Here’s a fact people who belong to at least one networking group make on average 20% more per year in income than an individual who doesn’t! Networking is a reciprocal process based on the exchange of ideas, advice, contacts and referrals. It is a social activity that most of us do every day as we exchange information with others. To turn a casual networking process into a valuable resource, however, it is necessary to “systematize” this process. By generating meetings with various professionals, you can broaden your networking base while maintaining a high quality of contacts with professionals who are enthusiastic about networking.
Networking is a powerful way of building professional relationships and generating new business opportunities. The more relationships you build, the more you increase your referral network, bolster your reputation, and improve the quality of your client base.
In general, the idea of interrupting a day’s workflow to entertain a client over lunch is becoming less popular.
Business professionals rarely have time for a full sit-down lunch meeting in order to network and continue building business. Some business pros are setting up walking meetings and or networking spin classes. They’re finding active meetings to be much more productive because you can’t be distracted by your phone or laptop.”
The trend of Sweatworking is certainly more common among tech or media companies, where employees tend to be more willing to stray from tradition. But even on Wall Street, today’s business lunches pale in extravagance compared with the meetings bankers held before the recession. Many businesses are becoming more image-conscious and, along with that, more cautious about appearing wasteful.
Making and maintaining professional relationships is essential to career growth, regardless of whether you own your own business, or are employed as a service provider. Networking is an important, invaluable and essential activity for every professional. If you are not doing anything about networking right now, it is likely that you are curtailing your prospects and ultimately harming your business opportunity.
There are many different networking groups empowering and motivating people who want to expand the possibilities for generating business. If you are not ready to try you will only meet valuable contacts if they seek you out. Getting the maximum benefit out of networking requires effort and motivation. Each technician must take responsibility for their own progress.
It is important that your motivation does not dissipate once you are enjoying many successful business relationships. If you are not adding contacts on a regular basis and actively trying to expand your network it will naturally diminish. Relying on an established network is dangerous as any network will tend to shrink over time due to relocations, job changes, deaths and retirements. The most successful professionals know that networking is a process that requires commitment, effort and motivation over a working lifetime.
Though Networking vastly enhances your odds of receiving positive responses, building rewarding relationships can take time. You may be lucky and develop a strong and lucrative relationship with the first person you meet. It may take you several meetings with different professionals before you find someone you are comfortable developing a relationship with.
Building trust in a relationship takes time and requires follow up with the professional concerned and the clients you refer to that professional. After referring someone to another professional always follow up with that person to find out if they were happy with the services they received. This establishes trust with the person who will remember that you cared enough to call and provides you with invaluable feedback on the business practices of that professional with whom you are building a relationship.
Joining any new group of people can sometimes be a little scary or intimidating, remember, this a natural feeling for everyone. The important factor is to get out there. This can be done in small steps. Everyone in the group you are visiting was a new member at one time and felt the same way. They are going to look forward to seeing you because of how many clients you have coming to visit you who are possible referral sources for them. Below are some helpful tips to get you on the right track.
1. Research out the groups in your community. There will be several types of networking groups that will have different ground rules for how they are run. For example, a group like BNI or Le Tip can only have one member of a specific profession in their group. If you are a aesthetician and admitted to this type of group you will be the only member in that category. Unlike the chamber of commerce where there could be several professionals in your field who belong.
2. Choose groups that meet at times that are realistic with your time schedule. Your ability to be there consistently is essential to your success. If you are not a morning person and have difficulty getting up and going, perhaps a lunch time leads groups or an after-work gathering is a better choice. Showing up consistently is essential in building the relationships that will help in growing your business.
3. Try before you buy – Visit your perspective networking groups a couple of times before you decide to join. Get a feel for the people who are participating. Look how the group is organized and functions. Make sure this a match with your personality and objectives. If the group is filled with very conservative business men and your target is creative stay at home moms that may not be the best fit. You must be comfortable in being able to effectively get your message across to members who can relate to your perspective and get excited to pass referrals. A final note: Watch how many qualified referrals are passed. This is the standard to measure the group by. If they are not a lot being passed this could be a sign of their ineffectiveness. You are there to build clients not just to socialize.
4. Prepare a sixty second commercial. Let people know who you are and what you do. Make sure to be specific about what it is that you do and what types of referrals you are looking for. If you do not let people know specifically what type of client you are looking for how will they know who to send to you. The best sixty second commercials tell a story. People love to hear stories and are much more apt to listen attentively to you. Story telling takes practice, so do not worry you’re not perfect the first time out. Share examples of how you work with your clients, the attention to detail you give with each service and what makes you or your services unique.
