INCREASING REVENUE THROUGH BUSINESS NETWORKING


Lead Generation is often seen as hard work or the result of an expensive marketing campaign. But it doesn't have to be that way.

Networking groups are springing up far and wide to help business with their lead generation. Consultants are being told the most effective form of lead generation is to build long-term relationships through word-of-mouth marketing. Yet many find that attendance at business networking events fails to result in lead generation. Why? Because they are not following some basic principles of good business networking.

A Business Networking Attitude

Lead Generation does not automatically result from attendance at a business networking event. You will only get the desired results when you approach it with the right attitude. That means you have to:

  • be pro active and build your network, not reactive and hoping people will come to you
  • stretch yourself outside your comfort zones
  • be patient and persist
  • choose the right type of clients for you
  • you make the first move
  • make the right impression from the start
  • use an interesting introduction
  • spend more time listening than talking
  • follow up your contacts after the event
  • see 'giving' as the key to networking      

It is generally accepted that business networking is a vital part of most companies’ development activities. You will invest many hours, hours stolen from ones private life, to attend functions, sporting events, conferences and exhibitions. This is a valuable investment of your time and in some cases your or your company's, money.

To get a return on that investment you need to be generating useful contacts, building a network, and seeing some of these turn into genuine prospects. The events you attend are all arenas for building new relationships and reinforcing existing ones. If you don't approach those events with a methodical and professional approach, then you are at best wasting time and money, and at worst you are what I call a "networking criminal".

This doesn't mean that you should attend these events and sell. Business networking should be the platform to create opportunities at a later stage.

How Much Do You Want Them?

Sales Leads are the life blood of your business. What is YOUR attitude towards them?  

Networking doesn't work when the wrong attitudes are entrenched in the first place.

98 5 of people find that networking is outside their comfort zone. If you are not willing to stretch yourself by moving out of the comfort zone, you will not be successful.

Consider your own approach:

Are you:

Unwilling to move outside your comfort zone and do something that will generate new business?

Prepared to develop yourself and generate sales leads in the process?

How to Build Strong Relationships

Business to Business relationships do not start with:

"Hello, nice to meet you, will you do some business with me, please?"

Too many people do not seem to understand that building long term, stable and comfortable 'business to business' relationships requires work and dedication. A relationship has to be built between individuals, and based on mutual:

  • trust
  • respect
  • liking

With these as the foundation of the relationship, the business to business association will be a long and fulfilling one.     

Building a business to business relationship is a long term exercise. There are 7 stages to go through:

  1. Unaware to aware
  2. Aware to curious
  3. Curious to interested
  4. Interested to wanting
  5. Wanting to buying
  6. Buying to satisfied
  7. Satisfied to the creation of a raving fan

Networking does not work when persistence and perseverance is missing.

Consider your own approach:

Are you:

Wanting to keep your interactions brief, so you can get back to the office?
Willing to invest time in building long-term relationships?

How to Find Them

Where can you find business opportunities?

The answer to this question is 'everywhere!' If you are truly hungry for new contacts leading to new business, they must be constantly aware by listening for obvious and not so obvious opportunities.

You cannot choose when business opportunities come your way. They come at a time of their own choosing, so you have to be on the alert to recognize them.

Everyone should view themselves as a TV switched off at the remote control. Have your mind in a similar state to that little red dot? Always be on stand-by! When you listen attentively for opportunities, they will be there. They are on boats, trains, planes, at all social functions. Just be friendly, chat ask questions, listen and do the last of these actions attentively. Networking does not work if one switches off or fails to remain alert.       

Consider your own approach:

When and how do you look for business opportunities?

At sales or business meetings?

Everywhere?

Taking a Step towards Lead Generation

Making new contacts isn't easy, but it is vital. The likelihood of doing business with people we do not know is remote! You are invisible and your product is invisible!
There are only 2 groups in business:

  • those we already do business with, and
  • those with whom we wish to do business.

Making new contacts can be done in two ways, one easy, the other harder.

