It's game time. You are at the right place at the right time. You look good, feel good, are dressed to kill, and are loaded with 50 business cards in your pocket ready to throw! Then, all of a sudden, you notice Mr. Big - and he is standing only 5 feet in front of you! Someone you have been waiting to meet for a long time. Someone who can dramatically increase your business, and...he is starting to walk in your direction. What do you do? Do you bulldoze him with a quick sales pitch? Say hello, pass him a business card and ask him to call you? Or perhaps, you throw out a "Mr. Big, what an honor it is to meet you" followed by a long nervous stare? Or do you just smile and watch him walk by thinking, "ARGH! I should have said something!"
The truth is the answer is not so simple. That moment is your "Final exam" - if you haven't studied, you're going to fail! I am going to help you learn some of the "who", "what" "where" "why" and "how" to network successfully.
Step 1 - Know Yourself
I know you think you already do, but trust me...you probably don't. You see, we all believe what we want to believe. It is a "self-protection" mechanism we all have. For instance, if you are quiet and introverted, you probably prefer hanging around those that are the same. Similarity, if you like to go out and "get crazy", you probably like to hang out with extroverts. Here lies a problem. You know how to interact with those similar to you, but what about others that are not?
If Mr. Big is the quiet type, a loud-mouthed sales pitch will not only be ineffective, but irritating to him. You must either do your research regarding the type of person he is, or view him for a while to discover his mannerisms and personality. Then, relate to him accordingly.
Step 2 - Time Management
Time is the most important expense. You don't realize how much of it you are wasting each day due to inefficiencies, or lack of self control. Much has been written about time management, so I am not going to dwell on this issue.
Let it suffice to say that you need to schedule your time effectively. Schedule time for phone prospecting, meetings, and business during business hours and spend personal time in the evenings or on weekends. When you do have a scheduled networking function, spend it efficiently. If you see a friend of yours, don't go and spend an hour talking about what you did last night! Spend no more than 5 minutes with him and move on.
Walk in with a goal of how many people you want to meet, and meet them. Try and spend no more than 5 - 10 minutes per person. Be polite, humble and most of all a good listener. Your goal is to find out how you can help them. This is what will bring them closer to you and establish a good relationship. If you don't have a good memory, write down notes during or after speaking to them and be sure to follow up.
Step 3 - Start Prospecting Online
Alright, now we are getting things in line. You are now ready to properly interact with others, and have modified your schedule for maximum efficiency. It's time to meet people. So where do you start? www.SmartGuy.com.
Smart Guy is a FREE online business directory and Business Referral network that aligns you with up to 1,200 other non-competing professionals within your zip code who are willing to refer their clients to YOU! Once a zip code begins to fill, Smart Guy markets directly to the community to drive consumers to local businesses.
Step 4 - Networking Opportunities Offline
Now that you have secured your spot on Smart Guy and are accumulating businesses in your area that are willing to refer clients to you, you need to deepen these relationships. After all, they are sending you their clients and want to make sure you handle them well.
My suggestion is to begin by joining a local business network, such as BNI. Here you can not only meet other business professionals, but learn and improve skills to prepare for meeting Mr. Big and others. They also leverage their own connections to help you grow your business by exchanging referrals.
Then, it's time to join other organizations, such as your local chamber of commerce, as well as service clubs (i.e. Kiwanis and Rotary). Here you will meet more businesses, as well as "bigger hitters" who also are involved with local, and federal legislative issues for your city.
One more thing...FOLLOW UP! If you say you're going to call someone, do it. Don't be the fool that goes to a networking event, spends the day meeting people and collecting business cards, and then forgets to follow up. This not only does you no good, but damages your reputation.
Step 5 - Keep Learning
Now you should be feeling pretty good. You are properly positioned and should be growing your business with a solid flow of referrals. Keep learning. You should try to read at least 30-45 minutes a day about on becoming a better prospector, presenter and closer. After all, statistics show that those who continue to increase their learning increase their income. Invest in your brain, it will pay you the highest returns.
I hope these 5 steps will help you to grow your business. We are in one of the most challenging times in our economy. Like many other countries before us, there is a disintegration of the middle class. You must now select whether to be "rich" or the "poor" - it's up to you.
I hope you select "rich" and that you have the discipline, drive and passion to follow through and achieve your dreams.