How to Make Networking Pay - Mel Kaufmann
When I first joined the Chamber of Commerce, everyone told me I could network. The problem was, no one ever told me what networking was about. People would come in, have a drink, meet their friends, go back to their office... and get no business. I later learned that while many people equate socializing with networking, they are actually two ends of the same spectrum.
I found the definition I like for networking in the book Megatrends by John Naisbitt. He cites networking as one of the megatrends that will transform the way we do business in the next century, defining it as "the exchange of ideas, information and resources." Socializing is meeting people and having a good time. That's great, but if you want to make money, you have to turn that social time into network time.
For people who are building Network Marketing businesses while still keeping up with full-time jobs, understanding networking and learning to leverage limited networking time is vital. By making habits of the following tips, you'll create maximum pay-off in whatever amount of time you have to network. I'll even go so far as to say that each habit will add $10,000 to your net worth over the course of your career.
Network in Numbers
If networking is the exchange of ideas, information and resources, then why not leverage your time by networking with more than one person at once? Instead of having lunch with a friend, arrange a networking luncheon or find out about those already going on in your area. Arrange networking breakfasts, attend Chamber social hours. A woman I know in Network Marketing recently became an Ambassador at her Chamber of Commerce-- a person who greets everyone at each event. That's a powerful way to meet a range of business-oriented, connected people.
I use the calendar for business events in my city-- from the LA Business Journal. Almost every city has such a publication featuring all the events taking place that week. Don't just look to see who the speaker is, look to the speaker to figure out who will be attending. For example, recently the CEO of Ford Motor Company gave a speech here, and I knew that anyone of power and stature in the city would have an interest in being there. They were all big hitters in the audience! If you determine that people you'd like to meet might be in the audience, go! Have at least one event a week on your personal calendar to make new connections.
If you had a magic wand and had one wish, which professionals would you want at the next meeting you enter? Most people respond with "those who would buy my product or service." That is prospecting-- make a 180-degree shift in your marketing mind. Would you rather have a room full of professionals who would buy from you, or a room full of executives who have a Rolodex full of people who would buy from you? Leverage your time, go to events for who will be there.
The Executive Link Principle
One of the most important things you can do for your business is to develop an Executive Link in your community-- a person who will share leads and referrals with you continually so that you aren't always having to shake the trees for more. By being connected to someone who's connected, you are leveraging your time-- it doesn't matter if they join your business, they can be a Link to future business.
Think-- who in your community has a Rolodex full of people you should know? Maybe it's a printer who meets business people on a daily basis, maybe it's a sales rep for the Chamber of Commerce who talks to 100 people a week. If they had you as a Link when they meet someone looking for a new opportunity, they'd send that person your way. If you're in a nutritional company, an owner of a local gym might be a productive Link. Perhaps a successful real estate agent who works with thousands of people moving into the city would be a smart Link. The executive director of an organization knows everyone involved-- get to know him. Volunteer your services or expertise to his organization.
Choose each Link carefully and make it your goal to establish ten Links, each in a different profession or industry so they'll have different contacts from one another. In each successful Link, you'll be creating a source for endless leads instead of going out and finding one person at a time. You, in turn, need to do the same for them. Networking is a relationship-building process, and no relationship ever succeeds by getting. Relationships only become bonded through sharing.
When a Link gives you a referral, always be of service, don't just ask for the order. If you get a referral from that real estate agent and make contact with someone who just moved to your city, help connect him in the community by bringing him into business environments with you and introducing him to others. Soon you'll have a friend, and the basis for a profitable partnership.
If you identify a potential Executive Link in your community whom you haven't yet met, follow the age-old advice: "To catch an elephant, go where the elephants are." Search for events the person frequents, charities she patronizes, or organizations to which she belongs. Here's what I do: I call her office and find out what events she attends. If they tell me, which they usually do, I go to that event early and watch for her nametag coming through the door. As she does, I stick out my hand and begin a conversation with a question to find out more about her and her business. Eventually, I say, "I think we can help each other-- would you like to have lunch?" People never turn me down when I say I think I can help them in their business.
If you're new in your business and don't feel confident approaching the high achievers with the biggest Rolodexes in your city, you don't have to start with the biggest. Start with people in different industries that are closer to where you are in life and start making friends. These friends will open new doors as time goes on-- think in terms of what will come from a long-term connection. As your business grows and you gain more confidence, there will always be more people for you to approach. When Steven Spielberg was in cinematography school at USC he couldn't get in to see William Wilder, but now that he's grown in stature along the way, he can-- and we couldn't get in to see him.
Who do you think has promise in their field? Who's going to be making more contacts over the years? Become friends with them, because pretty soon you'll have clout and they'll have clout and you can support one another's efforts. Donald Trump doesn't make cold calls-- he's developed business relationships over the years that are so powerful that when he needs something he just calls somebody and gets it done. Make friends before you need them-- choose the ones that have the potential to be the most powerful and productive over the next ten years. You're not going to be rich tomorrow. Influence the influential.
