We are told time and time again that networking is essential for our business. And that if we don’t do it we won’t generate new prospects and strategic alliances.
Yet, how often do we take the time to review the amount of time and money we spend on this activity?
It can be so easy to keep doing something because we think we should, and not take the time to review our return on investment, or consider if we could do things differently to get a better result.
On this action packed, practical call you will:
- Realise the true cost of networking to your business (and it’s not what you think)
- Create a strategic approach to networking by getting back to basics
- Learn an effective and easy three step model to maximise your networking efforts
- Feel that networking is easy and enjoyable when you change your approach by one little tweak
Ten years ago, when I first moved to Tokyo and was setting up my coaching business, I knew no one. Networking was the obvious way to build my business
Except I hated networking. Whilst I worked in London, I had been to a couple of events and I found them boring and if I’m honest, I didn’t feel like I belonged and I couldn’t see the point of it. So the thought of networking in Tokyo filled me with dread.
But, I was keen to make the business a success, so I went to my first ever Chamber of Commerce event. I hated every minute of it.
I met men who would sidle up to me, look me over, shake my hand, discover what I did and when they realised I was of no use to them…they would then carry on talking but always be looking over my shoulder to see who else was in the room, that clearly would offer them more interest.
Ugh – sleaze city……
Then I met a few people who tried to close me on the spot! Did I need some financial advice, would I come and have a meeting with them to discuss investments? Would I consider buying property…. no way………
And then I met people who even I couldn’t get to open up an have a conversation – total disaster, nothing in common and no inkling of how we could work in business together.
I left feeling deflated, that I hadn’t tried hard enough and seriously worried how I would ever get my first clients. And I had a bunch of business cards that I had no idea what to do with.
Given that 60% of my new business comes from networking, clearly I have learnt something in those 10 years since that first disastrous event in Japan!
My turning point came when I realised how people would buy my services. That they needed to know me, like me and then trust me before they would buy coaching from me. When I realised this, I took a whole lot of pressure of myself and the networking events, when I realised that the objective was not to SELL but in fact the objective was to meet people and then get to know them a little more in a follow up meeting.
The KNOW, LIKE and TRUST model has helped me understand how networking fits into my business development strategy and what results I can expect and in what time frame.
Networking for me is the first step in my sales process….the KNOW. If I’m lucky, the people I meet may even LIKE me, but I doubt they would trust me after one meeting. So I see the purpose of networking as a way to raise the awareness of me and my service offering to my target market. This took the pressure off me, as I realised I didn’t have to sell at a networking event.
When I realised this, I began to network differently and also to assess my return on my investment in a different manner.
Let’s look at the true cost of networking.
Often when we think of the cost of networking, we just think about the value of the subscription, the cost of the meal or the ticket price. Very rarely do we consider the cost of our time involved.
The cost of the time involved in getting to the event, the time spent there and then the time to get back to the office. So in London it would take me an hour each way to get into a networking event in the City and then I would spend at least 2 hours there. So, that is 4 hours gone. If I go once a month, that it 48 hours spent on that one monthly networking event – essentially a week’s working time!
If you were to know the hourly cost of your time, then you could calculate the real cost of your time involved in attending that event.
Another way to think about it is the opportunity cost of your time. So what else could you do with those 48 hours to build your business? Instead of networking, would you be better calling old clients and meeting them for lunch? Or working on a social media strategy? Remember your time is finite and it is one of the most precious resources that you have in your business.
When we start to think of the cost of networking in terms of time, and then the opportunity cost of that time, it adds to the need to get a good return on that investment.
So your action here s to add up the time you spend networking – and remember to include the travel time to and from the event.
Then once you have done that – consider if you are getting a good return on investment for that time, or could you be using that time differently for a better return?
If we treat networking and the time and money involved in it like any business investment, we would expect to have a strategy in place where we could see the results vs. expectations.
How many of you have goals for your networking? In my years of working with business owners, I have never met anyone that does…and yet if you were to spend 5,000 on a marketing campaign, then you would expect some results for that investment – networking is no different.
So here are four easy steps to create a strategic plan for your networking.
Step 1: How many customers do you need to attain your revenue target?
So if you sell coaching services, and you want to make 100,000 and the average amount a client spends with you is 2,000, you will need 50 clients a year.
Or if you sell jewellery and you want to make 100,000 per year, and you sell through retailers, if your average retailer order is 10,000 then you will need 10 retailers per year.
Knowing how many customers you need each year will give you a sense the of the volume of people you need to reach through networking. It may help you understand how much of your time and budget you spend networking.
Step 2: Who is your target market?
Getting very clear on whom your target market is, is essential when you are creating your networking strategy. You need to know who they are, what their problems are that you want to solve and importantly, where they network. Frankly, there is no point attending networking events that your clients do not attend. This would be like advertising fluoride toothpaste in a magazine for denture wearers – they simply would not be interested in a toothpaste that helps their teeth get stronger.
So if you haven’t already, paint a profile of your target market.
