The Moment of Truth: Being Worthy of Referrals - It's All About Follow Up

Something magical happens when you begin to attend networking events.  People begin to give you leads and referrals.  Many have been fortunate to have met someone who wanted to do business right away.  Others have met someone at a networking event that should be a part of their networking circle.  And still others have met that rare individual who just hears what they do and knows someone who needs their product or service.  It happens.  And when it does it is a beautiful thing.

Other times you have worked hard for the opportunity.  You have attended events, met people and delivered a great elevator pitch (Magical Networking Moment).  Through planning your networking and working your plan you have received leads and referrals.

Now comes the moment of truth.  What happens when you meet someone or when someone gives you a lead or referral?  What will you do with what you have been given? Most leads, referrals, and opportunities die.  Most people never follow up or follow through.  It's sad but true.  Nothing will shut referrals down faster than lack of action on your part.  The referral you have received will die.  Worse still, because you will be known as someone who doesn't follow up, you won't receive more referrals either.

The good news is you can stand out in most any crowd by being the exception.  Simply by following up puts you in an elite class.  Following up shows respect for the referral.  It shows respect for the person who gave you the referral and it shows respect for you, your company, and everyone's time.  And following up is easy.  You have tools at your disposal that make managing contacts a snap.  You must use them.

While it is the least effective, a simple email can get the follow up process going.  Be aware that email isn't what it used to be.  Most people get at least fifty emails a day, so your email may not receive priority.  Using email alone is better than most, but not enough to reach the most valuable prospects.  Email does have it's place in the follow up process.  It provides an easy way to connect and it provides a simple management tool for contact information.  Use email to make quick, consistent contact with people.

Incorporate snail mail options too.  Since we get more email today, many forget that regular mail is a powerful tool.  The use of letters, lumpy mail (mail with something inside that makes the envelope beg to be opened), and hand written cards and notes is powerful.  For those who simply cannot seem to get this done, programs like Send Out Cards can do this for you.  Regular mail is an easy way to stand out from the crowd.

One other tool often overlooked is the telephone.  Make use of the phone wisely.  When you call, treat the gatekeeper (if there is one) like you would want to be treated.  Engage them by using their name and by telling them who you are and why you are calling.  It is best to ask for an introductory call when you have been referred. This coupled with courtesy for the gatekeeper will usually ensure your call gets through.  And when leaving messages make them short and to the point.  Your name, your phone number, who suggested you call, your name and phone number again should suffice.  Don't try to sell them on calling you back or your product or service in a message.  The referral should result in a return call.

Having a plan and process that you put every referral through will ensure that you are known as someone who follows up.  Using email, regular mail, the telephone, and courtesy for the gatekeeper will show everyone that you are a professional and worthy of referrals.  Being worthy means more referrals and more business.  So make it happen, follow up.


What the Movers and Shakers Know That You Don't - Volunteering Does More Than Make You Feel Good

One of the best kept secrets of the movers and shakers is that volunteering is a powerful way to improve you business and your life.  There is nothing more powerful than a group of people pulling together for a common cause.  When you work side by side with another person in an effort you both care about, you will find that forces seen and unseen will work in your favor to bring you closer together.

Volunteering differs from taking a leadership role in that volunteers do the heavy lifting.  They function in an operational manner.  They do the planning, coordinating, and directing others.  These are the unsung heroes of the event that went off without a hitch, the issue that was tackled and defeated, and the community that was changed for the better.  Volunteers make our lives better and we couldn't live or function without them.

You can get started by simply offering to be a greeter at the reception table at the next event you attend.  Or you can offer to serve in a role at your local chamber of commerce, service club, or school.  There are more opportunities than one can count to volunteer and make a difference.

When choosing how to serve, consider the things that you are passionate about.  While serving your industry group will reap rewards in your business life, serving with other people who share your passion for a cause will bring you personal rewards and satisfaction.  And don't fail to recognize the opportunities you'll be given to expand your business with the people you will meet who will be interested in you since you share a common interest in a cause.

