5 Tips to Make Networking Groups Work
It’s Called Net-working for a Reason
By Bill Cates, CSP, CPAE
Formal networking groups – such as BNI, chamber of commerce groups, and groups that gather for the purpose of exchanging leads – can be a great opportunity or a waste of time. It all depends on how you “work it.” I don’t remember who said it, but the saying goes something like “It’s not called net-sit, or net-eat. It’s called net-work.” Here’s a checklist of five habits you want to establish to make the most out of this client-acquisition strategy:
- You have to be referable. This is, by far, the most important item on the list. If your networking colleagues don’t fully understand how you provide value to your prospects and clients, they won’t refer you. And if they don’t like you and trust you, they won’t refer you. You have to have both conditions going for you.
- Meet outside the group. It’s pretty hard to become referable in short encounters at group meetings. Identify the members who are most likely to meet the types of people you want to meet. Then meet with them outside your normal meeting (over a meal is nice). Make sure you fully understand their value and they fully understand yours. HINT: This often takes more than one meeting.
- Giving referrals usually helps. Just because you give referrals to someone doesn’t necessarily make you referable, but it sure can help. When you do give referrals, practice the Golden Rule of Referral Giving: Give Referrals Unto Others as You Would Have Them be Given Unto You. In other words – make introductions. Create connections.
- Leads are not the same as introductions. Some groups focus on leads or low-level referrals. “Hey – here’s the name of a guy who could use your services. Give him a call.” Have you noticed how hard it is to reach people these days? Don’t settle for leads or low-level referrals (“Tell him I sent you.”) Make sure you get introduced to the prospect. Always take the next logical step by saying, “Let’s talk about how you introduce me to Laura. First, I want you to feel comfortable in doing so. Second, I’d like to pique her interest in hearing from me.”
- Get a few members to become your clients. If there’s a “magic bullet” to making these groups work, this would be it. It’s one thing for you to tout your value. It’s so much more effective for someone else to do so. The members of your group who have actually experienced your value are the ones mostly like to become advocates for you. Once you get one or two, the popcorn starts to pop – more and more members of the group will either want to work with you or feel more confident introducing you.
What is working for you with these sorts of organizations? Tell me! I’d love to hear from you. Send an email directly to me at BillCates@ReferralCoach.com