Common sense practices that are not too common.
When my husband and I moved to Camrose we met an Angel in the form of a real estate agent. His name is Carman Mason (link to Carmans site). I mention him here because he was the one who showed me that Networking was essential to the success of our business.
My first week in Camrose Carman took us to a Rotary Function, a beautiful Black Tie affair that was one of their major fundraisers. It was there that Carman introduced me to a lot of business owners in Camrose. In fact, I spent the whole night getting to know people. I was overwhelmed by the welcome and the friendliness of the community. Each successful business person said to me; “if you need anything, don’t hesitate to call”. This was my very first real experience at networking. And each time he introduce me to someone he said, “This is the Curves lady” (for those who do not know me, my husband and I owned several Curves for Women Franchises).
Next week was the Chamber of Commerce and again, Carman took me under his wing and introduced me to new people and re-introduced me to those who were at the Black Tie Affair. And again, he introduce me as “the Curves owner”. The next week our business increased by 10 new members. I had met these women (some brought friends with them to join) at the 2 functions I had been at.
Networking is about building relationships. I think most of us have met someone at a function who cannot stop talking about themselves or their business. Randomly handing out business cards, almost yelling at you “hire me – hire me”. It’s irritating. True relationship building takes time and effort. Networking takes time and effort. To be successful in networking there are a few rules to follow.
- Make the conversation about the person you are with and not about you. Take the time to really get to know the person you are with. What their business is, what they do for a living, who is their ideal client, how long they have been in business, what they like about being in business. If you are new in business ask their advice about being in business. What would they do differently, what would they recommend to do to become successful. Or other questions you can think of. If they work for someone else, ask them how they got involved with that business, how long have they been there, what moved them to work there.
- Ask for a business card; don’t offer yours. When you ask for a business card it lets people know that you are interested in continuing the relationship.
- Don’t ask for referrals, GIVE referrals. What’s the best way to GET a referral? It’s to give a referral. Make it a point to send this person some business.
- Follow up. After meeting someone for the first time, send them an email or a card (yes, a real card) telling them how great it was to meet them. Try to include some sort of tidbit of info that you talked about. For example: Dear Paul, it was great meeting you at the Rotary Black Tie last night. I especially appreciated your feedback on what accounting system you thought would work best for my business.
I live in a small city in Alberta where I hear over and over again from business owners that they don’t have time to network. The fact of the matter is, no one HAS time. We have all been blessed with the same number of minutes in the day. One must MAKE time. We recommend that you implement your networking opportunities into your marketing calendar. Every 6 months look at the different functions that happen in your community and decide ahead of time where you will spend some of your precious time. Then, put that in your calendar. If you are shy or nervous about meeting new people then find someone that you know will be going so you can arrive with them. Make a point of letting them know that your objective is to go there and meet new people. This way they can either help you meet new people or will encourage you to meet new people.
In closing, remember that networking take some work (guess that’s why that word is in it) and the more that people get to know you, the more business you will have. There is a universal truth which is people buy from people they know and trust. Networking allows you to move from a faceless business to the face behind the business.
And most importantly, have a plan and take action.
~inspiring you to take action, Ranchelle and Tricia