No matter what business you are in, you need to act like a marketer. That means you must let others know how your business can help them. One of the most efficient ways to do so and convert prospects into customers is by networking. Here are some simple strategies for effective business networking.
1) Don’t just say what you do.
Start with sharing your story and why you started what you do, then let your potential client know how you can positively affect their life. Give them some examples of past client and tell them what you did, and how that changed their outcome, so they can understand how your product or service will improve their life.
For example, when someone asks me, “What do you do?” my first thought is usually to explain, “I’m a business consultant.” Unfortunately, that response rarely piques the interest of potential clients. Instead, I have learned to answer, “I help business owners to develop powerful differentiation so they can grow their clients and profit.” This answer not only grabs their attention but also stimulates more questions about how I might help that particular prospect.
Develop your value adding response to the question, “What do you do?”
2) Turn interests into appointments.
When you describe what you can do for a potential client they are more likely to be interested in what you do. After all, it’s all about WIIFM – What’s In It For Me!
Always provide information that is of value even if the prospect doesn’t schedule an appointment or need your services right now. The idea is to be helpful where possible.
Develop a response to further inquiries about your business or service and think of offering valuable information to your prospects to help them to know your work better and get them to experience your work.
3) Give prospects more than they expect.
Sure, your time is valuable but so is the time of your people you meet. Maximize the effectiveness and value of your initial meeting by inviting them to a one on one meeting. While I don’t advocate giving services away for free, a complimentary initial meeting over a cup of tea is a good way to find out if you are a right fit for each other.
Consider offering brief discovery consultations to evaluate if you are a good fit with a potential client.
4) Try to provide a referral source.
Let’s face it. There will be folk at the meeting that you cannot help because their needs don’t fall within the scope of the services you provide. It’s a given. There will also be folks you don’t want to work. Regardless of why you won’t be working together, develop a habit of providing a reference to others who might be able to help them. This simple gesture continues to position you favorably as a helpful value adding individual.
Often if I have an initial conversation I ask what they are looking for right now and if I learn they need services, which I don’t provide (or if we are simply not a good fit), I keep a list of contacts handy so I can refer them elsewhere. I’ve found this actually helps rather than hurts business. I believe there are abundant in the world and certainly more than enough business to go around for all.
Create referral list to share with the people you meet.
5) Collect and share business cards.
This may seem simple but oftentimes even network savvy people forget to gather business cards and enter them into your contact management system so you can follow up with them ideally in an automated manner. It’s a good idea to make specific notes for future recall on the back of the cards you collect. You never know when the information might come in handy.
Tip: Make sure to have ample supply of your own cards on hand before you go to your meeting.
6) Remember to follow up.
This is the most important yet extremely neglected step of networking. Too many folks miss out on future opportunities by simply not following up with the connections they made at the event. Make it a habit to put aside time after a networking event to follow up with your new prospects. Soon following up will become second nature.
Tip: Even if a person is not interested in your services right now, you want them to keep you in mind for future projects or referrals.
Create a template note to follow up with your prospect. The time it takes to write a note and email it could pay off handsomely in the future.
7) Follow up Consistently.
In today’s busy and noisy market place, you need to follow up with people at least 10 times before they take you up. While you don’t want to inundate people with unwanted contacts, you do want to make sure prospects know you are thinking of them. The key to continuous follow up is to be genuine and helpful.
One way to subtly follow up without being a pain is to be on the lookout for articles or information that may be of interest to the potential customer. Copy the links and e-mail them with a brief note letting them know you are thinking of them. A few days later, give them a quick call to make sure they received the information. Chances are you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the response. After all, you are providing something of value for nothing.
8) Don’t forget to keep your contacts in the loop.
When you’re running your own business, it’s easy to get caught up in day to day grind of your operations. It’s also easy to forget the best source of referrals comes references from your contacts who know, like and trust you.
Be sure to keep in touch and update them on your latest launch or products, who you are trying to reach out too and what you’re trying to accomplish.
Ask them to be on the watch out and match you with potential clients.
Never assume that everyone knows and understands what you are doing. Make a list of your contacts that may not be up to date with what you do professionally. Send them a personal note along with business cards or flyers to ask for their help in prospecting. They could unconsciously become your best salesperson.
9) Don’t forget your “please” and “thank you!”
One of the first things we’re taught as children is to use our manners and be polite. Strangely enough, it’s one of the first things that some business people forget. It’s easy to fall into the mindset you are providing a valuable service and doing the work itself is enough. This is simply not true. People need to feel appreciated and valued for their support. Show your gratitude to build relationships even after the sale by sending thank you cards and/or gifts. A little act of kindness will go a very long way.
Call upon someone you have worked with lately who you haven’t thanked.
10) Join associations with networking opportunities
Many organisations like Chambers of Commerce provide events, which are often a great source for networking. By joining these bodies you can connect with like-minded people who want to succeed!
Watch out for Linkup Ghana Business Networking, which is launching on 25th May at Accra Impact Hub.
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“Shiva Attah, founder of Winners Solutions, mentors thousands of entrepreneur around the world on how to grow a winning business that makes millions in profit and creates a positive impact.
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