Networking for most entrepreneurs and salespeople is not a highly lucrative activity. I recognize that this assertion may ruffle some feathers, but I’ve simply met with too many business people and analyzed their processes to come to any other conclusion.
Much of the networking done today is nothing more than a social outing on company time where acquaintances are made and we all learn a little bit about what we each do. This is not inherently bad, but it is not a highly leveraged business development activity whatsoever.
It’s time we took networking back and made it a win for everyone involved.
I am not going to diagnose and break down all the types and styles of networking groups here. I do intend to lay out how any networking function can be of benefit to you, regardless of where you go. My philosophy of networking is a bit of a conundrum in that my mindset is one of giving although I rate the success of the event based on what I receive.
Here’s how it works:
Before I go to a function I set a goal of how many business contacts I want to schedule a meeting with as a result of the event. Typically my goal is 3 for a casual luncheon, but some larger events it can be as high as 6 or even 8.
When I go to the function I go as myself. I am not Thom of RedRock Leadership, but just Thom. Thom is a husband, a father, a veteran, a church member, a business person, a sales trainer, consultant and so on. I am also a former property manager, pharmaceutical sales person, customer service manager, etc. This affords me multiple avenues where I might be a resource for others, and helping people is what I am about at networking. If I was just Thom the salesperson for RedRock Leadership then I would only be able to help people that could buy from me, and that makes me a very ill-equipped helper.
When I arrive I relax. I make sure to meet everyone possible and seek to understand all I can about them. I learn their wants, needs, ambitions and daily activities. I listen specifically to note if I can be a help in any way. I then help. If I can’t help that person then I move on to the next. I get a business card from everybody. Those I think I can help go into my right pocket, the rest go in my left.
I then follow up with a 3-touch approach:
Touch 1: Immediately after I leave the event I “LinkedIn” with every person I met.
Touch 2: I also send a follow up email to each of them stating it was nice to meet them. If their card was in my right pocket then I let them know that they stood out and that I desire to meet with them again soon.
Touch 3: Within 24 hours I call everyone from the right pocket. The purpose of my call is simple; to schedule another time to meet.
I rate the event based on how many of these meeting I set. If I set 3 or more then I return to that event again. If not, then I only return a second time if I was able to help a lot of people while there. Do you feel like you always see the same people at networking? This cures that problem. It also cures the “taker” mentality that so many have at these groups. Please understand, I sincerely go to help others and I do so. However, I only return if it was effective as a win/win, meaning I also set 3 appointments.
What do I discover on these after-networking meetings? There is only one of three possible relationships gained from any networking function. You will either:
- Discover a potential prospect.
- Uncover a potential strategic partner
- Find a one-step referral opportunity.
Everyone else you meet and all other information gained is beneficial, but not what you are “counting.”
Here is a definition for each:
Prospect: Someone who you believe may be a future customer.
Strategic Partner: Someone who could consistently feed you referrals or business in which a win-win scenario exists. This cannot be arranged on a “favor for a favor” basis, i.e., “I’ll scratch your back then you scratch mine.” A formal agreement with goals and accountability must be arranged.
One-step referral: Someone who can directly refer you and introduce you to a potential prospect.
These three specific introductions are what I am rating the success of the group on. This is my win. This ensures I am not in a lose/win scenario but always looking for the win/win or no deal. Please take my process and make it your own. I recognize you may need to tweak it, but have a process! No plan is a sure plan to fail.
Thom Pirone is the Director of Strategic Development for RedRock Leadership. Thom has a keen eye for business management and operational efficiency. In addition, his comprehensive skill set uniquely qualifies him to lead, train, and coach others to succeed in accomplishing their goals.
RedRock Leadership is a sales training and leadership development company committed to growing companies by growing individuals through on-going training infused with the competencies of emotional intelligence.
Founder of RedRock Leadership