Working Your Network

This month we have been covering the topic of networking and referrals:

1. Developing the Attitude for Networking (and life). The old saying is true that your attitude determines your altitude. You will only go as far as your attitude will carry you. We will look at the kind of attitudes that will enable you to successfully expand your network and make your life all that it can be. There are certain attitudes you must have toward circumstances and those that you must have toward yourself and others. Your attitude also governs the process of what takes place when you are networking. We took a look at the whole world of attitude two weeks ago.

2. Becoming a Person of Influence. The ability to attract and influence others is paramount to being a successful networker. Last week we covered the principles of influence and what motivates others to follow your lead, which, in turn, builds your network. We also discussed how to expand your contact list with people who want to go with you to greater heights.

3. Working your Network. It takes a certain degree of skill to search for and gain new referrals to expand your business. In this week’s edition, we will show you how to develop your network and grow your business—what to do before a meeting, during a meeting and after a meeting, all designed to help you grow your business through an expanding network of people.

4. Getting the Referral. The success of your business depends on keeping your current customers satisfied, while at the same time gaining new customers. The key to getting new customers is getting the referral. We will discuss a technique for this and also cover the ins and outs of working with people in such a way that they help you find others to grow your business—and gladly refer you! We will cover this in next week’s edition.

This week we are covering the topic of “Working your Network,” and I want to talk a little about what kind of person you need to be in order to maximize your network. Remember, the kind of person you are is ultimately what will determine the kind of success you have.

So, let’s take a few moments to think about what kind of person is successful in networking.

Successful Networkers Are:

Hard workers. I have found that the most successful networkers are those who work hard at their business for long periods of time. Just as in life, there are up times and down times. Strong economies come and go. What doesn’t change is that successful networkers are hard workers.

Yes, occasionally, you will hear of someone for whom wealth and success came easily, but this is the exception, not the rule. The same is true with networking (and all of life): The person who gets the network up and running and firing on all cylinders is the one who is up early and goes to bed late. They are working the phones. They are sending follow-up notes. They are working their network.

Diligent. Diligence is an offshoot of hard work, but with a subtle nuance. Webster’s defines diligence this way: “characterized by care and perseverance in carrying out tasks; quietly and steadily persevering especially in detail or exactness.”

Those who expand their network and are successful at networking are those who care about their work enough to persevere. They are not the loudest, but they are those who quietly go about their business. Like the ant that goes back and forth over and over again, carrying his bounty back to the nest, the successful networker does their business diligently, knowing that if they have a good plan, and if they work that plan, they will see success come their way, even when it may not appear that way at first. This is diligence.

Prepared. I like the old credo of the Boy Scouts: Be prepared. There is not much better advice in this world than to be prepared. Give me two people—one who is thoroughly prepared, but with average skill, and one with above-average skill but flies by the seat of his pants, rarely prepared—and I will take the prepared person of average skill every time. Preparation is a key component of long-term success. In Sun Tzu’s Art of War, he says, “The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought. The general who loses makes but few calculations beforehand.”

Sincere. One of the problems with many people in business, and a particular problem in many businesses that rely heavily on networking, is that there is a distinct lack of sincerity. In their desperation to get new contacts, some people can lose their sense of sincerity and simply say things in order to decide whether or not a particular person is a viable prospect or not. This isn’t a good practice for business or life. Remember, we are humans first, networkers second. In all of your dealings—not just in business—be sincere. Be genuine. Get to know people and care about them; don’t just focus just on whether or not they are going to buy from you. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not suggesting we spend all of our time on people who will not be customers. I am talking more about our attitudes toward people—they are people, not just prospects. People will be able to tell how you feel about them, and if you are perceived as lacking sincerity, you will soon be lacking a thriving business!

