We intuitively know that one of the best lead generation activities is to do face-to-face networking, especially opportunities to connect with referral sources and potential customers. Yet many of us aren’t comfortable mingling or find it difficult to turn small talk into business conversations. If you don’t master the art of networking—a fundamental and critical step in lead generation— then growing your business may take more effort and time than necessary.
In my search for best networking practices, I found Network or Perish, a book full of tips and strategies from master networkers. At its core are these philosophical mainstays:
- Do not fear competition because there are abundant opportunities for everyone.
- Give without expectation and for the simple desire to help someone else because when you give, you receive back ten fold.
12 Networking Best Practices
- Goal Setting – Create a criteria list of your best networking opportunities. Before signing up for that next mixer, run through your criteria first. If you do register, then: a) write down 3 achievable goals related to the event (e.g., fine-tune your elevator pitch, seek out contacts at specific companies), and b) block out at least one hour of time following the event when you’re back at your office/computer.
- Cultivate Broad Networks – Look at highly successful people in business and you’ll notice they have a vast and diverse network. By networking across age, industry and geographical spheres you don’t limit your lead generation results.
- Recognize that Everyone is a Sphere of Influence – Even been to a networking event, struck up a conversation with someone, then only to be dismissed? Master networkers know that regardless of pedigree, status or role, most everyone has a network where they have influence. The kid with the unruly hair and flip-flops just might be the mastermind behind the next million-dollar start-up. Your best client can come from many places, my friend.
- Genuine Connection – We can all tell when someone has checked out and clearly not paying attention to the conversation. Strive to present in the moment and speak from the heart. When you do, others will respond because they know they’re being heard and acknowledged.
- Use Names -The greatest compliment you can give is to remember and use a person’s name. It shows respect and wins respect in return.
- Cross-networking with Competitors – Several of our clients confessed that one of their best referral sources were from “competitors.” Where can you form strategic alliances with others in your field of expertise? That’s another potential creative and lucrative avenue for lead generation activities.
- Solve a Problem – When helping others by sharing information or referring a resource to solve a problem it builds and adds to your reputation. Build enough advocates in your network database, and you’ve got a great basis for lead generation that will pay dividends over time.
- Income Building vs. Income Generating – Income generation pays the bills while income building creates a full pipeline. Effective lead generation starts with networking and moves to nurturing contacts. By investing time every day in income building activities (e.g., email newsletters) it will sustain and grow your business into the future.
- Strategic Networking & Advertising – When you strategically network at well-chosen functions and events, the number of referral sources grow. Advertising, like Pay-Per-Click campaigns, should play a supportive role in promoting your business. Your business should be the star, not your advertising budget.
- Generate Loyalty by Revenue Enhancement – Money talks. When you make greenbacks for your clients and referrals sources, it’s the fastest way to build and maintain loyalty. You’re earning the right to do business again and again.
- Follow Up – Remember the time you blocked on your calendar before you registered for that networking event? Scan business cards, make phones and send emails while the event and topics of conversations are still fresh. Map out your follow-up process so the next step is obvious and routine. Add those contacts to a database because you’ll be nurturing them over time as part of automated lead generation practice. More on that later…
- Avoid Complacency – Now that your lead generation pipeline is bursting at the seams, you may be tempted to take a break from networking. Nope. Master networkers know that ongoing success requires consistent effort, which reduces the typical peaks and valleys of business development.
Have a networking best practice that’s helped you grow your business? We’d like to hear your ideas.
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