in a way that’s personal to you. Tell your story. Provide clear examples. This brings your value to life and fosters a personal connection at the same time.
2) Meet outside the group.
It’s pretty hard to become referable in short encounters at group meetings. Identify the members who are most likely to know the types of people you want to meet. Then meet with them outside your normal meeting (over a meal is nice).
Make sure you fully understand their value and they fully understand yours. Hint: This often takes more than one meeting.
3) Give referrals.
Just because you give referrals to someone doesn’t necessarily make you referable, but it sure can help. When you do give referrals, practice the Golden Rule of Referrals: give referrals unto others as you would have them be given unto you. In other words, make valuable introductions and strive to create real connections.
4) Remember that leads are not the same as introductions.
Have you noticed how hard it is to reach people these days? Don’t settle for leads or low-level referrals (“Tell him I sent you,” “Here’s the name of a guy who could use your services — give him a call,” etc.) Make sure you arrange an introduction. Then take the next logical step by saying to your referral source, “Let’s talk about how you introduce me to Laura. First, I want you to feel comfortable in doing so. Second, I’d like to pique her interest in hearing from me. Could you say something like … ”
5) Get a few members to become your clients.
If there’s a “magic bullet” to making networking groups work, this would be it. It’s one thing for you to tout your value. It’s so much more effective for someone else to do so.
The members of your group who have actually experienced your value are the ones mostly like to become your advocates. Once you get one or two, the popcorn starts to pop. More and more members of the group will either want to work with you or feel more confident introducing you.
With this in mind, strive to get at least one new client out of a networking group. Then watch the work roll in.
How do you approach networking? I’d love to hear from you. Send an email directly to me at BillCates@ReferralCoach.com