But don't be too anxious to do business.  You will have access to people that you could never get to through normal business channels.  When you serve with others who care about what you care about, you will be amazed at the different people you will easily meet and spend time with.  Volunteering gives you access to people you may otherwise never get close to and better still, it gives you the commonality that builds relationships.  Do not abuse this opportunity by trying to sell.

The best approach is to get to know the people you are volunteering with and let them get to know you.  Once they know you, they will like you, and your co-service will lead them to trust you.  You won't have to ask for the business, they will naturally bring the business to you.  You will be a trusted resource they will go to and lead others to when they find a need for your products or services.

Remember that you should volunteer to serve a cause or group you have a passion for and you will find that business will naturally happen.  In the process you will find personal fulfillment, new friends, and bigger business opportunities.  Friends do business together.


Be a Leader – Get Involved in the Operation

Leaders are missing in most every aspect of life.  There is a void of leadership that continues to weaken groups in all areas of our society, and networking groups are not immune.  We need those who possess skills and enthusiasm to keep the group on task, on time, on purpose, and on going.

As with all things in life, successful networking requires careful planning, consistent attendance, full participation, and careful results measurement.  But to truly soar you need to do more than just consistently attend events and participate.  By volunteering to take a leadership role you will set yourself apart from the masses.  Everyone values those who give of their time to ensure the success of the group.  Giving of your time in a purposeful way will yield great results.  You should seek out opportunities to serve where you can make the biggest impact for the group and for you.

Choose a leadership role that aligns with your unique set of skills.  Those who facilitate groups in their business lives should facilitate networking groups.  Bankers, financial planners, certified public accountants, and other financial professionals should volunteer to assist with management of the finances and financial reporting of the group.  Always seek opportunities to showcase your skills when seeking a leadership role.

Check your ego at the door.  While you may be the captain of your ship, leadership in a volunteer group requires a servant mentality.  To lead is to serve others.  Bring all your talent and skills to be sure, but resist the temptation to be overbearing simply because you are the expert.  Remember that others are serving as well.  The last thing any group needs is a dictator.  Be empathetic.

Perhaps the best thing about being a leader in any group is that you will be considered a leader in all walks of life.  People naturally assume that you are a mover and shaker when you are the head of an organization and they will ask you to lead in others.  This gives you access to the heads of other organizations.  They now represent your peer group.

Become known as a leader and you will be amazed at the level of people you meet and how many of them will want to know you.


Consistent Action in a Purposeful Manner is the Key to Networking Success

While most people don't want to hear it, the key to success in networking is consistency.  Nothing will replace consistent action in a purposeful manner.  You must plan your networking success and work your plan consistently, making adjustments as you go to ensure you are getting the most for your efforts.

Most of us have heard of someone who came to his or her first networking event and met a great prospect that became a client.  Many have even heard of someone who has done business at a networking event.  Perhaps you have had the good fortune of meeting someone who was in need of your product or service and you closed the business at the event.  It does happen.

But patience and perseverance are required in networking as in most every other endeavor in life.  Consistency is the key to success.  Joining a health club doesn't make you healthy.  Once you join you have a greater likelihood of going, and once you go you have a greater likelihood of using the equipment.  Using the equipment doesn't ensure health either.  It is the purposeful use of the equipment in the proper fashion and proportion consistently that ensures improved health.

Networking is very similar.  Joining a group increases the likelihood that you will attend a meeting or event.  Attending increases the likelihood that you will actually engage in a conversation with another attendee.  Engaging in conversation increases the chances that you will meet someone who could use your product or service.  But the purposeful planning of which meetings and events to attend and whom you wish to meet, coupled with the successful execution of that plan, will ensure that you are successful in networking and in your business endeavor.

The old saying, "who you are speaks so loudly I can't hear what you are saying" applies in networking.  While your appearance plays an important role,  how often you appear at events is critical.  People will begin to know, like, and trust you when they see you more often.  This increases the odds that they will remember you when they meet someone who needs what you sell.

