The headline above is a question that just came in here via email. I thought the answer would make for an interesting post.
Why is that you ask! Because the person was asking the “wrong” question! Networking is not about getting something from someone.
It’s about giving of yourself without any expectations of a return favor.
This is probably a BREAKING NEWS to some people. Certainly it sounds kind of backwards doesn’t it? You are going to try to drum up business for yourself but you really have to serve others first?
Networking is about meeting people, no doubt about it. But you can’t stop there! You need to work at engaging and establishing rapport with them, and as many others as possible in your community.
It’s about finding common ground that you have with others then expanding on it. It’s about putting your needs behind their needs. The folks who do it the other way around may reap rewards quicker, but they DON’T LAST!
You need to take the long-term approach! As this approach is the only one that works over the long haul at growing a profitable enterprise. So how do you do that?
You need a plan!
Networking works IF you have a strategic plan in place which targets people and places. Then you need to allocate the time to prepare before you go. Lastly you need to do so consistently. This approach gives you the best chance to succeed.
Here are 5 ways to effectively network your business:
1 – Attending and participating in as many events as possible.
2 – Being the person in charge of an event and bringing people together.
3 – Speaking at a local event in some capacity.
4 – Being in charge of a group or association.
5 – Volunteering in your community.
Here are a just a few specific examples of what you can do by using this approach…
Take the initiative and lead a group at your local Chamber of Commerce. It’s much more powerful to cut to the chase and lead than go to a business after hours to meet other salespeople and seek out prospective leads. This approach is more “top down” than “bottom up”, and that’s what makes it so powerful.
Volunteering at a local charity event, helping out at a food bank or church is a great way to meet other in the community. It’s very rewarding and you will meet a lot of other “like minded” business owners.
When you go to a networking event, make sure to arrive early, then stay late. Make sure you do not drink alcohol. I know that makes me sound like a kill-joy but so be it. Drinking may be fun, but it doesn’t get you business.
Also make sure you only talk about positive things and people. Don’t stray into the negative, as that just begets more negative.
When you come across someone who you think you can give qualified leads to or someone who has a qualified lead for you, simply plan to meet them over a cup of coffee or lunch. Remember…it doesn’t have to be expensive.
Try to meet early if at all possible. Perhaps even for breakfast, this way you don’t have to schedule a meeting during his or her busy day. Think of “them” first when scheduling.
When you take the time to pass leads and opportunities forward to others, you will find many leads and opportunities will come your way as well. Remember it is better to give first then to expect. When you give you will definitely receive.
You will find that people will refer you to their friends and family and other business owners when they get to know and trust you. So be prepared to put in the time needed to make this work. It’s doesn’t happen overnight.
Remember networking is all about meeting people, letting them get to know you and in order to do that you must attend as many networking events as possible. The old saying goes that someone must see something seven times to make a connection with it. So get yourself out there and let people get to know you and your cleaning business.
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