I, since the early 1980s, have been actively networking in a number of organizations. My experience, tells me that most people get out of social networking what they put into it. People often come up to me after a speaking engagement and ask, what is the magic formula for networking success. How can they become successful as a social Networker? My answer is always the same, it’s not a magic formula, although many perceive it to be a secret, a powerful principle or other hidden system of techniques. My answer always state that the secret is in plain sight. Look at the word “network” and the answer is in the title itself. The first parts of this series addressed the relationship between face to face networking and social media. Part two addresses the secret aspects of Giving. In part three of this series, we will discuss the habits that must be acquired and followed, in order to become a consummate Networker. We’ll be looking at 15 important habits which will guide and drive your success. So let’s get to work and begin by dissecting the term Social Networker.
1. Its Net Work! – Social Network is actually made up of three words: Social, Net and Work. Word of mouth marketing means that when you go out, its net “work”, not net “sit,” “eat,” or “socialize.” I don’t mean being unfriendly or uncordial, but you have to be focus. Is your conversation about football or the evening news or is it about networking? Ask questions related to networking. Ask questions like: How can you help them out? What are they looking for? Who are you looking for this week? Who are they working on this week? What’s the biggest challenge you faced this week? Likewise, let them know who you’re looking for when they in turn say – what are you looking for? By the same token, if you are engaging in social networking online, you have to stay focused. Don’t get distracted by all of the posts. Do your work first. Thank your referral partners, influencers, and testimonial givers first. Post you’re curated and authoritative post before socializing with your friends and family.
2. There is no such thing as “least effort, most gained. – When it comes to networking, the most effort always equals the most gained. Even when you have leverage, like when speaking to a crowd, you still have to be prepared. Cutting corners, skipping meetings, winging your short presentations, dressing inappropriately, wearing wrinkled clothes, being late, etc., won’t help you be successful. Being successful requires effort. Not only right effort, but attention to detail and consistent effort. There is no substitute for serious effort.
3. It’s Not a Meeting, its Marketing – Word of mouth is not just a meeting — it is a powerful form of marketing. You have at least four opportunities at most networking events to network with others. The first, open networking before the event begins. The second is when you get to stand up and give your short presentation. The third is when you are a spotlight speaker, and the fourth is after the networking event where more open networking takes place. Don’t waste any of your marketing opportunities.
4. Everyone is not your potential referral partner or client – A longtime myth about networking is that you have the potential to pass referrals to every business in the group and likewise also receive business from everyone in the group. The reality is you can probably do lots of business (about 70 percent of your referrals, passed and received) with only a few members of the group. This is usually a select few, around seven people that you meet regularly with. The rest of the group will at best provide about 30 percent of your referrals (both passed and received.) Even if you have a product or service that “is used by all”, it doesn’t mean they are your potential client or referral partners. They may already have pre-existing relationships that will preclude them from doing business with you. The only way to find out for sure is to put in the time necessary to meet all the members of your group and explore how you can help each other.
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5. Meeting with people one-on-one is the best way to get more referrals. Although open networking is helpful, it’s no substitute for a one-on-one face-to-face meeting to explore how you can help each other. The face to face meetings also need to be focused both on education and on learning what’s important to each of the parties present. You not only have to learn about each other’s businesses, you also have to learn what drives each of you to get up in the morning, what motivate each of you to succeed. Both the business education and the personal motivators need to be explored if you really want to help each other. Lastly, it’s important to learn about the personal aspect of your referral partner’s lives. Things like their kids and spouse’s name, hobbies and past times they like to engage in. Learning these aspects and then taking them into account when interacting with your partners also helps to strengthen the relationship. This is why I think so many sales are made during golf outings.
6. There are many Networking Skills that need to be mastered. You may be skilled at working a room or making a presentation, but that will not take you to the top two percent of all Networkers. You need to have a givers mindset to start with and a willingness to do whatever it takes. You also need to learn other skills as well. First, you also have to have good communication and selling skills. I don’t mean closing tricks or techniques, but solid business consulting, listening and solution-designing skills. You also need to ask for the order. Another way of giving is being active in the management and production of the network itself. What I am referring to here is being active in the group’s leadership. Serving the group gives you more visibility, and this can eventually lead to more referrals. However, doing a poor job in a leadership position can also lead to less business as well.
