How to Effectively Network to Create New Business Leads

By Bruce Kullberg

Networking. (1) The ability to build sales profitability through
impersonal communications and contacts. (2) The most cost effective way
to market a business. – INC. Magazine, Dec.’91.

Networking is both a concept and a specific activity which, if understood
and successfully implemented, can mean big things for your
entrepreneurial business. The dictionary defines a network as “an
arrangement of parallel wires, etc., crossed at regular intervals, or
anything like this, as in a system of inter-connected roads and
individuals.” When placed in a business context, networking means seeing
to it that practical information about similar (parallel) business needs
or customers’ desires get communicated (via wires?) to all affected
businesses (inter-connected individuals) so they can take action. By
being “wired” into a human network of contacts and information relevant
to the business, the entrepreneur can be better positioned to exploit the
marketplace.

WHERE AND HOW DO I BEGIN?
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Business networking groups and organizations have become commonplace in
almost every metropolitan city throughout the United States. Either
through the efforts of your city and/or state economic development
departments, Chamber of Commerces’, universities, or private initiatives,
the structure is in place. Almost all local newspapers publish meeting
or club dates for special interest groups. If you can find the listing,
call your local newspaper for further information. It is up to you to
tap into these organizations and benefit through active participation.

Networking is advertising in its’ purest form – word of mouth. I’m not
referring to advertising a product or service – but yourself. If you are
attending networking meetings, but not introducing yourself to as many
people as possible, (AND explaining your present situation or business
needs!), chances are you’re leaving the meetings feeling discouraged and
ineffective, and probably wasting your time. Suppose you are brave
enough to attend several meetings and you get to know several people?
What usually happens when you attend the next meeting? Do you end up
finding a comfortable corner and talk to the same people you met the week
before? Sure, most people do! Almost everyone feels more comfortable
and secure by socializing with familiar faces.

But that’s not the purpose of joining a networking group. Results are!
Take the initiative to talk to someone new by introducing yourself. Ask
them what type of business they own, or would like to start, or at
least why they attended the meeting. Be a matchmaker by introducing and
linking people with similar interests. Through your actions, they are
going to be appreciative of your efforts, which could result in a
returned favor. Most likely they will follow your example and be a
matchmaker too. Networking should become an integral part of your
marketing efforts. This was best explained by Harry Leibowitz,
President, Partner In Marketing, a marketing firm based in Columbus,
Ohio, “Everyone is a potential customer, or a lead to a potential
customer. You have to work at it, and it should be thought of as a job.
And don’t have someone, or expect them, to sell your business. You sell
it!”

NETWORKING TO GENERATE NEW BUSINESS LEAD
—————————————-
Mr. Leibowitz uses a process called ‘extended networking’ in his daily
activities. Start by writing down the names of everyone you can think
of, everyone you know from school, church, organizations and
associations, friends, neighbors, relatives and so on. You should have
approximately 500-600 names on this list. After compiling this list,
exercise judgement in dividing this list into three catagories. This
list will include Potential Customers, Leads to Potential Customers, and
Both. Next, take each Potential Customer list and and divide into three
catagories, being High Potential, Modest Potential, and Low Potential.
You will now have 9 cells of catagories. Those who are on the High
Potential list, send a personalized letter and a nice brochure, then call
to follow up within 5 days after sending. If you have more Potential
Customers on your list than you can conveniently call within 5 days, then
send in waves and allocate the time to call. Those who are on your
Modest Potential list, send a letter and brochure. After waiting 2 to 3
weeks, send another letter (only) as a reminder. In another 2 to 3
weeks, send another letter. Follow up with a phone call ONLY after
working your High Potential list. And those who are on your Low
Potential list, don’t bother.

DON’T LET YOUR EFFORTS GO TO WASTE — FOLLOW UP!
———————————————–
Once you have generated interest, be sure to follow these simple steps to
close the sale:

1) Pursue the appointment. You still have to get your foot in the door
and make your presentation.

2) Be prepared. Find out as much as you can about your potential
customer – company background, competitors, etc.

3) When doing your presentation, sell the benefits of your product or
service, not the features. The customer wants to know how your product
is going to benefit him, save him money, or increase productivity. How
it works is of little consequence or importance.

4) Be persistent. After making your first presentation, follow up to
answer any questions or objections, then,…

5) Ask for the order!

MORE NETWORKING TECHNIQUES!
—————————
You must be an active participant in networking meetings. If you aren’t
attending, don’t expect the benefits. An associate who belonged to a
local networking group told me that everytime she attends a networking
function, she tries to meet five new people, get their business card, and
discuss with them their specific business needs. After doing this for
six to seven months, she reported to me that several contacts resulted in
new business, several were appreciative of her assistance (good public
relations), and several may become clients in the future. Several have
also sent her referrals.

When someone asks you for assistance, to who do you refer them to? Simply,
people you know. That’s why it’s important for everyone to know what
your business is, so you will be referred to. An example of this is a
gentleman who called me from out-of-state, requesting information on an
organization. I answered his questions, but also asked him about his
business, and what specific information he was interested in. I provided
him with several resources that could possibly help him. In return, he
told several of his friends and within one week I received two more phone
calls requesting assistance.

So far I have given you some specific examples of networking techniques.
You might be saying to yourself right now, “Well, I tried that, but it
just didn’t work for me.” Then try again! Maybe you were just talking
to the wrong people, or not asking the right questions of the right
people. The point is…keep practicing. You will attend meetings where
you will walk away with 5-10 great new leads, and other meetings with
nothing. That’s to be expected. Chart your results for at least a
dozen meetings. You will be surprised as to how effect your networking
really is! Use the matrix as outlined previously to catagorize your
leads.

