This past week I had the opportunity to attend several different events in the Washington, DC area and network with some highly successful entrepreneurs.
Many of these entrepreneurs may be just like you; they are amazing at networking offline but know they are missing opportunities to grow their businesses online.
Because I’ve learned the science and art of networking I was blessed with:
- Over twenty-five business cards from those who want to extend a conversation and want me to contact them.
- Several new connections with highly influential people in both business and government that have access to the same audience I serve, but in a different way.
- One business owner who hired me immediately.
- One business owner who wants to hire me ASAP!
- An invitation to speak at both free and paid events (which we are confirming in the next two weeks for events as soon as April).
I would say that’s a pretty good day of networking and as you can see I’m still not done!
I am successful at networking both offline and online to grow my business and you can be as well.
In this article I’m going to share with you how to network with people you meet offline and connect with them online, earn business immediately or make some amazing connections that can propel your business forever.
Networking Smart Before the Networking Actually Begins
Networking always starts before the networking actually begins. I know, your first question is probably; “what does that mean?”
Ask any athlete or successful business person and they will tell you that preparation is far more profitable than an event itself.
Networking is not a haphazard thing where you just show up and start mingling.
You’re going to have a lot of opportunities to talk with a lot people in a very short period of time. You must make good use of your opportunities.
That means you have to plan so that you make the best of the networking event.
Your preparation ought to include:
- Knowing what your message is.
- Knowing who your message is for.
- Knowing who will be at the event that you want to meet?
- Knowing what you want from them before you meet them (that does not mean a sale).
- Defining what you want out of the event.
Preparation is the key to success when you network. Very rarely do things happen by accident. I’m always looking for that one person in the room I need to meet as fast as possible.
One of the networking events I was invited to was put on by KOBE Government Contractors Alliance in Washington, DC.
These small businesses are government contractors who are seeking more opportunities with the Federal government.
The guest speaker was Antonio Doss.
Mr. Doss is the Washington, DC District Director for the Small Business Administration.
He is also good friends with my mentor and friend, Tim Kerin who was also at this event.
Tim is a successful 25+ year business owner of seven multi-million dollar businesses and he’s also the SBA Emerging Leaders class facilitator for the Washington, DC area and works in this program for Mr. Doss.
By dropping Tim’s name while he was in the room to Mr. Doss I was able to immediately create instant credibility.
The key to great networking is to leverage your message and create opportunities for yourself and others.
As you will learn later in the article, I didn’t just talk with Mr. Dobbs and leave it in the room.
I also had the opportunity to meet George Chunkau Mui with the US Department of Commerce and we had a very interesting conversation. So much so that he wanted my business card to learn more about my blog and my message.
Showing up is only one part of networking success. The most influential part is preparing for networking success and knowing what you want and what you will do after the event.
If you don’t know what you want out of the event you’ll leave empty handed.
What Business are You “Really” In?
So you’ve decided that you know what you want out of the event and now it’s time to make the magic happen when it starts.
I’m not the kind of guy that just sits around and waits for people to come to me. I’m proactive, not reactive.
Never, ever, just go straight to your table, sit down and wait for people to come to you.
Starting the conversation is half the battle, right?
Most events have exhibits, so why not start there.
Many of my conversations start by talking with exhibitors.
It’s amazing how many people stand around and listen to the conversation.
Some who are listening will inevitably start a conversation with me that quickly leads to my favorite question:
“What do you do?”
The best thing you can do is to not tell them what you do immediately.
Instead, this is the time to deliver your message to see if you are relevant to them or not and determine if a conversation is worth pursuing.
Time is precious and at these events there is only so much you have. So you have to work smarter, not harder.
Messaging here is everything!
When I’m asked; “What do you do?”
My answer is always: “I help businesses discover what business they are really in.”
At this point, they are either getting it or they are not.
There is something implied in a response to the question that is relevant to them or it’s not. In either case, I know almost immediately whether to move forward or move on in a respectful manner.
Fortunately, many times I get an excited response from my new friend.
I’m looking for something along these lines:
- That’s exactly what I need.
- Tell me more.
- How do you do that?
- How did you know that’s exactly what I need?
They have now invited me to share with them because they are interested.
I have their attention.
The key to getting the attention of those who need you but don’t realize they do is to be prepared with your message.
The struggle is that many business owners and entrepreneurs have is that they have not discovered their message.
Therefore, they are inconsistent in what they share or they are not relevant to whom they are talking with.