The easy way, and the most effective form of networking, is persuading people in the 1st group (those you already do business with) to introduce us to the 2nd group (those you'd like to meet). If you have good clients, this will be the best and most frequent way of making new contacts.

If that does not happen as often as you would like, then there is another way. It's hard, it's uncomfortable and it can be scary but it must be done! You have to be proactive and must take the first step:       

"Hello, may I join you? My name is Mary and you are?"

"I'm John".

"Hello John, nice to meet you, how did you get to be invited here"?

Greeting a nervous person standing on his or her own will ensure that you become an instant favorite. Networking doesn't work when people wait and expect others to make the first move.

Consider your own approach:

When you go to networking events, do you:

Wait for other people to approach you?

Recognize that other people are also waiting to be approached, take the initiative, and introduce yourself.

When you make such an approach, the next thing to consider is:

Conveying an Important Business Message

The H.R. (Human Resources) profession will tell you that many interviewers decide whether or not the candidate is right within the first 60 seconds. The other 59 minutes are used to confirm their initial impressions, which are regularly sustained.

The first moments are critical to the start of a business relationship. There are some obvious basics:

  • smile
  • eye contact
  • firm handshake

Make them laugh or show interest quickly. This will ensure that your listener does not mentally (or physically!) leave within the first 2 minutes.     

How long does it take you to forget their name after their introduction? 15 minutes? 5 minutes? 1 minute?

The answer is normally less than 2 seconds, simply because most people:

  • don't even hear or register the other person's name in the first place, and
  • am too embarrassed to say "I'm sorry I didn't catch your name, will you please repeat it?" We all love our names so when someone else shows interest, it can only be good for the foundation of a new relationship.

Networking does not work when consultants do not create the right impression from the start.

Consider your own approach:

When you go to networking events, do you:

Think nervously about yourself?

Make a good first impression by listening to the other person?

Once you've made a good first impression by listening well, you should present yourself in an interesting and attention-grabbing way:

Making IT Simple but Powerful

Marketing messages play an important role at the start of a conversation.

"So John, what do you do?"
"I'm a process engineering consultant."
"Oh that's interesting!" says the listener.

I say "listener", but did he hear and more importantly understand what you said?

Where are the marketing messages in this discussion about what you do? Nowhere! Without strong marketing messages, there is little prospect of generating any sales leads. When people are asked what they do, 99% of the time they answer what they are, not what they do.       

To the listener it's a turn off and the potential new contact will more than likely make his or her mind up about the person they have just met. Unfortunately, perceptions are reality!

People buy benefits and solutions. No one buys because of what you think is important. This is my introduction.

"I help businesses to increase their fees by showing them how to network effectively and with confidence"
It won't be easy at first, but with practice, who knows what can be achieved?

Consider your own approach:

When you are asked what you do, do you:

Say what you are?
Say what you do for your clients?

The Vital Role it Plays

You are now at the stage where a new contact is made and the appropriate opening remarks have gone well. What happens next? Do you start to 'sell'?

No! The most important thing now is small talk!

The experienced networker knows the most important conversation is small talk. Big business can only come as the relationship starts to build. How else can you find out about the other person and their interests if the small talk doesn't take place?

Small talk can include travel, the workplace, sports, family or matters of current interest.

"How did you get started?"

"What advice would you give regarding?"

"What plans do you have for?"      

These are powerful open questions, which should elicit information and show your listener what an "interested" person you are.

Be a good listener and encourage others to talk about themselves. Paraphrase to show you have actively listened, this will be noticed.

DO NOT SELL.

Networking and selling are like oil and water; they never mix. It's far more important to be interested than interesting. Any networking event is simply the platform to build on for the future. Networking doesn't work when people do too much talking and not enough listening.

Consider your own approach:

When you are at a networking event, do you:

Spend a lot of time talking?
Spend a lot of time listening?

Write on the card the day that you have agreed to call. Let them see you do this.

On that Wednesday or Thursday, ensure that you call without fail.