Friendly. Let’s be candid: People like doing business with friendly people. If you had to pick between a friendly and an unfriendly salesperson, you would pick the friendly salesperson to work with you, wouldn’t you? So, as you go about your business, be friendly. Smile. Compliment people. Don’t instigate problems or controversial subjects while in conversation. This doesn’t mean you have to “keep it light” all of the time, but just keep it friendly. The alternative is that when it is no longer friendly, you will find that business and networking are much harder to do. You have most assuredly heard someone say, “You have to meet Charlie—he is such a great guy— really friendly and nice to be around.” But have you ever heard, “You really have to meet Charlie—he is terribly unfriendly”? Never. So, be friendly, and people will want others to meet you!

Focused on others. To be successful in networking, you need to be “others-focused.” We covered this in great detail last week, so we won’t spend too much time on it this week, but it warrants repeating. One of the most important things you can do to be successful is to get your eyes off of yourself and onto meeting the needs of others. People who meet others’ needs are “in-demand” people! If you want to someone who stays foremost in the minds of others—and at the top of their network—be a “go-to” guy or gal!

Inquisitive. I love people who love to learn. Successful people are people who have an immense desire to learn. They are innately inquisitive, and if they aren’t, they learn to be! Do you love to learn? When you get together with others, are you inquisitive about them, their lives and their work? The more questions you ask about them, the more you learn about them and their business. The more you are sincerely interested in them and what they are about, the more likely you are to become a successful person and networker.

System-oriented. Just as you know that successful people have a plan and a system, the same is true with those who want to be great networkers. Develop a system that accomplishes the following things: enables you to track people, allows you to prepare for meetings and sales calls, helps you know exactly what to do while at your meetings, and helps you methodically follow up with people. Get these things down to a science and into a system, and you will be way ahead of the game. Work the system, and let the system work for you.

Do you have it within you to become a successful networker? You sure do! But it will take a strong desire to develop yourself. It will require devotion to that development over a period of time. It will require your full attention and heart. Take some time this week to do just that, and you will begin to see results that you can be proud of.

Until next week, let’s do something remarkable!

Nick James

Supplemental Notes

Here are some very practical pointers on what to do before, during and after a meeting that will help grow and expand your network.

Think about these two specific scenarios to have some context to work from. The first scenario we will look at will be a large group gathering, like a chamber of commerce meeting. The second scenario will be a one-on-one meeting.

This can be considered Networking 101. It’s not advanced networking. If you master Networking 101, you will never have to go to advanced networking—you will have more than enough business. Networking is simple. It just takes discipline, which is why most people don’t excel at it.

So let’s take a look at what to do before, during and after a meeting.

The Large Group Meeting

Before the Meeting

– Prepare by deciding what your goals are. That might be making 10 good contacts, getting 50 business cards or spending good quality time with three people. Your goals are yours and are determined best by you.
– Be sure to have plenty of business cards or small promo materials with you, but don’t go overboard.
– Know your “elevator speech.” That is, be sure you can tell people what you do in 30 seconds or less because that’s about all the time you will get.
– Dress sharp.
– Get plenty of rest.
– Listen to some great music that will energize you.
– Eat some breath mints.

During the Meeting

– Put on a smile.
– Be gregarious. Walk up to people and say, “Hi, my name is _____. What’s yours?” When they tell you, follow up with, “So what do you do?”
– Don’t try to close the deal! You are there to network, not sell. They are there to network—not to be sold! Ignore this principle, and you will be known as a person to be avoided!
– Ask for the card. It’s simple: “Hey, do you have a card I could have? I would love to follow up with you.”
– Excuse yourself shortly. Don’t dominate a person’s time. They want to meet new people, too. After a few minutes, say, “Well, I know you want to meet some new people today, and I don’t want to take all your time, so I will let you go. It was great meeting you. I’ll be sure to follow up.”
– Be memorable. The person you want to connect with will meet 50 to 100 people that day. Why will they remember you? Because, remember, there is a difference between being memorable and being forgettable! Don’t think that wearing a ridiculous tie will make you memorable (unless you are a comedian, clown or juggler). Be smart. Say something witty. Or the mother lode: Give them a contact! For instance, they say they sell insurance. Your brother just told you he needs to increase his disability insurance. Give the agent your brother’s phone number with permission to call and say that you sent him.
– Take a long-term approach, especially with a regular meeting like the chamber of commerce. They will be there next month. Get to know them. Show them you will be there, too—that you aren’t “fly by night.” This will breed trust, which is the gold standard for networking success!
– Remember, the idea is to make good contacts so you can then follow up, develop a relationship and close the sale!