BECOMING A NETWORKING GURU
————————–
The following networking guidelines will help you gain important
insight in networking effectively.

According to Tim Connor, of T R Training Associates, Ann Arbor, MI.,
who has done extensive research in the area of effective networking,
there are some basic rules you must follow if you are going to be
successful in networking.

* LEARN TO LIKE YOURSELF. You must like yourself. Every positive
relationship, including all types of networks, begins with a healthy
self image.

* MAKE THE FIRST MOVE. In any encounter, someone must initiate the
relationship.

* BE WILLING TO BE VULNERABLE. Very few people are willing to put
themselves on the line — to be real. One of the best ways to get
others to shed their costumes and masks is to drop your’s first.

* BE WILLING TO RISK. All of life involves risk. In probing a
potential network for contacts, information, or common interests, there
is the potential for rejection.

* LEARN TO OVERCOME THE FEAR OF REJECTION. The fear of rejection is one
of the major causes of failure in selling, relationships, and business.
We all have a fundamental need to be liked, accepted, and loved.

* PUT YOUR ENERGY INTO YOUR POSITIVE CONTACTS. If you think that everyone
you meet likes you, you have another problem. It is unreasonable to be
accepted by everyone you meet, regardless of the circumstances. Nuture
those relationships where there is genuine and mutual respect, liking,
and caring.

* TO CREATE A POSITIVE FIRST IMPRESSION: BE — DON’T ACT. What do you
look for in someone you meet for the first time? What qualities make
you feel comfortable and create a willingness to get to know this
person? Why not develop a list of all the qualities in other people
you like, then rate yourself on those same qualities.

* JUDGE NOT THAT YOU MIGHT BE JUDGED. Each of us has something to offer
each other and the world. Learn to accept differences as normal.
Just because the other person is not like you, it doesn’t give you the
right to judge.

* NETWORKING IS NOT A ONE WAY STREET. The desire to grow, learn, and
share is the basis of all networking. But to find the areas, with
each person you meet that can benefit one of you in the relationship,
requires some probing, asking, and learning about each other; your
needs, interests, and problems. To successfully accomplish this step
requires a two-day dialogue.

* EVERYONE YOU MEET KNOWS SOMEONE YOU KNOW OR SOMEONE WHO CAN HELP.
Everyone you know knows someone that you know. It just depends on how
far back you have to go to find the common contact. The chances of
improving the number of common contacts increase with a few basic
factors: Are you in a common business or similar organization? Do
you operate in the same geographic area, have any common interests,
similar problems or goals, or face similar opportunities? These are
just a few ideas for openers.

* LISTEN TO YOUR WORLD – YOU MAY LEARN SOMETHING. Few people really
listen. We are becoming a nation of talkers. Everyone needs someone
to listen to them and everyone has something worthwhile to say.

* NETWORKING AT MEETINGS IS NOT A NUMBERS GAME. Networking can take
place anywhere; on the street, in elevators, in coffee shops, in
airplanes, and in business meetings. However, some environments are
more conducive to building a productive network than others. Business
meetings fall into this category.

Building an effective network contact takes time, respect, and interest.
Too many people jump from person to person in a matter of seconds. You
know who I mean. They pounce on you by saying, “Who do you know
that…”, and they are gone. In my opinion, this isn’t networking, this
is rude behavior.

* LEARN TO SEPARATE BUSINESS AND SOCIAL NETWORKING. Networking at a
special event can be just as productive and beneficial as at a
business meeting. In a social setting, the initial networking steps
should be taken establishing common ground, interests, etc. Many of
the details should be discussed later by phone, or at a future non-
social meeting. Learn to separate business from pleasure in this
environment. The follow-up in this situation is where the bulk of
information should be gained.

* POSITIVE CONVERSATION IS AN ONGOING GIVE AND TAKE. Starting a
conversation can be an easy or a frightening experience. The best way
I have found is to either ask an open ended positive question related
to the environment or person or make a positive statement about the
environment or person. Then follow it up with an open ended question
requesting an opinion, feeling, or response from the other person
about the environment, an activity, or situation at hand. The rest is
easy.

* BUSINESS CARDS ARE A TOOL, BUT THEY MUST BE USED PROPERLY. Most
business cards end up in the trash. Many times people exchanging
cards believe that the other person is saving their card. I always
ask the other person, “Why would you like it?” I don’t do it in a
smart manner, I am genuinely interested in their reason for asking.
This usually starts the dialogue.

Final thoughts – think about all the people who you know that you met
through other people. Think about all the benefits you have gained
through this matrix of contacts. Positive networking is like a chain
letter. You can’t just be a taker, you must be a giver, too. Happy
networking!

————————————————————————-
For further information about the sales and training services provided
by Tim Connors, please contact him at: T R Training Associates, P.O. Box
1425, Ann Arbor, MI. 48106. (313)930-0880 or 800-222-9070.
————————————————————————-
Bruce Kullberg is the owner of STRICTLY BUSINESS! BBS, a computerized
informational service for small business owners, managers & business
professionals founded in 1990. You can call our bbs at (614)538-9250;
3/12/2400 bps; 8/N/1. Download on the 1st call! Access our Online Guide
To Business Planning(r), FREE newsletters, plus much more! Or for
further information, write to SB!BBS at: 933 Varsity Ave., Columbus, OH
43221. Be sure to ask Bruce for his STRICTLY BUSINESS! SUCCESS CATALOG
filled with money-making, educational, business-related publications and
tapes. It yours FREE for the asking!

Have A Great Day!

(c)Copyright 1990-93. All rights reserved.

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