The end result at the end of the event is they have:
- No new prospects
- No new sales
- No new influential connections
It doesn’t have to be that way. You can walk out of any event have something valuable to show for it!
Now That They are Interested in What You Do, What’s Next?
So now I’ve gotten by the age old question of “what do you do?” and there has to be a next step.
There must be a transition.
They are now curios and they’ve connected with the message and they want to know more.
What do you say next?
I love to ask a simple question that evokes a very strong emotion.
Keep in mind that not once have I yet told them what I do:
“What is your biggest problem when it comes to marketing your business or earning more sales?”
One-by-one the theme developed and I heard variations of the following:
- No one seems interested in what I do or what I have to offer.
- My website stinks and I’m sure it’s costing me money.
- I would like to be online but I don’t understand it so I ignore being there.
- I’m casually online, but I don’t ever get any business from it.
- I’m a government contractor and I don’t any reason for me to be online.
At this point, I’m quiet.
I let them do the talking and sharing.
Connecting with someone is 80% listening and 20% talking.
[Tweet “Networking is 80% listening and 20% Talking if you want new prospects”]
They still don’t know what I do, but they are informing me of how I can become relevant to them.
This allows me to tailor the rest of my message appropriately to their problems, needs, wants or desires without them wanting to run away feeling like they are just being sold.
What I hope you see is that many of us will unload on people and start telling them everything we do and then wonder why they shake our hand and we never hear from them again.
Is it possible that they don’t care what we do until we position what we do as one thing that is relevant to them?
Give the person you’re talking with the opportunity and they will tell you everything you need to know to be compelling so that they can respond to your message.
They will feel that you understand them, have heard them and want to hear from you as well.
When to Tell Them What You Do or How You Can Help Them?
You can’t rush this; let them invite you to tell them.
Trust me, they will ask you.
The person who bought my one-day bootcamp the other night said to me right before pulling out her credit card;
“Don, my business has been good the last few years but I’m missing something. The second you said you ‘help businesses discover what business you’re really in’ I knew that was the missing piece in my business.
How do you do that?”
I briefly explained that I help businesses gain clarity and a vibrant message through either a one-day bootcamp or a four to six-week bootcamp that answers the following questions:
- What are the “specific” problems you are passionate about solving?
- What are the tangible values your customers experience and how do they feel about the experience?
- What are the “specific” problems you solve for each tangible value?
- Who are you “specifically” solve each problem for (in detail)?
- How are your products or services “a” part of “a” solution?
The conversation lasted less than three minutes and her credit card was out of her wallet to purchase the one-day bootcamp.
I had no booth and no official representation.
I was just networking in the room.
In the future, I will likely have those things but it isn’t always necessary.
What About Those You’ve Networked with Who Don’t Buy immediately?
Networking isn’t about selling, although as you’ve seen that can happen and you want it to happen.
However, networking is about building relationships.
[Tweet “Networking is about building relationships, not selling people”]
Don’t just get their business card and add them to your CRM and put them in your sales funnel.
Notice I didn’t say don’t do that, I’m saying don’t “just” do that.
You may or may not see this person again and this is where taking them online can build a relationship.
I say never, ever, never miss an opportunity to provide someone value!
How Can You Give Someone Value?
Here are a few strategies you can use wherever you go to build value and earn opportunities to network deeper or earn business.
- Always get pictures with people.
- If it makes sense, do a video and promote them.
- Connect with them on the spot on social media if it’s possible.
- Always upload the pictures and videos to social media as-soon-as-possible and tag them.
- Always include them with links to their websites in your blog articles when it’s relevant.
Here are several examples from Thursday’s events of how you can do this:
Rabiah Sutton and Dr. Karen Jacobson
Rabiah Sutton is the Washington DC Managing Director for E-Women’s Network and owner of FWD Think. She invited me to attend their monthly meeting Dr. Karen Jacobson presented a message titled “The Secret Language of Success.”
Dr. Jacobson’s presentation was powerful and here is the great part; it applies to you as much as it did to me.
Here is a video I shot with her I titled “How to Breakthrough in Your Business through the Power of Words”.
I hope you’ll take a moment and absorb what she has to say in this short video as it has the power to change your business.
Check out Dr. Jacobson’s website at http://www.drkarenjacobson.com/ and learn how to become a high performer in your business.
Thank you Rabiah for your friendship and partnership!
If you’re ever want to know how to enter the Federal Contracting marketplace, Rabiah and FWD Think is who you need to talk to.
