Woody Allen said, “Eighty percent of life is showing up.”
He also said “Seventy percent of success in life is showing up.” No matter how you slice it, showing up counts! That’s one of the best networking tips around.
At holiday time, you have an exceptional opportunity to meet new people at a very social and happy time of year. There are all sorts of networking events to attend. Invite someone you’d like to know better to go along with you. They will have a chance to meet new people, and you both win.
Here are some tips for building your Business Referral Network, which I touched on in last month’s Back in the Black Newsletter: So You Don’t Like to Network (Nov. ’08).
Business Referral Networking
Networking Prep Work
Just as you would prepare for a business meeting, you need to prepare to attend a networking event.
- Put monthly attendance on your calendar and pay for the event. By paying in advance, you create a commitment. (If you haven’t paid, you might decide not to show up. Give yourself incentive to network.)
- Set a goal for each networking event. If there’s someone in particular you want to meet, make sure you get introduced. Or perhaps you want to take away specific business tips from the speaker or meet a client.
- Travel solo. If you go with someone you know, split up, so that you both can meet new people. You can’t put referral networking into place if you stay with the people you already know.
- Plan your personal introduction. How will you introduce yourself in a way that’s intriguing and will make people want to hear more about what you do? Create a short, five-second “blurb” that engages your audience. (For example, a colleague of mine is a content strategist, writer, and editor. Her intro blurb is: “Making the world a better place, one word at a time.” It’s light-hearted, easy to understand, and opens the door to a conversation … and maybe a referral!)
- Prepare insightful questions. Always have a few questions prepared to begin a conversation. You could ask if other attendees have been to this business networking event before, or have heard the speaker before, or you could comment on something in the news – just stay away from politics.
Look for friendly conversations, introduce yourself, and join the group.
- Move graciously from group to group. Tell people how nice it was to meet them, and let them know there are some other folks you need to meet. (They’ll understand. They’re at the event for the same reason you are.)
- Look for a person standing alone and talk to them. The person standing alone is often uncomfortable. Work your referral networking magic by making him or her feel comfortable. Who knows? The man or woman standing alone could be your next client.
- Ask, “How can I help you?” Only ask if you mean it. People don’t expect this question, and sometimes they don’t have an answer. At a minimum, you will now be viewed as a referral marketing resource.
Proactive Networking Actions
- Have a system for organizing your referral marketing contacts – where you met them, what you agreed to send or to do, and when to follow up. Be sure to follow up with what you promised.
- Send a hand-written note. It only takes a few minutes and your personal touch will be remembered long after the business-networking event.
- Set realistic goals: This means committing to meeting two or three really good people and finding out about them. I like to have a “substantive” conversation with only two or three people. That’s it. If the referral marketing conversation is intriguing for both of us, we make plans to meet again and continue our discussion.
Just relax and have a good time. Most people are just as uncomfortable at business referrals as you used to be. Use these tips, and you’ll be great at building your own Business Referral Network!