HOW TO BUILD A POWERFUL BUSINESS NETWORK:
SECRETS OF THE MASTERS
By Pam Murray, President, Many Waters Publishing
"Get out there and network!"
Does this phrase bring pictures of running from one event to another, frantically passing out business cards, hoping to make that "magic" contact? If it does, read on. You're about to learn how the "masters" network, leveraging each connection into more and more business.
First, let's define business networking. True business networking is "a purposeful approach to meeting and collaborating with others." Look at that definition a little more closely. What do you think the two most important words are: The first one is purposeful. Master networkers have a plan and a purpose. They know that building a powerful network doesn't just happen.
The second most important word is "mutual." Contrary to many beliefs about networking, the Master Networker's first rule is "give first." True networking benefits everyone involved.
The second rule is: never confuse networking with prospecting. Both are necessary in sales, but they are entirely different activities. Prospecting is the deliberate search for clients. It may result in short or long-term relationships. When building a network, you are striving for long-term, mutual relationships from which all draw benefit.
Those in your network may be clients, but they will impact your ability to draw clients or other benefits.
As a Master Networker, you will first your the foundation. It will take some work up front, but the investment will pay off royally.
Here are some closing tips that will help you with your networking:
- Step 1: Get Ready.
- Set Your Goals. To become a Master Networker, your networking activities must dovetail with your goals. If your goals are not crystal clear, don't waste your time networking, so make sure they're definite.
- Write all the reasons you want to network, keeping your business (and personal) goals in mind. Do you need more clients or do you need help to start or finish a major project? Do you need a mentor or do you want to help your community? Write them all, even if some of them embarrass you. Often the reasons that embarrass you are the most compelling ones we need to address to get us started. Add to your list every time you get another idea.
- Categorize your reasons. Start with two columns, with the following headings: "Business," and "Socio-Educational." Business Networking is, as the name implies, networking you will engage in to build your business. Socio-Educational networking helps you build a support network of like-minded people for educational or social purposes.
- Prioritize your networking reasons in each category. This will set you up for your networking goals and action plans.
- Select two or three of your top reasons for networking, and from them set your objectives. For instance, you may have written that you want to expand your client base by networking. An objective you might derive for this is to find two people who are good sources of referrals.
- List all the organizations you belong to and rate each as to how it fits your networking objectives. If there is not fit, either discontinue your membership or become inactive for the time being. You don't have time to participate in those activities which do not feed your business or your soul.
- Develop a ten-second introduction What's the most asked question in America today when people are introduced? That's right. It's "What do you do?" so develop a great response to that question. Why ten seconds? That should be all you need to introduce to another the essence of what you do. The purpose of your answer is to trigger the reply, "Really? That's interesting. Tell me more."
So, make your 10-second introduction interesting. Work on it. Practice it. It should sound natural and spontaneous.
- Step Two: Get Set
- Organize your existing network. You will eventually be organizing your network into two groups: the Cores and the Pods. But, first, do the groundwork.
List everyone you know or have ever known. Just write their names. This is your Master List. Anytime you think of someone, add that person to your list.
Next, look again at your top networking goal. Pick four to six people from your Master List that could most impact that goal. These people will form your Critical Core.
What is a pod? It's a group of three or more people who are a resource to you and to whom you can refer people. For instance, a Realtor may have pods of appraisers, mortgage brokers and title agents. These people all have a good relationship with the Realtor, who knows he can call on the whenever he needs good service for one of his clients. But, think a little further to some other pods this realtor may need. How about some good remodelers, surveyors, or carpet cleaners? In order to be of full value to clients who are listing or purchasing houses, this realtor would want to have a full array of excellent service people to recommend. And, these service people, in turn send clients to the realtor.
Think about the types of people you want in your pods. List them across the top of a sheet of paper. Then from your list of acquaintances, fill in the columns. If you see blanks, you know what types of people you want to add to your network. By developing deep, active stables, you will be able to provide your clients with even better service than you do now, you will draw more clients to yourself, and you will be able to get the work done that you can't or don't want to do yourself.
- Reprioritize. Spend eighty percent of your networking time on the top ten percent of your contacts. One salesperson vaulted from the middle of the pack to one of the top sales people in the country just by reprioritizing the order in which he called on potential clients and the order in which he made his networking calls.
Prioritize the names remaining on your master list. in terms of how important they are to the achievement of your goals. The top twenty or so will be your Support Core and will be contacted regularly.
Step Three: Go! (Finally.)
- Actions: Use this Plan to put all your foundation work into action:
- Contact Your Critical Core. Ask the people in this group if they would be interested in helping you achieve your goals. Ask them how you can help them, too.
- Fill in gaps. If you find holes in your Critical Core, make it a priority to add the right people.
- Contact the others. A networking contact is a note, postcard, e-mail or call to another person without trying to sell something. Send a word of encouragement or congratulations, an interesting article or short inspirational quote. Call and ask for advice about a simple matter. If you see something about a person in the paper, clip it out and send it along with a note of praise. By the way, if someone you contact isn't interested in you, just let it go. Don't hound them.
- Develop a lead tag. A Lead Tag is simply a way of asking for what you want. It's called a Lead Tag because it's often tagged on to the end of a self-introduction. It should be memorable enough so the person you're asking remembers it. For instance, a caterer may say, "I want to meet a wedding planner who specializes in weddings of at least 100 guests." A salesperson might say, "I want to meet the purchasing manager for XYZ Company," or "I want to meet the program planner for the Widget Buyer's convention, so I can make a presentation."
The way to introduce your lead tag is to say, "By the way, do you know…."
At many meetings, people have the opportunity to introduce themselves to the group and say something about their business. This is an ideal time to slap a Lead Tag onto a very brief 10-Second Introduction.
- Develop many lead tags, so you will always have one appropriate to the situation.
- Make at least three networking calls a day
- Give, give, give. Help people as much as you can. You will receive at least a hundred-fold-not necessarily from the people to whom you give, but you will receive.
- Always sit with someone you don't know at an event.
- Call a colleague and ask what kind of leads they're looking for. If they don't faint, they'll be pleasantly surprised. And, they'll think of you the next time they're handing out leads.
- At the beginning of each week, write your networking goals and action plan for that week. It will make your networking much more valuable because you'll know exactly why you're taking each step.
- Call at least one person on your list you may be nervous about calling. (One of my students tried this and ended up with a coincidental $1,000 sale.)
- Actively seek new ways to give leads to others
- Join a networking club.
- Have fun. Networking is the easiest, most enjoyable way I can think of to build not only a client base, but a support foundation that will see you through good and bad times.
Master Networkers build networks for life. They are able with just a few actions to set in motion any goal they wish to attain and, in return, they have the time to help others in their quests. Giving and receiving. Making all lives we touch better. Living abundantly. These are the rewards for taking the time to build a powerful business network.
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