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How To Nurture Your Network

We all know the importance of having a strong network.  In fact, Porter Gale’s famous quote, “your network is your net worth,” sums it up nicely. Yet the problem lies in how to keep the connections going.

Sure, it’s simple to have the first coffee meeting with someone you’ve met from an event, but it’s the structure the first meeting helps determine how the relationship plays outs.

Building your network can be intimidating and awkward initially, and like every new skill, it takes repetition to master. So here is a simple process I use to build and nurture my network.

  1. During your first meeting ask a lot of questions. Being interested in the other person means you’re asking questions about them. Small talk helps to loosen things up and build trust. In fact, small talk is vital to learning what drives your new friend. The personal stuff is what matters to us so asking about family and hobbies do more than build rapport. It’s intel. I’ve had people ask me how they can support me and I rarely ever have a definitive answer, but ask me what are my challenges, and well, I can talk for 5 minutes on that. So think about what information you want to learn about that person and have a few questions on hand in case you freeze up or forget.

Hint: Think F.O.R.D Family, Occupation, Recreation, Dreams. Ask questions from each group.

  1. Clarify your intentions for the one on one meeting. Why do you want to meet this person? Are their clients your ideal clients? Are you interested in making a purchase? Do you have possible referrals for them? If you’re interested in meeting with them to pitch your business and it was not agreed upon, you should rethink your meeting. Networking is about exchanging information, developing contacts, exploring collaborations, etc. It’s not about pitching your products unless the other person agrees. If someone agrees to meet for networking reasons and then wants to hear how you can help them, that’s a sales conversation and should be scheduled for a different time. BOOM! Easy follow-up! Actively listen for how you can help them.We often listen to respond and when this happens, we can’t remember what was said. Active listening help you pick up on nonverbal communications and see the full picture your new friend is painting for you.

Hint: Think of the conversation as time of possession. The goal is to all the other person to talk more than you. If you’re doing the majority of the talking, either you’re pitching, or you turn into a prospect.

  1. Agree on the next steps before parting ways.By the end of your meeting there should be 1 or 2 action items to exchange. This could be an introduction, the start of a collaboration, cross marketing, sending information, becoming accountability partners, etc. If they are interested in hearing more about your solution, the next step is to schedule a discovery meeting/ sales conversation.The next steps should be mutually agreed on and restated before you part ways.

Hint:If you’re being genuine about wanting to help the other person succeed, it’ll come through so don’t worry about being salesy. Just have a desire to help. This alone can add value.

  1. Send an email follow-up/ Thank you card. A super easy way to increase business and strengthen connections with your new friend is sending thank you notes. Yes, it’s old school and I’m sure you’ve heard of this. If you haven’t tried it, or fell off the wagon, YOU’RE MISSING OUT! Sending a personalized thank you via snail mail is uplifting. It also keeps you top of mind, which is what you want. With most advertisement switched to online marketing, most of us only receive bills in the mail. There have been times I sent a thank you notes to new friends and the saw them at an event. They were happy to see me everything time and appreciative of the note. It’s an easy way to build influence in a non-salesy way.  Sending follow up emails is also a common way to keep the connection going, especially to reiterate action steps. You can and should do both.

Hint:Send the follow up email right away then send the thank you note the following week.

  1. Check in with your new friend.Once the first connect happens and action items are completed, it’s time to check in with your new friend. Ask them about a project they’re working on, their latest accomplishment, follow up on an introduction you made, etc. Then share what you’ve been working on. You can send a message via email, LinkedIn, Facebook etc. If you start to wonder about your friend, then that’s a perfect time to check in. If you’re concerned about how often you check in, you can do it once a month. The frequency will vary depending on the relationship and what is being worked on.
  2. If you made several attempts to reached out over a period of time without a response, it’s time to move on. Not everyone you meet with will be a good fit or will be responsive to your communications. It happens to us all. I have a follow up system I use where I reach out 6 to 8 times over 2 months. If I don’t hear from them after the 8th communication, I’ll move their contact to my cold list.I’ll reach out to them less and use different methods to communicate. If they’re still non-responsive after 6 months, I’ll archive them. Whatever your follow-up sequence is, including a cutoff point is essential to keeping your CRM current and functional.   Your CRM is the heart of your business and if it’s cluttered with people who aren’t helping you do business, then your CRM isn’t of much value. Keep your CRM healthy and clean by clearing out those contacts who you’ve haven’t heard from in years.

