Networking Is A Contact Sport. Are You Playing It Right?

Posted on /by Natalie Sisson/ in Entrepreneurs / 7 comments

Are you one of those people who hears the word `networking event’ and cringes?

Does it scare you, do you find it ineffective or are you just not recognising it as the most valuable tool for creating referrals and leads?

I admit I’ve been to my fair share of `networking events’ when, upon arriving, a stranger has thrust their business card in my face without even qualifying whether I want it or not.

Thankfully, there are many people out there who are doing it right. They’re using the `Butterfly Effect’ to really make an incredible network they can tap into and serve at a moment’s notice.

Why is networking like a pro so important?

I went to the free Entrepreneur.com `Winning Strategies’ conference on Monday here in LA. One of the most entertaining and effective speakers by far was keynote Dr. Ivan Misner who spoke about `Networking Like a Pro’.

He’d recently run a survey of over 12,000 people, and 91% said networking is important for business. Yet he felt people still weren’t doing it well.

It’s not taught in universities, nor do they teach sales or closing techniques. And yet your network is your net-worth!

Even though he’s an introvert, he founded the World’s Largest Business Networking Organization – the BNI International to allow more structured and effective networking to take place.

It’s clearly working as there are now 5,300 chapters around the world, and last year 5.6 million referrals resulted in $2.3 billion worth of business for its members.

So let’s learn more about the key to networking success.

Use the Butterfly Effect

Simply put, it’s this: You never know where one contact that you make will take you.

Dr. Eisner recommended that we have a personal vision of where we want to go. Then, network with people to get you there.

I liked his view on networking because it’s like farming, not hunting.

In my words, it takes time to plant the seeds and grow them before you can harvest them. It’s all about building relationships for referrals.

In fact it’s about VCP – Visibility -> Credibility -> Profitability

 

Answers to my Q – What is your best networking tip

The ROI of networking

A really great point made was that “If your clients aren’t referring you, then you’re not profitable.”

It may seem like a bold statement, but you’re certainly not setting yourself up for a sustainable business model if you’re constantly in search of new business.

One thing I’ve known since I was in diapers (ok, so a little later than that) is that:

Word of mouth is one of the most powerful forms of marketing. The cost of acquiring a new customer is almost always more than up selling an existing one, or getting their repeat business.

It takes time to build confidence

I’m a visual person, so when a chart was put up on the screen of how long it takes certain businesses to build confidence it definitely got me thinking.

If you’re a florist, it’s a relatively short time period before people trust you. They buy a bouquet of flowers from you, they like what they get for the price, so they’ll likely come back.

If you’re a printer and you serve a client well for a few print jobs, you’ve likely got yourself a repeat customer. If you’re an investment advisor, then it takes even longer because clearly a lot more is at stake.

I drew my own graph and put blogging as a curve on the end because I believe it takes a looooooonnnnng time to really build credibility and an audience that sticks around. If you’ve read my posts before, then thanks for being part of the loyal community and coming back.

Networking Types

Do you have to be an extrovert to be a great networker? Definitely not. Both can be great at networking and here’s why.

Introverts are great at listening to people which is exactly what’s needed when someone’s introducing themselves to you. What you need to do more of is meeting more people and putting yourself out there. It’s not that scary.

Extroverts are great at meeting people and putting out their ideas. You could do with being a better listener.

Dr. Eisner told us the amusing story of when he was around 50 years old and his wife gently told him he’s an introvert. He was confident that it wasn’t true. He stated that he’s a professional speaker and started the world’s largest networking group.

She pointed out that introverts like to spend time by themselves when they have down time. Extroverts like to socialize and hang out with friends, and he was definitely the former.

He realized that indeed he was, and described himself as a situational extrovert (I am too), where he came out of his shell during the right situations. So have faith, anyone can be a great networker.

Here’s how:

Step 1: Open up
I mean, when you’re at a networking event stand in open twos or threes so that other people feel they can join the conversation. Don’t close your group off.

Step 2: Look the part

Appearance does matter. Perception is reality. People judge you from what you look like 12 ft away so dress professional. They also judge you from 12 inches away – by that I mean how do you sound, do you have a positive attitude, what are the first 12 words out of your mouth?

Step 3: Create intrigue
Have your Unique Value Proposition to hand. Don’t start with an elevator pitch as this has stemmed from the days of pitching investors – and that’s what it’s good for. But do say what you do, your UVP that gets people to ask more questions.

For example, `I’m an accountant, and I’ve developed a unique way of saving my clients 20% year on year. People will ask `Really? Tell me how’.

Open this post up in a new tab if you’re an introvert too and you want to know how you can maximize this AND sell your first product.

More answers to my question about your best networking tip

The Four Streams of networking

There are numerous ways to get out and network. These are the main four streams:

1. Casual Contact: mixer events like a Chamber of Commerce or meetup – great for increasing visibility in your community

2. Knowledge: Professional associations – great for creating alliances

3. Strong Contact: One person per profession that meets weekly – e.g BNI

4. Online: Through forums and communities, Twitter and LinkedIn.


Networking is a contact sport

You need to get out there and meet people. Just remember, it’s a journey, not a destination.

The average person spends 6.5 hours per week networking!

There’s also a direct correlation between hours spent and referrals and profit. The more hours, the more profit. So go get ’em tiger.

PS. Don’t forget the power of LinkedIn. Best online networking tool ever. Learn how to use it properly.