7. Specific is Terrific. – Being specific when presenting at a meeting or online will increase your results drastically. If you’re asking for a referral, being specific can be the difference between failure and success. It can mean the difference between an easy qualified referral and a referral that not only is a lead, it’s a bad lead. Being specific is most effective when you have already built trust among the members of a networking group. However, it can also help you find what you need when posting on your social networks. I often see Networkers ask for a specific referral by name and then another members of that network respond by saying, “I can connect you with that person.” This is very common in BNI and on LinkedIn. By the same token, if you post a question asking for help with a specific issue on a social network you will almost always get that help. Even if you’re asking for one more sale to reach your goal. Again, this assumes you have taken the time to build trusting relationships with your social networks.
8. Practice Improves Performance. – One thing is for certain, you would never pay a radio station or TV company to “just wing” your commercials. So why do so many Networkers’ just wing it when doing their short presentations? Spend time every week writing down and practicing aloud your short presentation. This should be a “Must Do” item on your networking checklist. I spend about 20 minutes writing out my 60-second presentation for BNI. Once written, I then practice saying it aloud. I then practice it again the night before and the morning of the meeting, each and every week. Practice is an easy way to improve your performance. Don’t be lazy, the practice will improve your ability to get more referrals.
9. One-sized Presentation don’t fit all Networks. Each and every Networker needs to create and practice a 30-second, a 60-second, a two-minute, a five-minute, and even a 15-minute presentation. There are many networking opportunities and each group has its own rules. Being prepared gives you a leg up on the competition when it comes to building your credibility among the other members. By having these five different presentations ready to go at all times, you will be able to step in with short notice and take advantage of more speaking opportunities.
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10. Presentation Necessities. – Your presentation must includes your name as well as some type of “hook or catch phrase.” Consider telling a compelling story, adding an offer, and/or a call to action. I like to tell my referral partners to remind their prospect that I’ll provide them with a web analysis worth $600 for free, if the three of us can schedule coffee or lunch meeting. Also make sure all your contact information is listed on your handouts and at the end of your power point presentations.
11. To be the best, you have to PROVIDE the best. – It is imperative you supply the best product or service you’re capable of for the money being paid. Most companies provide “just good enough” products or services for the money they receive. Exceeding your customers’ expectations should be your goal. I’m not saying to give away the farm, but to be considered the best, you have to provide the best. This, however, does not mean you charge the most for your product or services. It means you provide the best value for the money spend. People shop value not price. Be more valuable!
12. Networking as a team works best. – It’s best to team up with another referral partner where you both know each other’s objectives; this allows you to “split the room” to work it more efficiently. Let each team member know who you’re looking to be introduced to and vice versa, be ready to help your partners find their and introduce prospects to them. I generally set a goal of finding one or two new prospects/referral partners every 10 to 20 minutes. My goal is not to sell anyone anything but instead to set up meetings at a later date to have a more meaningful conversation that allows us to find mutual benefit.
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13. Track and measure as much as possible. – Always track your actions and engagement. Both face to face and social media Networking can be tracked, measured, and the results can be predicted. Word of mouth marketing is quantifiable. It can produce predictable results. If you know how many events you plan to attend each year (approximately) and you track how often you meet with referral partners, and track the results of the referral (i.e., close ratio to referrals received), you will quickly learn what your average weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual sales results are. I know that I received about two referrals a month from my BNI chapter, and I usually get four referrals when I am the spotlight speaker. I know that if I get in front of qualified referrals, and actually provide them a business proposal, I will close about 57 percent of them. By the same token, I know on average home many followers read our blogs based on the number of social post published each day. I also know that the more quality interactions I engage in raises the number of social leads I receive as well.
14. Always bring your networking tools with you. At a networking event always be armed with a name badge, something to write with, your business cards, a list of potential prospects, and a how can I help you attitude. On the social media side, always make sure your profile is complete, answer all engaged followers, help all influencer and provide useful, relevant and timely content, preferable your own authoritative material daily.
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15. You should calculate what your time is worth. – Understanding the time value of money, means you can better measure how effective you are when spending your time at networking events. You can come up with this figure in many ways. I look at my annual production rate in dollars and divide it by the number of working hours that I spent to produce that dollar amount. Some people take their annual pay and divided it by the amount of time they spend networking. Others look at the total cost of networking activities (including drive time, parking fees, meal, meeting fees and organization fee, etc.), add that to the hourly value of time they spend networking to come up with a figure. If you do this exercise you will realize the word of mouth and social media networking are not free. First of all, it’s not cheap because there are hard cost (membership fees, meal fees, parking and other travel cost), and lastly they actually consume a considerable amount of time and energy (which also equals money)! That means you have to be efficient as a Networker, otherwise you’re throwing your money away. This will make you understand the importance of delivering a polished and practiced short presentation. It will make you realize the value of effectively engaging in meaningful one to one meetings. It will also make it perfectly clear the value of leveraging your long presentations when you get to deliver your message to a large group of networking enthusiast.