Hint:Your follow-up system should include 2-3 communication methods. Using email as the only way you contact your people grows stale and sends the message you don’t really care.

THANKS FOR READING MY BLOG!
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Contact Us to discuss your client retention blueprint!
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Need More Referrals? Try Tiered Appreciation


Those who provide referrals should be thanked differently than those who provide leads. Thank everyone the same way and you overlook the superstars who could bring you more business.

Common sense right?

Yet most entrepreneurs send thank emails, or notes to everyone for everything and believe it’s effective.

Well, it’s not.

In fact, by showing your appreciation this way you’re hack your business and leaving money on the table.
Let me explain why.

There’s a difference between word of mouth,  leads, introductions, and referrals. They don’t have the same value.
Although each action markets your business, they don’t all motivate prospects to buy.

For instance, word of mouth buzz creates visibility. It doesn’t take much effort for your network to mention your business to others who need your solution. There’s little to no motivation for the prospect to take action.

A lead is contact information of someone who needs your solution. The only connection you have with the lead is the person who gave you their information. Name dropping might get you dedicated time (hopefully) but there’s no guarantee you’ll get the sale. In addition, you go through the same process as a cold lead.

An introduction puts you a step closer to a sale. When you’re introduced to a prospect trust is transferred to you and the sales cycle is shortened.

On the other hand, those who send business your way sell the prospect on why they need your services, what they like about you, and provides your contact information. All the upfront work is done for you. The prospect shows up wanting your services so there’s little work required on your behalf to close the sale.

All you need to do is to not screw it up!

True referral sources should be appreciated as the rock stars they are. They are literally your sales force and should be treated as such.
Tiered appreciation identifies the superstars in your network and who to give more attention to. Give your rock stars small gifts to show your appreciation and they’ll continue to refer you. Need help with gift ideas? Head over to the appreciation gift page.

THANKS FOR READING MY BLOG!
Looking for an innovative way to improve your business? Click here to learn more.
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Business Networking: How To Become A Premier Vendor

Have you ever attended a networking event that was full of card pushers? You know the ones who pitch to you right away, stuff their business card in your hand, and quickly move on to their next target? They have no interest in connecting because all about them.

If you ever been to a networking event, chances are, you encountered someone like this or you might be the over zealous networker (yes, I was one).

Many professionals have written off networking groups and believe it’s a waste of time because of lack of new business. Yet, there’s great value in meeting like-minded professionals. With the right mindset and strategy, you can network your way to premier vendor status with my top 3 suggestions below.

Why do you network?

Most professionals attend networking events to attract new clients and rub elbows with influencers. We all want to grow our business and lead generation is a simple solution. Networking isn’t about pitching on the first encounter. It’s about connecting to other people’s network.  So it’s not the person you meet who you sell to, it’s their network. In addition, networking groups can provide more than leads when you find the right group. It can provide support, a safe place to experiment, and a mastermind.

Yes, a one stop shop!

I found a network group I enjoy. It’s a divers group of entrepreneurs from all walks of life, there’s plenty of seasoned experts, and everyone’s friendly. I always gain valuable information and connections when I attend.

As a result of attending this group, my business is growing, I’ve gained life long friendships, I’m collaborating with other entrepreneurs on a few projects, and I’ve strengthened a number of skillsets.

It’s well worth the investment to find the right network.

What can you do for the network?

The quickest way to become known, liked, and trusted in a networking group is to serve. If you focus on helping others solve their problems without asking for anything in return, you will become top of mind. Volunteering, donating refreshments, or taking attendance can  work to your favor.

Networking to build relationships

Networking isn’t the best way to feed your business overnight because relationships take time to build. Ask around and look for a network group you can consistently attend. 

If you’re looking for a quality network group, use the Meetup app to start your search. I highly recommend attending Wisconsin Business Owners meeting held every fourth Friday of the month.

What networking groups do you recommend? Are paid networking meetings better than free ones? We want to hear from you!

 

                                                                         THANKS FOR READING MY BLOG!
Looking for an innovative way to improve your business? Click here to learn more.
Contact Us to book your travel!
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