By Nikki Mendez, Director of Membership
A couple of years ago, when I was in the financial services industry, I would contact small business owners to ask them a lot of questions. One question that I always came back to was, "What is the best advertising you do?" Hands down, the answer was always, "Word of mouth."
Quality, detail, customer service, and pricing are all very important when a consumer chooses a business. However, as Jeffrey Gitomer notes in his book Little Black Book of Connections, "All things being equal, people want to do business with their friends. All things being not quite so equal, people STILL want to do business with their friends." Think about that – two businesses, two great products or services, one business owner is your friend. Who are you most likely to refer to someone else?
So how are you making connections? How do you use networking events as an opportunity to get your name and reputation out there? How are you getting that much-coveted word of mouth advertising?
Here are a few suggestions:
1. Be yourself. You are who you are. You are the face of your business. This alone could be the one thing that differentiates you from others, especially in industries where the market is saturated. Different consumers work with different individuals (or not) because of emotions, vibes, and – yes – connections that they make. NOTE WELL: If you do not like who you are – CHANGE if you want to stay in business! People pick up on this vibe as well!
2. Be prepared. Do you carry enough business cards, brochures, and fliers? Do you have a list of open-end questions to ask people you meet at networking events? Do you have reminders of conversations you had with people you previously met and can follow up on? If not, you may be asking yourself if the return on your networking is worth it. Add value to your experience, be ready!
3. Be a good listener. You don't have to do all of the talking. In fact, you'll probably learn more about the other person's needs and wants (or if this may not be the connection you want) by doing the listening. There's an old saying for this: "You have two ears and one mouth. Do twice as much listening as talking!"
4. Be courteous. Contrary to the popular belief of many a sales training, not everyone is a prospect for your products and services. Maybe not ever, maybe not now, but just about EVERYONE can be a connection to your business (recall "word of mouth" advertising). If you feel it's time to move on to speak with someone else, politely excuse yourself. And try not to take away from others' opportunity to network. If you'd like to have a longer discussion with someone, schedule a coffee or lunch date (translation – appointment!).
Use these B's to get an A in networking!