Expert Advice On Business Networking And Tips On Developing Your Networking Skills

Networking – Let the Meat and Potatoes Cool First By Josh Hinds

Often one of the hardest things for people who are beginning to embrace professional networking to grasp is that it’s not simply about sharing their product or service, but rather about first building some basic rapport with the person they’ve just met.

The other day I was having a conversation with someone and they said to me point blank, what you say about givers getting, and creating value for others first sounds good… but it’s all a bit to goody two shoes sounding for me. What I want is to get down to the meat and potatoes and see some real business taking place.

Fair enough I said. But would you humor me for just a moment and consider that without first having even an inkling of rapport and good will established with the person you’ve just met, that you have no “meat and potatoes” cooked yet?

Aside from it leading to a laugh, I had his attention.

I went on to explain that the reason focusing on the other person first works, is because, to put it plainly — so few people out there take the time to do it. Therefore by doing so you stand a much better chance of positioning yourself as someone who has that persons best interest in mind.

They’re no longer thinking, this person wants to simply “sell me what they have to offer” and move onto the next person. Certainly we want to offer our product or service, and it’s perfectly fine to do so. The key is that we’re not investing the time to build a connection solely for that purpose alone.

The “goody two shoes” approach to networking ensures that you will not only be thought of in a favorable light — you will remain there for as long as you’re willing to commit to keeping that connection going. The more value you create for the people you connect with — the greater the likelihood that they will not only end up a customer of yours, they’ll even seek you out as a trusted advisor when they have a need that they feel you might be able to help them with.

Certainly, to some this is going to require a bit of a mindset shift, from immediate, right now thinking — to a more long-term customer, friend, connection for life approach.

For example, hopefully you already take into consideration the value of a customer for life. In other words, rather than seeing a sale or transaction as a one time occurrence you take the time to stay connected with that person. You follow up to make sure every thing went well and that they are happy with their purchase or the service you rendered. And of course you touch base every so often just to let them know you’re thinking about them — and remind them that if you can help them in the future to let you know. Such a simple thing to do, but oh so effective!

Here’s a quick list to consider when looking for ways to build life-time value with those you meet… so that when it’s time to eat your “meat and potatoes” you’ve got some already cooked 🙂

1) Upon the initial meeting, take a sincere interest in the other person first. Where appropriate, ask about their business. How did they get into that field? What do they enjoy about it?

Take it a step further and let them know that since you’re always meeting new people you’d be willing to keep an eye out for potential sources of business for them. Let them know that in order to send business their way you’d like a few of their cards to pass along — and perhaps ask them what their ideal prospect would look like. The idea I just mentioned works well, but you can’t just give it lip service, you have to be sure to actually send referrals their way as you run across them.

2) Be on the lookout for things that are of interest to the folks in your network — and pass them along to them. Here, it could be a conference, or new source of business that would be good for them (if you follow the steps above you’ll have a good idea of what will be of interest to them). If they have a hobby, and you run across something along those lines drop them a note with the information you found. You could also send a quick e-mail, or pick up the phone to share it with them.

Think of this as sprinkling some sugar on the folks in your network. It’s a terrific way to stay in touch, while being valuable to others. One point, make sure what you send is relevant to the person you’re sending it to. And don’t go crazy sending tons of emails, valuable info here and there will be appreciated (as it will let them know you are thinking about them) — but overloading their inbox is likely to leave them thinking… oh no, not them again 🙂

3) Every so often drop a quick e-mail, greeting card, or note to someone you may not have touched base with in a while. Something as simple as “it’s been a while so I just wanted to let you know I was thinking about you” can do wonders to position yourself in a favorable light. With the multitude of ways to drop a quick hello message there’s no excuse for letting your connections go stagnant.

4) Be ever on the lookout for opportunities that will be of benefit to those in your network. We touched on that before, but it’s so important, I wanted to mention it again. Doing so is as easy as keeping your eyes open for news you might read, or listening to what others have to say.

Recently, a good friend of mine was on the lookout for a web developer/designer for a friend of his. I quickly sent a note to some of the folks in my network who I thought might know someone (or offer this service themselves) who would fit what my friend was looking for.

As the recommendations came in I passed them back to my friend. As a result, he ended up connecting me with his friend whom he was originally requesting the information for. While there’s no telling what the future will hold with the new person I met as a result, the point is that the connection never would have been made had I not been willing to tap into the folks I know and make a connection solely for the benefit of my friend, and the members of my network.

The example above in a nutshell illustrates the benefit of creating ongoing value for others. Make the commitment and you’ll find that others seek you out when they need help in some way. It’s an enviable place to be in the marketplace, and fortunately, it’s not hard at all to position yourself in this way.

Happy Networking, Josh Hinds 🙂

BTW. If you’d like to learn about a powerful keep in touch — referral system that I both use and recommend click here.

* Josh is a speaker, trainer, and author on topics including: Networking and Personal Branding. You can learn more about having him speak to your group or organization at www.GetMotivation.com/speaker/

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