Business Networking: There is a Better Way

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Yesterday I attended the local Chamber of Commerce annual meeting.  The meeting is one of the organization’s most significant events of the year and because of this, the gathering is fertile ground for business networking. 

I have to tell you that yesterday I saw every effective networking rule broken.  People were huddled in cliques, talking only to their friends.  Others were mechanically going through motions learned at networking seminars. Worst of all was what is affectionately termed, “show up and throw up”.   This is where you bust into a group; start handing out business cards and engaging in sales pitches with everyone in the group.  I think you understand what I am saying .I am not beating up on people; heck, I have made some of the same mistakes myself.  There is a better way.

After learning important lessons, John Easton’s approach is to:

  1. Have a goal in mind:  Mine is to walk away having started a meaningful relationship with at least one person.  This means I have to listen and get to know the acquaintance. One real relationship started is worth more than 20 people walking away from a business card and sales pitch attack.  Even if business is not struck immediately, this one contact could easily refer me to qualified people in their network.  You see business networking is like computer networking where nodes (individual computers) are connected to hubs that connect to lots of other pcs and even to other networks. If your acquaintance is another pc great, but who knows he or she could be a hub…(idea credit:  Emanuel Rosen).
  2. Effectively communicate what I do:  I will stress here that I do not offer this information up, I let the person ask me; which happens 99% of the time.  This is my favorite part; when asked what I do; I reach for a holster at my hip and whip out my video iPOD device and say, “here watch this”, my 60 second video commercial.  After the “wow’s” and “that’s cool” this part of the mission is accomplished, as THEY hit me with more questions about my business and often ask directly how our tools can help them.
  3. Learn more about the person and their business:  They might offer something that I or someone in my network needs (remember the PC-network example above).
  4. Build my mailing list:  Ask if my new connection would like to join my newsletter mailing list.  To convert a prospect into a customer you must communicate with them at least 8 times over a 16 month period (thank’s Steve Yanky) and a monthly newsletter is a great way to syndicate communication.
  5. Continue to engage in regular communication and allow the person to move naturally into my sales funnel if it is right for both of us. 

Now this is my idea of networking.  What are your thoughts?

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