After the Meeting

– Give it a few days and then follow up by phone. Don’t call 20 minutes after the meeting, or they will think you’re a stalker. But don’t wait three months, either, because they will forget you. Instead, wait four or five days, and then place a friendly phone call.
– Here is how the call should go: “Hi, Joe, this is Tom Jackson. I met you at the chamber meeting a few days ago and wanted to follow up with you.” They then say, “Oh, yes.” At which point you follow with, “I’m wondering if you would be interested in getting together for coffee sometime early next week. I would love to buy you a cup of coffee and talk about a few ways we might be able to help each other out. I have a few ideas and contacts that may be helpful to you. Which day would work for you?”
Of course, they could say they aren’t interested. At this point—and this could be going against the grain—let them go. Some people say you have to answer objections, etc., and we can appreciate that, but you will have to determine your own style. They are either interested or they aren’t. You will be able to tell most of the time.
– If they are interested, then you have a chance to network or you may have a sales job to do, which we will talk about next month!

The One-On-One Meeting

Before the Meeting

– Again, be prepared. See the same helpful thoughts from above. Be dressed, well-rested, etc. This will put you in the proper frame of mind.
– Be prepared to pay for the coffee or a meal, or whatever you may be having. Remember, you asked for the meeting. We just think it is proper etiquette to pay. So make sure you have the money to do so.
– Be prepared with what exactly it is that you want to talk about and accomplish. If you have certain things you want to talk about, be prepared. If you have questions to ask, be prepared. If you have a goal for the outcome of the meeting, be prepared.

During the Meeting

– This is a given, but it’s worth repeating: Be friendly. Smile and be engaging.
– Take the first bit of time to just ask questions about the other person and get to know them. Don’t just cut to the chase about business. (Side note: Did you know that over a business meal it is a breach of etiquette to talk about business before the first course has been served? It’s just a thought to keep in mind that will help you in your timing.)
– Remember, you are building a relationship—yes, a business relationship—but a relationship nonetheless (and you never know where your new best friend may come from), so act like you are getting together with a new friend.
– Once you get down to business, ask how you might be able to help the other person. Ask what they are involved in and see if you can help them. Many business relationships begin with a lead that helped another.
– Eventually, you will have an opportunity to receive help from them. Approach it just that way. Here is what you can say: “You know, I am wondering if you might be able to help me. I am trying to accomplish something (be specific here), and I was wondering if you have any ideas that might be beneficial for me. Any advice?” (Note that you aren’t asking for referrals yet. You are getting business advice—you never know what you can learn from people.)
– Next, ask for some referrals (if they haven’t already given them to you). At this point, we love what Bob Burg says in that we shouldn’t say, “Do you know anybody who may be interested…” Instead, let’s say that you know they golf twice a week. Say this, “Would any of your golf partners be interested in this?” This gives them a specific group of people to “sort” through rather than thinking through everybody in the universe.
– When you are finished talking business, turn the conversation back to other things for a few minutes, pay the bill, thank them and then head on out. Remember, you don’t want to be there too long or take up too much of their time. If there are synergies, there will be future meetings.

After the Meeting

– Be sure to thank them for the time and the referrals. There are two proper ways to do this, one of which is better than the other. The first, and lesser way, is with the telephone. “Just calling to say thanks for getting together and let me know if I can help you in the future” is OK. But even better is a classy card sent through the mail. Invest in some very nice cards with your name embossed on them. They are invaluable.
– If you follow the above recommendations and take the time to prepare, your networking skills will begin to improve, which will positively affect your business and results.

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