Successful business owners know how to get new clients through networking.
Very few people find that networking comes naturally. So, if you’ve got a love-hate relationship with networking, you’re not alone. Most people would rather stick bicycle spokes into their eyes than walk into a room full of complete strangers and start random conversations.
But if you can take your attention off your own misery long enough to observe the very predictable behavior of the people at the next networking event you attend, you’ll notice virtually everyone doing the exact same self-defeating behaviors. You’ll observe clusters of insecure people gathered in small groups, having boring conversations with people they already know, eating lousy food to pass the time, and waiting for the real show to start so they can sit down and do nothing. Sound familiar?
This isn’t networking. This is net-breakfasting, net-socializing, net procrastination, or you could simply call it NOT-WORKING.
But it sure as heck isn’t networking.
Ask any successful business owner and they’ll tell you that building a great network of relationships in your local market is a huge key to success and a rich source of new clients.
So why does it have to be so hard?
The good news is that networking can be easy and not that painful if you follow these rules. Here’s my system for getting at least one new client from each and every networking event you attend.
Five Networking Rules for Business Owners
RULE #1: Set a goal based on your sales math. If your conversion rates are about average, you’ll need 10 leads to get one new client. Choose a networking event that’s likely to be populated with people who match your ideal client profile. Your goal is to come away from the event with at least 10 qualified business cards. Not 8 or 9, but 10. Once you have your 10 business cards, it’s just a matter of working your conversion rates and letting the sales math run its course.
RULE #2: Spend 3 minutes with at least 10 people. Jump into a small group of people who look bored with the conversation or, even better, look for an individual who is “stranded” and needs someone to “rescue” them. In the first 3 seconds, make a warm, positive impression. Introduce yourself by name and get the name of the person you’re talking to. In the next 30 seconds, find out what your prospect does, what kind of business they have, and how long they’ve been doing it. In the next 3 minutes, ask questions that get below the surface. Dig deep and look for emotion. What challenges to do they have, what problems are they trying to solve? When 3 minutes have elapsed, ask them for their business card. You’ll never be refused. Thank them for sharing with you and promise to call them this week. Then, politely excuse yourself and move on to the next person.
RULE #3: Focus intensely on each person you talk to. In each 3-minute segment, the person must feel that they are the center of your universe. The conversation must be all about “what’s in it for them” and not “what’s in it for you.” Go to networking events to give, not get. This sounds simple, but so few people truly understand it. As hard as it can be, wait to talk about yourself until you’re asked! In fact, try to deflect the first couple questions about you and keep learning about them until they insist on learning about you by repeatedly asking questions. The goal is to be “interested,” not “interesting!” The more “interested” you are in others, the more “interesting” you seem! When you do this for 3 minutes, you’ll see a magical thing begin to happen: the establishment of trust.
RULE #4: Exude positive energy. The energy emanating from an absolute passion for what you do as will set you apart from everyone else in the room. A “can-do” attitude and the attractive ability to have fun will light up the room. If this kind of behavior doesn’t come naturally to you, that’s okay. It didn’t for me either. But, you can and must learn how to turn it on and off at will. Arm yourself with quality questions and you’ll become the center of attention, as people gather around to observe the liveliness and excitement of the conversations you’re having!
RULE #5: Call them back as promised. Within the next two days, call or email all 10 qualified business cards you picked up and set up a time to chat by phone. Networking is the key to starting relationships that can lead to clients, raving fans, great referrals, and life-long friends.
If you’ve never committed yourself to becoming a master networker, now is the time. Get started this week!