Who re they, what do they do, how much do they earn, and where would they network?
Create a list of all the places you think they may go, the associations they may belong to, the clubs they join and what areas they may be interested in.
Once you have this, then you can determine which networking groups would be be best for you to invest your time and money in. My advice is to fish where the fish are……fishing where they are not is a complete waste of time.
Step 3. Create a shortlist of networking groups
Create a shortlist of networking groups to attend where you know your target market will be. Then go – try them out and see which ones feel best to you. From my experience over the years, some networking group will naturally feel better than others; you will have a greater affinity with the group. Select the ones that you think best match your likes and the objectives of your business.
Step 4: Create a target for networking
Based on how many new customers you need per year, create a target of new customers that you want to gain through networking. Then you have an objective against which you can measure your return on investment.
So now you have your Strategic plan for networking, here is a three step model I use to really maximise my networking efforts and ensure I get a good return on my investment.
I call it the IFF model.
Lets look at the I
This stands for intention
When you are getting ready for a networking event, be honest – are you thinking about what you will wear, what the food will be like, how good it will be to catch up with that person you haven’t seen for ages?
Or are you researching the delegate list, identifying the three best people you could speak to and then looking at their website or linked in profile so you can discuss something of meaning to them?
I recommend that before you leave for the networking event you have done the latter. Spend some time to do the research and then set an intention for that event.
Set yourself an intention by asking yourself this question, “what do I need to achieve today to make this networking event a success for me and my business?” Whatever the answer can be your intention.
The thing I love about intentions, is that they focus your energy on a positive outcome, So if you are nervous about the event or a little hesitant about attending, thinking about what you want to happen as a result of attending, can increase you anticipation about attending.
On to the first F
Remember how I used to hate networking because I thought I would have to sell myself, do an elevator pitch and close on the spot? When I realised that I didn’t have to do that, and that the purpose of the meeting was simple to get someone to know and like me, I chilled out.
I also realised that the purpose of he networking was to help the other person FEEL GOOD.
When you have this approach to networking, you are focusing more on the person you are talking to than yourself. You are discovering more about them, their business and why they are here. If you do less talking and get the other person to open up, they will engage with you more and start to know and like you.
This can be simply done by asking questions such as:
– How did you get started in what you do?
– What do you enjoy about what you do
These questions open up the conversation to an interesting discussion. In this conversation you will find out more about this person and their background. And they will feel that you are genuinely interested in the. And you have the benefit of having no pressure to sell, and you can understand more deeply if you wish to continue a relationship with this person over coffee if you think there may be a chance of business in the future.
Another great question to ask, which is absolutely all about them is “how could I know I’m talking to someone who would be a great prospect for you?”
This is a wonderful question, because it signifies that you are interested in helping them grow their business and it also allows you to know how you can help someone in the future.
By taking the focus off you, and onto them, makes the whole event much more enjoyable…. and I know some of you are thinking but what about me? When do I get a chance to sell and talk about myself…of course, that will come up in the conversation. But remember, they will not be buying off you on the spot, so relax and think about this as the first part of the know and like, trust and buy sales model.
The last F. FOLLOW UP.
This is the most essential part of networking. If you don’t follow up, then frankly don’t bother going to the event in the first place. Without follow up, there is no chance to continue that relationship, no chance to move it down the spectrum of know, like trust to buy.
Following up builds trust with the person you have met – you especially if you give them that contact or piece of information you have promised. By following up, you show you are dependable.
I recommend that when you book in a networking event you book in 2 hours the next day to follow up with the people you met. You can send an email, link in with them, follow them on twitter, become a friend on FB or add them to your google pus circles. You could also send a card…..
The best way to follow up is to write a personal note in whatever media you use…so for instance if you are sending a linked in invitation, you may wan to add in where you met and a little something you remember about them from the conversation you had. This will help them feel that you are genuinely interested in them and you listened. All essential elements in the selling model!
Then depending on the interaction, whether or not you think they could be a prospect or a strategic alliance, you may want to think then about taking the relationship a step further – would you meet or coffee, lunch or whatever?
So use the IFF model when you are networking – it really does make a difference to your results. Because you start off with goals you then you have something to measure against.
Here’s the secret that really helped me transform my approach to networking – I started to think of every event I went to as if it was my party! Yep – I pretended it was my party.
So when you host a party, what do you do…?
- You get there early and ask if you can help the host set up
- You find people standing by themselves and you chat to them to make them feel welcome
- You also become a connector – so you introduce different people to each other who you think may have some common areas of interest
- You ensure you speak to most people
- And most importantly you thank the organiser
Thinking it’s your party, make you get more involved than if you are just a guest turning up! You want to make the most of the event and by plunging in and being more involved, you really do have deeper connection wit people, and a better return on your investment of time and money!
I love networking now, and it has been a critical part of building my business. I wish you all the best to make your networking work harder for you and to be a great investment of your time not a waste.
Do let me know how you get on with these changes to your networking I would love to know!