Attending Business Networking Events
What Is Business Networking?
Business networking is a way for a businessperson to expand their reach in their efforts to identify and reach new prospects and clients. Generally the approach is for a person to go to “networking” events where there are other professionals present for the same reason. The people at the event get acquainted, and the idea is that each person will refer leads they find for the other’s product or service to that other person. (See video below).
Why Is It Important?
Because of leverage. There is only the one you. You can only be so many places, meet so many people, accomplish so many tasks, reply to so many emails. Because of that, your ability to find clients, convert leads, and produce revenue is finite.
What Do I Need To Know?
- Relax. Networking can be very fun and a great way to develop social skills. Most networking groups are designed to help new visitors learn how to network. You will learn everything you need to know by attending and participating. The group you visit may even have a website with tips you can read before you attend. If you have questions, the facilitator and other participant will be glad to assist you and go out of their way to help you. Be sure to let everyone know if this is your first time!
- Be ready to share your 30 second introduction of how you help people for example:
"My name is Fard Bell with LegalShield. We give families, employees, and business owners unlimited access to their own law firms for everyday life and business events, no matter how big or small the matter may be without having to receive a bill in the mail afterwards..." (Share a 10 second testimony or example if appropriate)
- If asked, be ready to share 2 or 3 of the ideal clients you'd like to be referred to. If you say everybody, you probably won't be referred to anybody. People need 1 or 2 specific categories so they can think of 1 person they know at a time. Examples may be business owners with debt collection issues, homeowners with children who need to prepare or update their will, families with teenage drivers, etc.
- Although anyone can be a good referral partner for you, be ready to share who 1 or 2 perfect referral partners or "power partners" would be for you. A power partner is someone who is serving the same type of clients you want to serve, but they are not your competitor. For example, a life insurance professional deals with estate planning so they meet with people who need to get their will done every day. Payroll sales rep's, business coaches, accountants, internet marketing specialists, etc serve small business owners who need your service everyday. Human Resource specialists and benefits brokers deal with employee benefits opportunities everyday. Business brokers, staffing agencies, etc serve opportunity seekers every day.
- Bring plenty of business cards
- Be ready to schedule coffee meetings. (You can schedule appointments on the calendar in your phone if you aren't using another system)
Go visit a few different networking groups as a guest. As a first time guest, you can usually attend for free. Go to www.google.com and type "business referral" networking groups in your area. (Also look at www.meetup.com). The idea is to attend professional networking events and build relationships. Remember, if the professionals get to know, like, and trust you, they will do business and refer business to you. You do that by showing up consistently, not to sell or recruit, but to learn who you can refer to their business, presenting yourself professionally and friendly, and trusting that if you make a sincere attempt to give them referrals, they will do the same for you. One of the best ways to get to know like and trust each other is by scheduling a "coffee meeting!"
What is a "Coffee Meeting"?
A coffee meeting is NOT a presentation about what you offer. It is simply a "getting to know you" session between you and your potential referral partner: The purpose is to actually build a friendship with the person and then schedule another time where you can present what you offer if appropriate. Remember that people do business with people they know, like and trust. People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care. Re-visit the chapter called "the six ways to make people like you" in the book "How to win friends and influence people" by Dale Carnegie
When do I schedule a "coffee meeting"
Make it a point to meet everyone you can at your networking event. Be prepared to schedule appointments.
Ask "Would you like to meet for coffee and see how we can refer business to each other? (Let them know you don't want to meet and try to sell each other, but to genuinely get to know each other and then see if it would be a good fit for you two to become referral partners).
- Where are you located?
- Do you have your calendar with you? If so, schedule the day, time and location you will meet. (Usually 1 hour). If they do not have their calendar with them, send them a quick text message or email with your name and contact info saying "Great meeting you today at ____(location/event)! Let me know when we can do coffee!"
Questions to ask at a coffee meeting
In a "Getting to know each other" coffee meeting ask the about the things you're going to share with them about yourself:
A. What's your story? (seek to understand their journey/timeline)
- where were you born and raised?
- what did you do after high school?
- listen for "F.O.R.M." Family, Occupations, Recreation, Motivation.
- how did you get introduced to what you do now and what inspired you to move forward with it?
B. Who they want you to refer them to. (Give, text, or email them referrals immediately if you can).
- Who's your favorite & least favorite type of client to work with?
C. Who makes the best power partner (s) for you? A power partner is someone who interacts with their ideal client on a regular basis, but is not in competition with them. (Refer them to Power partners immediately if you can).
Giving referrals via text or email:
- If you think both parties have a mutual interest in meeting each other, it may help to text or email both of them briefly explaining why. (Ex. "George is an accountant and might be a good referral partner for you. His # is ____. Let him know I referred you". Or "Please give my referral partner George a few minutes of your time. He's a trusted accountant, a successful business man, and I told him you may be a good business contact for him. His # is____." )
Closing a coffee meeting
"I work with my referral partners one of two ways... When you refer someone to me who becomes a client, as a way of saying thank you I like to give you a gift card.(maybe $15-$25). The other option many of my referral partners prefer is when I set you up a referral account (associate ID) with LegalShield and you'll earn residual income on everyone you refer to me who becomes a customer. Which would you prefer?
Set up the next step...
"If I invited you to one of my upcoming events to show you more about what we do for our clients and how I work with my referral partners, would you attend?"
Remember, in most coffee meetings, you will not be presenting your business or services. Your primary purpose in your 1st coffee meeting is to get to know them and what they do, and help them get to know, like, and trust you. If you do that well, they will be honored to attend your next luncheon or business briefing as your new friend and referral partner. Most of the business will be generated after the 1st coffee meeting, not during the 1st coffee meeting. Remember, the more coffee meetings you schedule the more comfortable and confident you will become! Have fun, make friends, and get referrals!