Therefore, you should plan out your networking for the next six weeks and stick to it.  Measure your success at each event and determine if the right connections are attending the same events you are.  Be honest with yourself.  How well did you connect?  How much did you give each event?  What impacted your results?

Be sure to visit each event or group more than once before you decide to fully engage or eliminate it from your plan.  Then be decisive.  Choosing a few events or groups to fully engage in each month will bring far better results than taking a shotgun approach.  You'll begin to see the same people and they will see you as reliable.  Then they will open up their contact list to you.  This is when networking becomes powerful.  Remember, meeting people and doing business with them individually is great, but the real power comes when you gain access to their contacts and referrals.

Networking success requires a plan and that plan requires consistently attending events and meetings and measuring your success.  When you fully engage and consistently attend you will find better relationships, better use of your time, more referrals, and greater success.  Be consistent.


Starting Your Own Networking Group - Be Sure to Weigh the Risk and Reward and Begin With a Bang!

Networking and connecting can be incredibly rewarding.  And as you get the hang of it you may determine that the time has come for you to start your own networking group.  While many who choose to will succeed, the risk involved should be measured against the potential reward before jumping in.

There are many rewards for starting your own group should it succeed.  You may be in a highly competitive field like banking, insurance, or real estate and all the positions in the established closed groups are filled.  Starting a group would provide you with an opportunity to participate in a closed or exclusive group.  Of course when you start a group you have the added luxury of determining who will be allowed in the group.  And by starting your own group you can determine when the group meets, where it meets, and virtually all other logistical aspects of the group.

While there are many other benefits to starting your own group, one final benefit is that you have the opportunity to demonstrate your leadership skills.  This will make you instantly more likely to receive leads and referrals.  Everyone wants to associate with a leader.

With benefit we often find risk, and the risks are many when it comes to starting your own networking group.  You may not succeed and those you attempt to bring into a group will be disappointed.  This may lead to fewer leads and referrals.  You may alienate a friend or networking partner if you do not invite them to your new group.  There may be power struggles and difficulty moving the group to action from time to time.  And if you choose to charge a fee to be apart of the group you will have the headache of maintaining the books for a new business venture that will make little if any money for some time to come.  If you don't charge a fee you may find it harder to get participants to take the group seriously.

While the risks are many the reward in many cases will outweigh the risk.  You should choose to jump in if this is the case.  But you should do so after careful examination of all the factors that will impact your success.  The most successful launches of new groups always begin by identifying a core group of key participants that will bring excitement to the group.  These participants should be people you know well but don't network with as often as you would like.  Once you've identified a core group, choose a day of the week and time that works for everyone and stick to it.  Have an initial meeting to get the group going and to determine the other business categories you wish to fill.  Then plan a launch party with at least four weeks notice.

Begin with a bang by inviting more people than you need to fill the group.  Each person in the core group should invite at least ten people to the launch party.  Make this truly a party atmosphere full of fun and excitement.  Plan this meeting well and invite more than one person from each business category.  What should result is a competition for the open slots between the invitees.  This creates buzz and desire to participate.  These newly drafted members will add excitement and enthusiasm to your group.  Do this as many times as it takes to fill the group.  Don't be overly ambitious about membership.  Most closed groups function best with between six and twenty members.

You may notice we have made no reference to open groups in this discussion.  We believe there is an abundance of open networking groups and no need to create more.  If you're looking for an active, powerful, open group, look no further than your local chamber of commerce.  If it isn't functioning at a high level, volunteer to super-charge the networking for them.  You will have an instant audience and you will be more likely to succeed.

Starting a group is typically the last resort or only necessary if you cannot find what you are looking for in another group.  It is an option if your category is filled in all the exclusive groups or if there is a lot of competition in your industry.   You can set yourself apart by starting a group.  Be sure to identify the potential risk involved and measure it against the potential reward before jumping in.  Starting your own group can be fun and rewarding so long as you know how to do it and what you hope to accomplish.