Example Aesthetician: My name is Brook Adams and as an esthetician it my pleasure to help my clients achieve having the most beautiful, radiant and youthful looking skin. I had a client visit my treatment clinic last month who was having a challenge with what she thought was dry skin and acne. She was lacking self-confidence because of her complexion and was compensating with makeup to cover up her skin condition. She had oily skin and thought the best way to keep it clean was to dry it out and use soap. This dried the surface of her skin and caused her pores to clog up resulting in more breakouts. I performed a deep cleansing facial with an exfoliating treatment to remove all the dry surface layers and allow the younger fresher skin under the surface to show through. I educated her that her skin needed the appropriate skin care regimen and moisturizer. She has come in for two facials and within four weeks her skin has had a complete turnaround. Her breakouts have diminished and her skin has a beautiful glow. Best of all she loves that she needs only a fraction of the makeup she used to. I am looking for men and women who want to have healthy, clear complexions, and the confidence that comes from it.
5. Create a defining statement. A defining statement is shorter version of your sixty second commercial. This is something that can be said in fifteen seconds or less. It is used to get someone listening when they ask you what you do. When you are networking and meeting people for the first time you want to grab their attention. There is much more impact when you say something about yourself that gets people to ask you questions versus saying, “I am a stylist”, or “I do nails”. A defining statement should include two distinctions about you and your business. Remember people only buy for two reasons. They buy solutions to challenges or buy into good feelings; your defining statement needs both.
Example Stylist: I provide easy care and low maintenance hairstyles for men and women.
If your target is busy professionals or people who have a full schedule this will get their attention.
Example Aesthetician: I help people to have clear complexions and radiant, youthful looking skin.
This statement focuses on results and that is what your clients are interested in.
Example Massage Therapist: I help people relax their mind, body, spirit, and increase their flexibility and energy flow.
This defining statement encompasses not only relaxation it also highlights the benefits of additional mobility and increased energy.
6. You must give to get. The surest way to get referrals from your networking partners is to give them referrals. Create a book with the business cards of all your networking-partners inside. Really listen to the needs of all the people you meet. It is amazing when you are listening in this way how many requests you will get from people who need goods or services in the community. When you make referrals, you become a knowledgeable source of information for your clients to turn to. They will think about you beyond the services you provide in the salon or spa. Once you are giving a steady stream of business to your networking partners they will feel obligated to do the same. Help people achieve their goals and they will help you to achieve yours.
7. Get to know your networking- partners. The key to successful networking is to build relationships with each member in your group. This takes time and your best efforts will come from setting up one– on–one meetings with your group’s members. Set up a lunch date or get together for coffee so you can discuss specifically how you can help each other. Come to your meeting prepared. Have a list of questions you can ask so you can get clear on how you can support them in referring their ideal and best client or customer. Once you have gathered information from them share the same distinctions about you and your business. The more precise you are the more likely you will help them and yourself. Take an interest in their success. It will help to strengthen the relationship.
8. Participate in networking training. Most networking groups such as BNI or Le Tip having networking training or mentoring available. Take advantage of this because it can support you in being more effective in other larger group situations such as your local chamber of commerce where they may not have this opportunity. Not everyone is a brilliant networker or communicator right from the start. Many groups will walk you through the process of creating a dynamic presentation and how to specifically ask for your ideal and best client. Learn from experienced members of your group or within your community. Do not reinvent the wheel. Do what other successful individuals have done and you will realize the same results. The more involved you are within your group the more referrals you will get.
9. Know the difference between a lead and a referral. There is a BIG difference between a lead and a referral. A referral is where one of your networking partners has found someone who has a need for your service, done some qualifying of the prospect for you, given them your information or business card and told them that you would follow up with a call. When you call, they know who you are and are open to doing business with you. A lead is where someone gives you a name and says I think this could be a good source of clients but has not spoken to a person specifically about you. When you make contact, you are calling cold. This means you are doing all the ground work. It is much more powerful to have someone else sell your products or services’ features and benefits.
10. Diversify your interests. Belonging to more than one networking group can have its advantages. You can reach out to a broader pool of perspective clients. Perhaps you have a couple of different favorite client choices and belonging to two different groups help you bring both types in. Some networking professionals say that they attribute their success to belonging to five different network spheres of influence. These can include church, professional industry specific organizations, social clubs and networking groups. If you are newer to networking perhaps starting with a smaller group setting like BNI or Le Tip can prepare you for larger meetings such as the Chamber of Commerce. With certain groups that limit one member per category also ask that you not belong to another one member per category group so that your referral sources are not spread too thin.
Carry your cards with you wherever you go. You never know when the perfect opportunity will arise and gain you additional business.