Are your networking blind spots sabotaing your business success?

Are you disappointed with your Return On Attendance at the last few business networks you attended? Are your staff members attending costly conferences, but not bringing back business? Are you considering not renewing your membership for your industry association or business network, because you can’t justify the $$?

 Maybe it’s not the association that is letting you down, maybe it’s your networking blind spots!

 ORGANISATIONAL NETWORKING -BLIND-SPOTS :

 1.    WALK YOUR TALK!

 Everyone knows that more than 75% of business in the marketplace comes from networking. Yet, when master networker John takes off from the office for yet another networking lunch, or arrives “late” to work after attending an industry breakfast panel – is he encouraged or frowned upon? Is your organization mouthing networking is a must, yet making it extremely difficult for staff members to attend events where they could meet multiple prospects and ultimately turn business cards into business.

 TIP: Networking needs to be encouraged from the top down. In sales meeting, talk about the monthly networking events that are available in your area, and match like-minded people with their specific interests. It’s much better to have Bill the duty manager “golf nut” attend the Golf Day and cross network with other “golf nuts” than send the general manager who has never touched a golf club and would have a less than fun day!

2.    DATABASE FAILURE

 Database, what database? These days you cannot exist without an up to date form of tracking or database system. Some of the more popular ones include ACT or ACCESS – yet again databases are only as good as the people who enter information into them. And in our busy week, who has time to enter business card details – yet you know if you don’t, there is a big chance that the cards will be lost, damaged or forgotten or worse still – you can’t remember whom the person is or where you met them.

 A couple of simple systems, I use – when I meet someone who I think could be a potential prospect or good connection for me and we exchange cards, I very carefully bend the corner of their business card as I put it into my pocket or handbag. At business events, you often meet lots of people and remembering who is who in the zoo, can be extremely confusing.

 With the turned up corner system, when you return to your office and put the pile of cards on the desk – the “most important card” will stand out with it’s bent corner. And you can then decide to follow-up with that person first. Secondly, make a quick note on the back of the card, with the date you met them, the place and something you remember about them – preferably something that is unique to them – What a call a WOW! – their special interest, note about a funny story they told you – something that will really jog your memory weeks or months later. If you don’t have time to enter all the business card contact details into your system immediately, just enter these key cards.

 Thirdly, if you are drowning in business cards with no time to enter into your database – consider engaging a temp staff person to come in once a month and update your database. You may also consider using them at least twice a year to update your database. These days it is not uncommon for people to people to change email addresses regularly and if you only have email addresses in your address books – people can drop out of your life very easily. Or worse still you have a system crash and lose your entire system!

 TIP: Invest not only in the database management system, but also in its maintenance. Treat your database as gold – it may be your most valuable investment.

 3. FOLLOW UP EVERY TIME

 One of the biggest challenges in business development is that we are often in overload, time poor and chasing our tail. So who has time to follow-up? I barely had time to attend the networking event in the first place!

 Picture this; you meet someone who is a 10 out of 10 prospect for you – the absolute best connection you have made in a long time. BUT, in their world – they are glad they have met you, as they know they will need your product or service – soon, but not yet. In their world, this week, and maybe even this month, you are a 5 out of 10 prospect.

 Your challenge? How can you follow-up, stay in touch without being pushy, without stalking them or driving them crazy with your phone calls. Why not try to think a little more innovatively about how you might make that regular contact – just making sure that your name and service crosses their desk every month or so?

 In conversation with a potential supplier/stranger at a networking event, I recently mentioned a book I had read, called The World is Flat by Robert Friedman, as the distribution chain model in the book was relevant to our conversation. Within 48 hours the potential supplier had followed up with me, thanked me for my time, acknowledged our connecting at the specific event, included a service quote PLUS a link to a pod cast of that author speaking about his book – I was impressed. Did he get the contract – not yet – my need and my decision is still a couple of months away – however, he is certainly the person who comes to mind as a potential supplier.

 Did his boss question his follow-up strategy and the length of time he spent finding that pod cast for me? If he did at the time, then maybe when the supplier gets the order, he will realize its all the little things that get you across the line today – not just a great website and splashy brochures – the human factor is the one that matters.

 So what are you doing in your organization to shine a light on your networking blind spots? Has this article made you think about what you are NOT doing?

 Don’t wait until you are quiet to network – by the time you are quiet, business is really lagging. Make a commitment to have someone from your organization, regularly attend industry events, both social and educational. Be seen, get known and be remembered positively for being innovative, not being pushy!

 And finally, if you are not having fun networking – you are not doing it right!

HAPPY NETWORKING

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