We go to networking events month-in and month-out and for many of us, year-in and year-out with only marginal results. Sure, we meet great people and even enjoy ourselves some of the time but we’re not building our business with the original intention we had when we started. What happened? Why didn’t our strategy work and why aren’t we trying to do something to change it? The problem is we don’t have a system or specific method to be successful. General networking ideas and techniques are not good enough because you need a specific step-by-step outline of exactly what to do to acquire the results you have envisioned. I know a method that works because I practice it almost weekly; how well it works for you will depend on how you execute each step and on that intrinsic determination you have to be successful at network marketing.
Here are 5 steps for immediate positive changes:
1) Show up at the event early; 15-20 minutes early will allow you to meet the host, offer your assistance and chit chat about key people they invited to the mixer. Make sure to ask for an introduction if they mention someone on your referral partner or client list. Since you showed up early, the host will take you seriously and most likely be happy to make the connection for you.
2) Position yourself near the front entrance on the inside of the room; people will be checking in, getting their name badge or signing a guest list. Take on the roll of visitor host and greet everyone coming through the check-in area; at this point all you want to do is introduce yourself and quickly exchange business cards. Then tell them you will chat with them later once you’ve said hello to a few friends. Fast, brief introductions are appropriate here since they will also want to “settle in” to the event.
3) After 20-45 minutes (depending on the length of the mixer) of playing visitor host, take a bathroom break and survey the business cards you’ve gathered. I like to make a quick note on the back of each card when people give them to me which rates how important they are to connect with later. “5” is a high level partner or client, “4” is a strong potential, “3” possibly a good referral partner, “2” may be good resource for other groups or services and “1” no real synergies. I group 3-5 of my highest rankings and set out to speak with them again.
4) I keep my second conversations to 3-5 people because otherwise you will lose focus, run out of time and your poise may not be 100% if you ramble on with a dozen different people. Your goal is to make a quality contact for a future meeting and present yourself as a true professional.
5) The real secret to making a meaningful connection is to ask 2 critical questions, “how can I help you?” and “what is the ideal client for your business?” Then sit back and listen but keep your partner focused. Jot down notes on the back of their card and summarize back to them what they tell you. Make this mini-meeting about them and their needs. They will love that you’re actively listening, taking notes and interested and they will inevitably ask about your business as well. Describe your business briefly and tell them where you might fit into their business strategy. It can be a loose fit or a very strong one but make some type of connection. Creating a “reason” to work together will build a case for your second one-on-one meeting where you can go into much more detail. During this stage, each conversation should take 10-12 minutes maximum which will leave you open ended areas to discuss the next time.
These sequential first 5 steps will provide a game plan to use at any networking event. It will outline a method to connect with the most valuable people, learn about their business, create a positive first impression and set up the groundwork for meeting again and working together into the future.
Lester Salvatierra is a Finance Broker and Director of First U.S. Finance (http://www.FirstUSFinance.com). He helps small to mid-size companies get the money they need to lease or finance new equipment and special projects. He is also a BNI Area Director in Ventura County, CA. Lester@FirstUSFinance.com Ph: 805-217-9896
With over 5,500 active chapters, and over 100,000 members throughout every populated continent worldwide, BNI is the largest and most successful business referral organization in the world. BNI was founded in 1985 by Dr. Ivan Misner and the organization, which allows only one person from each profession to join a chapter, offers members the opportunity to share ideas, contacts, and most importantly, referrals. Last year alone, members of BNI passed 6.2 million referrals, generating 2.6 billion dollars’ worth of business.
For more information on BNI, please visit http://www.bni.com/ or call BNI Headquarters at 909.608.7575.
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