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Posted by  in General Marketing

Happy New Year!

I’m so excited about this new year, aren’t you? So many fresh possibilities ahead of us.

Today I want to encourage you to start your year by joining a networking group and helping to turn that group into a thriving, productive place. Here are a few ideas for making it work for you and for the group you join.

Don’t go to a networking meeting to make a sale or gain a client on the first day. The chances are great that this won’t happen. Referrals are made when people know, like, trust, and remember you. That doesn’t happen in a 15 minute conversation except on a rare occasion.

These meetings are where you must show the best side of your nature and business acumen. Do you have a handout that could help everyone in that room that doesn’t blatantly sell your services? For example, if you’re a real-estate agent you might put together a sheet on how to find new business that might be applicable to other businesses, too. Do you have a list of tools that help you to run your show smoothly and efficiently that you can share with others?

In your conversations, when people bring up issues they’re struggling with, look beyond the frustration and endeavour to help them find a solution. Refer them to another business or online resource even if – especially if – it doesn’t involve you. Whether they take your suggestion or not, make a note to check back and see if they were successful at straightening things out.

Keep the presentation of your own business brief, sweet and focused. Don’t break out the marching band. State the fundamentals in one fun, relaxed take and let others take the floor. For a great resource on developing a powerful elevator pitch, check this out: 12 Steps to an Awesome Elevator Pitch

Treat the meeting as if it were your own. Create the atmosphere you would like to have if you were in charge. Model good meeting manners by allowing people equal time to present, by listening thoughtfully and raising a hand to ask relevant questions and by not talking out of turn. Remember how much cache a sincere compliment can give you. Hear something you like from a participant? Let them know at the close of the meeting what you appreciated and thank them for their input.

Commit yourself to riding the train to the final stop. If the group is small, remember everyone starts small. Keep coming and bring your friends! Spend a full year in a networking group before you decide that it’s not right for you, unless, of course, the group is truly offensive or clearly targets a market that will never be of benefit to you.

After every meeting take a moment to reflect on what new things you learned and how you will adapt and utilize them yourself. A vital key to a successful networking relationship is follow up. If you have success after taking someone’s advice make sure you tell the story and thank the individual who proffered the tip publicly in the next meeting. If you were able to add your own twist to it, include that information as well. No one need be threatened by this, but all should applaud any innovation that occurs in the course of helping each other to succeed.

Which brings us to the topic of competition. Because we we live in a capitalistic economy, there will always be others vying for the same clients you are. I run a chapter of a local networking group and right at the beginning a new person walked in whose 30 second elevator speech was pretty much the same as mine. I had a few options:

  • I could show him the door
  • I could create a permanent “one-upmanship”
  • I could find a way to cooperate and even collaborate

I chose the third option. We sat down over coffee and chatted about our different backgrounds, philosophies and strategies. We discussed what we enjoyed and what made us cranky and near insane. In so doing, we discovered that each of us has different strengths and weaknesses and that if we worked together, sharing our positives, we could make both of our businesses better.

If you’re confronted by your competition somewhere, I encourage you to do the same. Our unique giftedness as individuals, when conveyed freely, enables us to create new, fresh ways of doing things. Your competition may be a whizz at prospecting and help you land new clients while you can teach them a thing or two about follow-up and client nurture. When competing businesses work together, both parties are stronger for it.

If your competition doesn’t want to play nice, spread nasty rumours about their abominable lack of attention to health and safety standards. Just kidding! I wanted to see if you were still with me. An integral part of the networking is giving others the space to be who they are without judgement. If someone rejects you, even squashes you, turn the other cheek. Someone out there is going to be into you and into the idea of creating a partnership for the mutual nourishment and growth of both your businesses. This kind of professional camaraderie will be seen as asset by those who are considering using your services.

If you’re looking for a group here in Calgary, I manage one up in the North West corner (Crowchild and Nose Hill) and we’d be delighted to have you join us! Check it out here: Calgary Business Network. There are also other chapters in the city. Go to the site, click on Locations and see if there’s something that will serve your needs!

Darlene

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