Four Reasons You Need to Be Out Networking
Now more than ever it is important to network to promote yourself as credible and trustworthy, and get the word out about your business. The downturn in the economy has changed how we do business. Our customers are much more cautious when making buying decisions and there is growing push to “buy local.”
Social media networking appeals to many because it’s done at a computer at anytime of the day and does not require the same social pleasantries that face-to-face networking requires. Social media networking should play a big part of your marketing strategy but if you want to grow your business faster, make more money and have an easier time making sales, you have to get out from behind your computer and start making eye contact and shaking hands.
Many people get frustrated because they go to a networking event and they don’t make a sale. If you want to be a successful networker get any notion of making a sale at the event out of your head. You are there to meet people. If there appears to be an opportunity to take it a step further, ask the person you are talking to if they would be interested in continuing the conversation at another time. Not everyone makes a good customer or client for you but that doesn’t mean they are not worth getting to know. Here are some of the types of people you’re going to meet at a networking event:
1. Prospective clients. Yes, you will come into contact with people looking for your product or service. They will not usually identify themselves after you’ve stated who you are and what you do but will ask probing questions about your offerings and if they like what they hear they will initiate a follow up. Don’t try to make the sale on the spot. Get their contact information and make plans to meet up either that week or the next. Don’t put off the second meeting; lapsed time makes people forget that they were eager to do business with you and they become distracted with other things.
2. Referral Partners. These people may not be prospective clients but they do business with or are often in the presence of your prospective clients. Once this individual has come to get to know, like and trust you and your business they will be able to steer people in your direction. It takes time to build a solid relationship with a referral partner so it’s important to not only have the follow up conversation but to keep in regular contact with your referral partners. It will also be important for you to became very familiar with their business as well so you can return the favor. In fact, giving them quality referrals is the best way to build the know, like and trust factor.
3. Joint Venture Partners. In this day and age it’s nearly impossible for a business to make it on its own. Partnering up with other businesses expands your reach and increases your resources. A joint venture partner may be your competition. Your competition may in fact be your greatest ally. They have the same target market as you, have the same services but chances are there are slight differences in your businesses and that is where teaming up can make the difference. Your customers are not just purchasing a service; they are purchasing the culture of the business. That’s why Target and Wal-mart can both be successful in the same location. Your competition may have marketing reach to customers who would rather buy from you and vice-versa. The key is to find a way to join forces so both business benefit from a greater marketing reach. Stay tuned for a future post on this.
4. Connectors. These are either natural born networkers or they have mastered the skill over time. They know a lot about a lot of people, organizations and businesses in your area and they are happy to make the introductions for you. They enjoy the game of networking and ultimately it benefits them as well. If you make a regular habit of networking you will usually, over time, come to identify the connectors and may even become one yourself. It is not immediately obvious who they are and you have to be careful not to judge people by their appearances. You never know by looking at someone who they have on speed dial. Don’t make the mistake of passing someone over because their manner or appearance, for whatever reason, does not appeal to you. Give everyone a chance .
There are a lot more benefits to networking than making quick sales. If that has been your goal thus far change your perspective and take a longer view. If you want to be in business for years to come you need to begin to align yourself with other entrepreneurs and businesses. Networking is a skill that is developed over time. Don’t be discouraged and give up before you’ve had a chance to develop those skills. Focus on what works and what doesn’t work, and adjust your style with every opportunity.