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

Joseph Facchiano interview – Certified Business Performance Coach

Joseph Facchiano is a business performance coach, and the owner of FocalPoint Business Coaching of Lehigh Valley. Visit him at www.JoFash.com.

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

Joseph Facchiano: If the key to all business deals is the quality of the relationship, we can certainly say that networking is the beginning of that relationship. If you saw the movie “Pay it Forward”, visualize the chalkboard where Haley Joel Osment’s character draws a single stick figure at the top. He then draws 3 lines down from that figure and draws 3 more stick figures. Each stick figure is then connected to 3 more. It is very easy to see that the act of one person can impact a large number of people.

That is networking in its most basic form. However, that pictorial does not do justice to the true power of networking. It is only a 2 dimensional illustration. To dramatize the power of networking, you need to add a third and possibly fourth dimension. Then you have to make it circular, i.e. good deeds don’t just fall downward. They move out in all directions including back to the original source.

What does this mean in business? It means that every customer touch, every prospect touch, every conversation regardless of how short, has a potential impact on an unlimited number of people who could someday, in some way, help our business. In other words, we are always networking (whether we know it or not). You are among the best networkers when you can get someone to repeat your value statement clearly, concisely, and enthusiastically to a third person whom you do not know yet.

Sounds like a referral doesn’t it? Don’t look now, but it also sounds like your brand strategy and your networking ability are tied together. Can you imagine how powerful it is to have a good reputation, a memorable value statement, and the ability to get the word out to potential clients by leveraging other people? That’s the power of networking and what it means to your business.

Josh Hinds: Can you share and idea or two that someone could put into practice that would help them to improve their business networking skills?

Joseph Facchiano: When I coach my clients on their networking strategies, the first thing I tell them is to actively engage. Networking happens whether you plan it or not. We are all used to business ‘mixers’, trade shows, and other events where we expect to network. At such events, we trade business cards and measure our success when we get home to empty our pockets.

Active engagement means having a dialog with your new contact, getting them to agree to a meeting for a more productive conversation, scheduling that meeting on the spot, or at least a phone call to set the meeting, and setting the expectation that you want to do business with them. If this is not your current strategy for networking events, you are wasting time and money.

I also ask my clients to think about the informal or ad hoc networking opportunities. These are the unplanned casual contacts we have every day. Why can’t we actively engage in these situations too? They’ll bump into someone at the store, or gym, or at their place of worship, etc. The person is going to ask you, “How’s it going?” Instead of the typical answer, “Good, how about you?” Why not embellish a little? e.g. “I’m doing really well thank you.

My new widget is really helping people to insert your clear, concise value statement here (enthusiastically of course). If anyone you know could benefit from my new widget, have them give me a call. I’ll get them set up. How are you doing?” Before you roll your eyes, let me tell you this works. It is the warmest cold call you’ll ever have. And if you can get comfortable with it, you will start leveraging other people to get your word out for you.

Josh Hinds: With following-up being so important, can you share some creative ways someone can follow-up with those they meet which will lead to being remembered in a positive way?

Follow-up is everything! Why depend on your potential client for the next step? Prompt and proper follow-up shows your potential customer several things about you and your company:

* You valued their time and your conversation with them.

* You took the conversation seriously.

* You really do want their business.

* It is an indication that you will also follow-up once they are your customers. While that’s not a sure thing, I guarantee you that your lack of follow-up will get them to assume you won’t do it if they become your customer.

* You don’t like to waste time or money. Lack of follow-up means that you wasted time and money by networking.

As we discussed relationships in the first answer, let’s picture this scenario and what lack of follow-up means. A man takes his girlfriend to dinner. They have a nice night together and he ends it by giving her an engagement ring and proposing to her. She states that she is surprised and wants to sleep on it before she answers him. (Sounds like a tenuous relationship doesn’t it? Newsflash all business relationships are tenuous.) Anyway the next day comes. Can you imagine if the young man doesn’t greet her first thing in the morning to get her answer? Or how about if he waits for her to call him? Can you see from this story how silly it is to not follow-up?

I like to make a promise and keep it every time. If I say I will call tomorrow at 10:00am, then that’s what I do. I also promise to send them something that I think will help them (my eNewsletter or an article about their industry, etc.) and then I do it. If they ask me a question, I don’t always answer immediately. Sometimes I say, “I think I know that answer, but I would rather not shoot from the hip. May I call you tomorrow with the answer once I check it?”

Whenever I call back, or email someone I always start with the phrase, “As promised, here is the information…” I believe it reinforces the commitment and the honoring of the commitment.

Josh Hinds: Can you share a personal “networking” success story with us?

Joseph Facchiano: I used to sell business long distance services for the late MCI. This was a long time ago when you actually had to pay for long distance calls. I was at a trade show; manning the MCI booth when a lady walking by our booth broke her heal and sprained her ankle. I instinctively left the booth to help her. I could have been fired for leaving the booth unmanned. I stayed with the lady until EMS came to help and then walked back to the booth. On a whim, I dashed back to the woman to give her my business card. Not to sell her but to ask her to call me the next day and let me know how she’s feeling. She called the next day and said she was fine and thanked me. You were expecting me to say that she bought a long distance contract weren’t you? That didn’t happen. I never heard from her again.

However, a gentleman from a nearby booth did call me a week later. He asked if we could meet. Now for a business long distance sales person, we are used to having ten people hang up on us before we get just one appointment. This guy called me! That’s terrific.

I went to his office on the day of our appointment. As it turns out he was the president of his company; and a nice size company at that. He welcomed me into his office where I started the typical dialog to advance the sale of MCI’s Long Distance Services. After ten minutes, he put up his hand and said, “I didn’t invite you here to sell me long distance.” Then he obviously saw a little glimmer of disappointment and surprise on my face (albeit subtle because we are trained to have a bit of poker face.) He went on to tell me that this was a job interview and he would like me to be his national accounts manager. Again, my face betrayed me.

He went on to remind me about the day at the trade show. He saw how I helped the lady and then gave her my card so I could find out how she was the next day. He told me I was his choice because I had done an effective job in the first ten minutes of our meeting. But more importantly because he already knew two things about me: I care about people and I follow-up!

Moral of the story: you are always networking. Every action, interaction, and conversation has a potential downstream effect; possibly with a third person that you didn’t even know about. How you conduct yourself (your brand) is your best sales tool. Oh and yeah, follow-up is everything!

– Happy Networking, Josh Hinds (Connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, or at JoshHinds.com)

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