When busy entrepreneurs network without a system, they lose key prospects and strategic partners in the shuffle. Although all would agree that networking is essential to growing a small business; most would equally agree that following up can present a serious nightmare for those who are not prepared for the influx of contacts they can meet over the course of one week.
As a business coach who teaches that one of the essential marketing streams for your business is networking, I have helped my clients to develop a systematic approach to managing new contacts so that they can maximize their relationships and keep Top Of Mind Awareness (ToMA).
Remember, networking is like running a marathon, not a sprint. You have to be prepared to take your time to get to know the prospect. My version of Marketing 101 says people buy when they know, like, trust AND believe that you can solve their problem.
Here are my tips and an assignment to help you do the same:
- When you are meeting a prospect for the first time, LISTEN more than you speak. Get to know them so that you can discover if they are a qualified contact. A qualified contact is 1). A person ready to use your services right now or 2.) A person who knows a person who is ready to use your services right now. Gather enough information about them personally and professionally to keep the dialog going as you discover if they are a good fit for the problems you solve. It is my personal recommendation that you let them speak first and establish a dialog. You see, if you speak first, you could say the wrong thing and minimize the need to learn more about who you are.
- Be sure that when you’ve walked away from them you make notes on their business card. Doing so will help you later as you sift through all the cards you collected to determine who are ideal client prospects or potential strategic partners for your business. You want to be sure to capture if they have kids, what they love about their work, what they do for fun and how they want to serve others.
- Have stationary made with your company logo, tagline and contact information so it becomes effortless for you to send a quick hand written note to your prospect or new connection. I recommend that you also include something in your handwritten note that will make you stand out and instantly be remembered. I use purple and white confetti in mine.
- Make sure you make the first contact within 48 hours. This contact should be with a personal touch – meaning refrain from sending an email. Most people’s inbox is already overflowing with requests that seldom get reviewed. Your goal should be to stand out from the crowd and using a handwritten note, personal phone call (even if they don’t answer, leave a voice mail) or use video messaging to get and keep their attention while extending your reach in the TOMA category in their minds. Your phone call message should sound like this: Hi _____ it was great meeting you at ________. I enjoyed learning about [the vacation you’re planning with your family in a few weeks.] Have a great time and let’s connect when you get back in town. Best, Your Name.
- Within 2 weeks, you should be in touch with a qualified contact again, this time to deepen that initial contact – with coffee, lunch, a conference call, or other type of meeting….you should be prepared, having done your due diligence. You should have fully researched their company and identified ways that you can help them based on your product and/or service as well as how they can help you (if a strategic partnership is the goal).
- Your next touch point and each subsequent touch point should occur within 2 months. Perhaps you are just touching base with them via telephone or you send them an article that reminded them of a previous conversation the two of you had together. The point is, you want to remain on their radar so as soon as they develop the problem that you solve – or someone they know does, you are the only solution that comes to mind. I really love sending update letters every few months to let them know what you’re up to and how they can help you. In these letters, often called warm letters, you want to be sure to remind them of the types of clients you love working with and how much you love referrals. People often don’t refer to you because you haven’t told them you like referrals!
- Remember the Law of 7 touches – if you keep going beyond the first or second no you will build a strong connection and typically gain a loyal client or customer. Most people stop after one but those who keep going to 7 or more, build great relationships, get new clients and grow their strategic partner base.
Look through the business cards you collected last week and sort them in three categories:
- Ideal prospect
- Strategic partner
- Not a good contact for me or anyone I know (at this time)
Once sorted, prepare your follow up strategy by asking yourself the following questions:
- How is this a good contact for me?
- What do I have to offer this contact?
- What does this contact have to offer me?
- What follow up strategy will I use to stay connected to them?
- How will I stand out from the crowd in my interactions with them?
- Then write your script for the first call or handwritten note to them.
Repeat until you have a full blown plan for each new contact for that week and do the same thing each week going forward.
©2012 by Darnyelle A. Jervey. All Rights Reserved. Darnyelle A. Jervey, MBA, is the founder of Incredible One Enterprises.com and the Leverage Your Incredible Factor System® a proven step by step program for building a 6 figure business with more clients, more income and more leverage in record time. For more information and a FREE CD “7 Critical Mistakes that Even Smart Entrepreneurs Make that Keep Them From Clients, Connection and Cash” visit https://www.incredibleoneenterprises.com