When you attend events where you know there will be many quality connections to be made, I advise you to pre-network. Pre-networking is gathering information, and your priority should be to gather as many names as you can. Focus on discovering potential new Links. You'll have all the time in the world to get back in touch with people you meet-- network then.
If you have 30 minutes of social time, try to get five or six cards. I want to move on about every five minutes. If I meet you at an event and spend 20 minutes talking to one person, I may miss someone standing right next to me who has a Rolodex full of people. When you get back to your office, go through the cards you collected and evaluate the leads. When you follow-up is the time for the longer conversation.
Maximize your pre-networking by preparing in advance. Know what questions you want to ask people before you leave your office or home, that way when you shake hands you're right on target. If the conversation gets into "how's the family" or "how about that golf game," you missed it. It's over and you don't know anything about the person. You might as well have stayed home or gone to Denny's and had a patty-melt.
If possible, know in advance who you want to meet at events. Most businesses will list who's planning to attend, and it's not private information. Do a little research on them and get there a early, so that when they walk through the door you're ready for them. Decide who you're going to sit beside-- and make sure it's not the friend you came with! Sitting with a friend will not make you money. Split at the door if you come with someone. Even if you're with your spouse, if you are going to an event to do business, split at the door. There's no reason both of you can't be making contacts around the room at double the pace you would have standing together.
"Life begins at the end of your comfort zone."
-- Conversations with God
Never Be Late
I am dead serious about this-- when you go to an event, be at least 30 minutes early. Lateness is a thief that reaches into your pocket and steals a $1000 bill. The ten minutes you lost in the registration line is lost revenue ... so is the three minutes you spend filling out your nametag. Most people don't even realize that they're losing money they could have made minute by minute of productive networking time they waste. This lost loot will never be returned to you, and you've stolen from yourself.
I learned this lesson many years ago-- I'd been wanting to do a seminar for a particular firm and for two years, they wouldn't return my phone calls. One day I read in the L.A Business Journal that they were having a seminar at the Beverly Hilton hotel starting at 8:30 in the morning. I got there a little before 8:00, and the partner who was about to give the lecture was in the room. I got to speak with him for half an hour while he set up. Based on that
connection, I was invited to do a seminar for his firm, after which he recommended me to other branches around the country.... From being early just that one day ten years ago, I've made over $110,000. When you arrive early, it's easier for the person you're speaking with to focus because no one else is around to distract them from the conversation-- there's less competition!
There is only one reason for being late to any event, and that is low priority. That is the primary reason for being tardy, and I can prove it. If I were to offer you $100,000 to enter the next event 60 minutes early, would you be late? Not on your life! You would have stayed in this hotel all night so you would not miss the deadline. This is not like the gaming tables of Las Vegas; there is no risk ... every event you attend is filled with business opportunities worth thousands, and no tardy tale will ever earn you a penny.
The Compliment and The Gift
It doesn't have to take money to succeed in business, it just takes forethought. Compliments and gifts are two tools for advancing your relationship with your Links that are worth dollars in the bank and can cost you nothing! I did a seminar for a company back in 1991, and the next day I called the facilitator and said, "Thanks for putting the seminar together, I couldn't I have done it without you, and I really appreciate it." Before she hung up, she said, "Send me another packet on your program, I want to mail it to our national marketing director in New York City." I've been doing seminars for that company ever since, and I've made over $80,000 from that one compliment. If I had not taken the time to call her and thank her for her help, I never would have had that opportunity.
Giving back to people is vital to effective networking. When you have an appointment with someone, start it with a gift-- and it shouldn't be something you market or sell. Networking and selling are two different things, and while they're both vital for your financial engine, keep them in separate containers. It doesn't have to be expensive, but I've found that when you give a gift, your contact's Rolodex opens up a lot wider and they give you more referrals. It takes a little while to get to know someone enough to want to share referrals with them, so build trust by asking questions and beginning with a gift.
And remember, a gift is something you give without strings attached. Whether it's a sincere, compliment, a smile, a steaming cup of latte, an article or a book, a gift leaves tracks. One of the tracks of giving is you feel better, and when you feel good, your day becomes more productive-- so you're still leveraging time!
MEL KAUFMANN got his start in networking at the Wilshire Chamber of Commerce in Los Angeles. He now teaches a seminar entitled the "Million Dollar Formula" at Chambers, conventions and companies across the country, and recently wrote The Millionaire's Handbook. He lives in San Pedro, CA. For information about his book or his seminar schedule, call 310-831-2799.
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Reprinted with permission from Upline, Kaufmann Feature - June 1999, 888-UPLINE-1, http://www.upline.com