Again, I had the opportunity to connect with Antonia Doss who is the District Director for the Washington DC office of the Small Business Administration.
As we were talking I shared with him my passion and heart for business ownership as a solution to many of America’s problems. I asked him; why are we telling people to get trained for jobs in a fast-changing world where that training will become obsolete quickly over encouraging people to start their own business?
I told him about the podcast I created in April 2015 as the riots in Baltimore were ongoing.
He asked to hear it so I sent them a link to the audio Friday morning.
On Sunday he emailed me back after listening to it that he was in agreement with what I said and even validated it with a link to another article.
We have started a great conversation that could lead to many awesome things. It’s the beginning of a relationship and we’ll see where it goes. But, it has to start somewhere!
Navteca is an amazing company that has already had the privilege of working with NASA, among a number of agencies. They have created an amazing virtual reality application that only requires your phone to operate.
The applications for this product are far reaching and can benefit any business. Be sure to check them out at http://navteca.com/.
Here are the co-owners Ramon Linan and Shayna Skolnik with me:
Pictured are me and Rabiah Sutton as I wore one of their virtual reality headsets.
Mary Windham and Occasions, Inc.
Mary Windham is a member of KOBE Government Contracting Alliance and her amazing company Occasions, Inc was responsible for putting on the event last Thursday evening.
Not only was the food FANTASTIC, so was her presentation, quality of speakers and the message of the importance of networking that was backed-up by some great networking.
She personally took me by the hand and introduced me to a number of people. Thank you for the invitation Mary and for all you do!!!
Connect with Occasions Inc. on their Facebook page if you’re in the Washington DC area.
Tim Kerin and Learning Lessons in Business
Tim Kerin owns Learning Lessons in Business and is my mentor and dear friend.
Over the last six months, Tim has started several “Leaders of the Roundtable” groups with high-level entrepreneurs around DC.
His passion is to help entrepreneurs connect together, share their experiences and get the help they need from those who have been there and done that instead of spending tons of money on consultants, accounts and attorneys who can’t really offer them the practical advice they need.
If you want to learn more about Leaders of the Roundtable or if you just need an honest and helpful guide to being successful in business, visit Tim’s website at Learning Lessons in Business.
Wrapping it All Up and Networking for Real Relationships
Networking is not about getting a bunch of business cards and adding them to your real or virtual rolodex in hopes of selling something.
Networking is about creating relationships with your target market who:
- Are able, willing and ready to buy either now or in the future
- Serves the same audience you do but in a different way and create multiple streams opportunity for one another
Networking is not about what you can get, it’s about what you can give.
[Tweet “Networking is not about what you can get, it’s about what you can give.”]
Networking ought to be relevant, meaningful, inspiring and helpful to those you choose to network with.
When you attend networking events, have a plan in mind and know what you want to get out of the events you go to.
Be prepared before you go to any event to:
- Know what your message is.
- Know who your message is for.
- Know who will be at the event that you want to meet.
- Know what you want from them before you meet them.
- Define what you want out of the event.
Be prepared to create value for those you want to network with, earn business from or network with.
Never leave an event without creating opportunities and value for both you and those you meet!
That means don’t leave it all offline.
Connect with them online as well.
This article can serve as one example of how to do that by including them in your blog articles.
Your website and social media doesn’t have to be a “dead zone”. It can be a relevant, vibrant and active place where you build competency, credibility and opportunity to network and grow your business.
It all starts with your message and it grows from there.
Don’t leave your networking to just an isolated event.
If you know your audience through your message you can, in turn, connect online individually with each one, right where they are at (LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook) and continue to deliver value for them.
Don’t stop there… engage with their content.
If they have a blog, engage with them there through the comments and share it to your social media with meaningful introductions to their blog.
Like, comment or Tweet their social posts.
Show them you’re worthy of engaging with them and that you’re relevant to their problems, needs or desires; or with their network’s problems, needs or desires.
Then watch happens when you combine your offline world with your online world.
It may just shock you!
If you don’t feel you have a relevant, compelling or meaningful message either in person or on your website or social media…
Learn how you can create one on the Begin Here page of my website.
Or, if you want to contact me directly please feel free to do so at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to hear from you!
If you feel you learned something valuable in this article or if you have a question, please engage with me below in the comments and let’s discuss.
I had an amazing time leading a bootcamp with a company in the Washington DC area all day Saturday. In nine hours they learned to see their business through the perspective of those they serve over the processes they use to serve them.
Want to learn more about my one-day messaging bootcamps that can change your business forever?