That call is the key moment to expose yourself to the possibility of doing business. Networking doesn't work when consultants waste their valuable time by not following up effectively. Networking is most effective when the attitude is, “How can I help you?" not "What's in it for me?"

"Who would you like me to introduce you to?" and "How can I know if someone I'm talking to will be a good introduction for you?" are 2 basic questions to show new or existing contacts that you understand the basic rules.

It's Christmas time. Someone gives you a present and you haven't given them one. How do you feel?

It's the same with referrals and introductions. If you can recommend one person to another, eventually the favors will be returned. When it's your turn to ask the key question, "Who do you know who...?" the chances of getting a positive answer will be greatly enhanced.

Always give without remembering and receive without forgetting. Networking doesn't work when the consultant doesn't give in order to get. In the longer run... gives gain.

Consider your own approach:

When you are at a networking event, do you:

Look for what you can get out of it?

Look for what you can give to others?

Finally, after the networking event you should:

How to generate sales leads and keep them!

The most effective form of sales leads generation is networking, whether at social gatherings or network events arrange specifically for that purpose. But networking does not, of itself, generate sales leads, nor should it. Networking should be the platform to create opportunities at a later stage.

Follow Up

A networking criminal is someone who squanders opportunities for sales lead generation by not following up after the event. If you have approached your networking professionally, then you have already moved outside your comfort zone, so it is a serious offence to retreat back into your comfort zone and fail to make the follow up call.

An example scenario

You meet Pamela at an exhibition and get on really well, building some strong rapport. You have asked all the pertinent questions and spotted a potential opportunity. You are following the latter part of the networking process, working the room, by:

  • asking for her business card
  • finding something to comment on
  • asking permission to contact her, and
  • Writing the date you agree on the back of the card, within Pamela's sight.

These are vital steps in sales leads generation, because they show commitment and provide a link to the next stage. Pamela will be expecting your call, and it should be treated as a firm commitment on your part.

What to do after the event

IMMEDIATELY after the event:

  • Record your follow up actions so you don't forget. If you have agreed a date then you have, in fact, promised to call your prospect. So put it in your diary as if it’s an appointment with an existing client.
  • If the contact date is longer than 5 working days, send a note or email saying how much you enjoyed meeting her and, as promised, you will call on the agreed date.
  • Annotate her card with all relevant information, such as:
    • where you met
    • the date
    • what type of event it was
    • make a note of any useful pieces of small talk to use as a bridge to the next step
    • the name of her receptionist or secretary, if it came up in the discussion
    • Record the actual words she spoke which gave you a sign there is a business opportunity, the more accurate the better.

Start your research on her business; every serious business has lots of useful information on their websites. Find out if there has been any business done or connections made with her company previously. You aim should be to know lots about her business

Making the phone call

If you find that it is difficult to motivate yourself to make the call, then read the guidelines for overcoming the sales fear of rejection.

Before you pick up the phone, plan, think and prepare:

  • Create enough time for the call
  • What do you want from this call? Usually, it is only to set up a face-to-face meeting, that's all.
  • Work out what you're going to say to her and, if you're not sure, write it down. You may just want to ask a few more preliminary questions before moving forward, but aim to keep the conversation to a minimum. Know how you believe you can help her (even with the limited knowledge you may have).
  • Work out what you're going to say to the gatekeeper and, if you're not sure, write it down.
  • Prepare to answer the question 'why should we do business with you?'
  • Organize your desk:
    • make space
    • have her business card in front of you with her details
    • have blank paper available
    • staple the card to the blank paper
    • which can be used for the history of turning Pamela the prospect into a new customer or client
    • Turn your computer screen to blank
    • Have your diary ready.

Note, if you're not the best person in the company to be talking to Pamela, have that person standing by, so you can still set up a face-to-face meeting.

When you make the call:

  • Consider standing up; the adrenalin flows faster
  • Expect a positive outcome; you believe you can help and she is expecting you to call to do just that
  • Give your full attention to her
  • Do your best not to get into too much dialogue or detail.
  • Keep focused on the goal of arranging a face-to-face meeting.

 


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