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

Eyal Danon interview – CEO of Ignite Advisory Group

Eyal Danon is CEO of Ignite Advisory Group, a customer advisory board consulting company. Ignite offers B2B companies an innovative way to connect with executive level customers through the creation of powerful customer advisory boards.

Danon served as senior corporate executive for several publicly traded and privately held software companies, as well as a leadership development expert for the InterContinental Hotels Group. He holds an MBA from Boston University and completed the leadership and coaching program at Columbia Business School.

Josh: How do you define Business Networking and why do you feel it is important?

Eyal Danon: I define business networking as the “secret ingredient” that is responsible for the tremendous success of customer advisory boards. These boards are made up of groups of business leaders in a given industry.

The company that is “sponsoring” these boards does not pay for these executives to attend customer board meetings. The customers are really there to expand their professional network, make valuable connections and hear how other members are dealing with the same challenges and opportunities.

Josh: Can you share a couple of ideas that someone could put into practice that would help them to improve their business networking skills?

Eyal Danon: First and foremost, you need to provide real value to others. A customer advisory board is a classic example – all the members need to add real content and ideas in order for the board to be successful. One important lesson is to do your homework prior to the meeting.

Recently I participated in an executive conference that had about 100 participants. I reviewed the list and narrowed it down to 10 potential customers for my business. Then I actively pursued them, and when I met them, I was able to intelligently talk to them about their business needs and how a customer advisory board can solve these needs.

Out of the 10 prospective customers I was able to form a long term relationship with 7 of them – more than I initially hoped for!

Josh: Upon meeting someone new, inevitably the question of “what do you do?” comes up. In your opinion what is the best way to go about communicating what one does, and how can they leave a positive impression when they explain what they do to others they’ve just met?

Eyal Danon: In order to be effective at communicating what you do, you need to customize your message based on the person you are talking to. If I am talking to a business executive, it’s fairly easy to explain what a customer advisory board is all about and what are the personal and corporate benefits of setting it up.

The challenge arises when you talk to someone who is not familiar with marketing and customer participation programs. This person can be a valuable bridge between you and a prospective customer. What do you do in this situation? What I have found to be effective is to distill my message to a simple one or two liner.

In my case, I simply say – “Ignite connects executive customers with your company”. If the person then asks “how do you do that?” I reply “By setting up a customer advisory board, made up of customers that are in the same level”. This usually gets the job done.

Like I said before, you have to customize your message based on the background and knowledge of the person you are talking to.

Josh: How important has networking been in your own professional life. Can you share a few examples where it has made a difference?

Eyal Danon: Networking has been my primary sales and marketing strategy. I do not advertise my services as in my line of business, it’s all about networking and making personal connections. No one is going to buy a consulting engagement from me based on an email blast.

I was able to close a major deal as a result on a business networking event in NYC – just a meet and greet type of an event. I had received the attendee list in advance and focused on a particular executive that I wanted to target. I asked the host of the event to introduce me to this lady as soon as she arrived. Then we had a great conversation over lunch and several weeks later I was awarded a 6 month contract. It was certainly worth coming to this lunch!

Another example relates to the importance of finding a “Power Networker”. These are people who pretty much know everybody and are willing to share their connections with you. I was able to befriend such a person, then I recommended his services (advertising) to friends of mine that hired him.

After that, I had access to more than 500 relevant contacts! He sent an email to all, introducing Ignite Advisory Group and the services we provide. Within 3 months, I closed 2 new deals and the pipeline is looking really good!

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