NETWORKING >> Each section contains key Action Items located within the downloadable Action Guide >> Click to Download Action Guide.
Did you know that the energy put out by a normal light bulb is equal to the energy put out by a laser beam? A laser has a very tight beam and is very strong and concentrated. A light bulb, on the other hand, releases light in many directions, so the light is comparably weak and diffuse. The difference between the two allows the laser, with focused energy, to have the power to do very fine and delicate surgery, artistic etching, as well as play the broad, full sounds of an orchestral overture.
Does that sound like the kind of precision you want from your networking
activities? I’ve found that there are three ways to bring your networking
efforts into laser-sharp focus to build your business:
1. When talking about what you do at networking groups, focus on one aspect of your business at each meeting.
Remember, your goal in the networking process should be to train a sales force, not close a sale. Therefore, each time you have an opportunity, you should focus on a specific product or service which you offer, and then train people how to refer you in this area.
Too often we try to cover everything we do in one introduction. When you
have the chance to be in front of the same group of folks regularly, don’t
make the mistake most people make by painting with too broad a brush.
Laser-sharp networking calls for you to be very specific and detailed about
one thing at a time.
Sometimes I hear businesspeople say they have a “full service” business. I
think saying this alone is a mistake; full service doesn’t really mean
anything to people who don’t understand the details of all the services you
offer. Instead, talk about what you specialize in or what you’re best known
for. There’s something that sets you apart from the competition—let others
know about that aspect of your business.
2. When asking for referrals from your networking partners, be very specific about what you want.
Identify specific people to whom you wish to be introduced. Personal
introductions can open doors for you that would’ve otherwise remained
closed. If you don’t know the name of the manager of another business
you wish to meet, find out—then ask specifically for a referral to that
Give vivid examples of the type of referral you wish to receive. I’d
recommend reviewing a case study from a current client or past
successful referral with your networking partners. Define what the needs
were of that prospect and how your business met those needs. Be as
detailed as you can be so your networking partners can really visualize
the experience and have a clear picture of how you were able to meet
this person’s needs. This will give them clarity and focus when they
meet another person with the same needs.
3. Meet with each person in your networking circle one on one.
Do this away from the general networking session, to deepen the relationship and dial-up the focus of your networking efforts. I can’t stress enough the importance of deepening the relationships with your networking partners. To really maximize the energy of the partnerships you’re forging with your referral sources, it’s critical to spend time with them. Just going to a social function or sitting side-by-side at some type of conference or networking event isn’t enough. You have to be face-to-face, talking and exploring commonalities and complimentary aspects of each of your businesses to be as powerful a referral source for each other as you can be.
In our increasingly fast-paced society and business climate, it’s important to take your time to get to know your referral sources and cultivate long-lasting and mutually profitable relationships. It’s true that “time is money,” but I also know that without investing a good chunk of your time in one-on-one relationships, you won’t have the kind of strong and deeply focused referral sources you need for successful word-of-mouth marketing.
By focusing your efforts like a laser beam, you’ll fine-tune your networking message and increase your results.
Is there a specific type of networking organization to which these
These techniques apply to most networking organizations, but the one to
which they best apply is a strong-contact network or business development network—groups like BNI, which meet every single week. The more specific you are the easier it is for them to hang their hat on some concept of what you do, and the easier it is for them to refer you—because you’ve educated them over time.
Do you have any success stories that illustrate that principle: “specific is terrific”?
Twenty years ago I was at a BNI meeting where a person, who was a printer that specialized in business forms, stood up at a meeting and said, “I’ve never really mentioned that I really love designing forms—not just printing them. I’ve brought in a couple of examples of the work that I do in designing forms.”
One of the members at the meeting stood up and said, “I was literally
going to go down the street after this meeting to some other company and
have them do a design for me so that I could take it to you to get printed.
I had no idea that you also design forms. I’ve got a referral for you today,
and I wouldn’t have had that if you hadn’t stood up and described, very
specifically, this aspect of your business.”
The more laser-specific you are, the more likely you are to have people
remember aspects of your products and services and be more effective at
Do you have any success stories of an individual who asked for a
specific introduction to a person by name?
I had someone at a networking meeting stand up and say, “I’m looking for
someone who knows…” and then he named a real estate agent who lived
in Southern California. This particular agent was the number one real
estate agent for the franchise that he was referring to for about the last 10
years. He continued, “I’m looking for someone who might know this
individual because I can’t get past the secretary to talk to the agent.”
The person who sponsored him into this networking event stood up and
said, “John, I know that agent. She’s my sister-in-law.” He said, “My
goodness, your sister in law? Why didn’t you ever tell me that?” And she
said, “Why didn’t you ever ask?”
You have to be specific about what you’re looking for and sometimes just
putting it out there to your networking partners is all it takes—that laser specificity rings a bell with people. They’ll say, “Gee, I know somebody who
knows that person.” Or, “I know somebody who can help that person.”
It’s really a great argument for being part of one of those strong-contact networks where you have that opportunity to be face-to-face with one another on a regular basis so you can bring specific requests to them, week after week.
Being the founder of the world’s largest strong-contact network, it would
be hard for me to argue with you on that one. I certainly agree. But diversity is key in all your networks. Participating in chamber groups and service clubs is also good. But no doubt, the laser-specific technique is most applicable to groups like BNI, where you’re meeting on a regular basis.
The third technique you’ve recommended was to meet with each person in your networking circle one-to-one. Do you have a specific list of topics you recommend you cover when meeting one-to-one?
In the book I co-authored with Robert Davis, Business By Referral, I recommend “GAINS Exchange.” It’s an acronym that stands for: goals,
accomplishments, interests, networks and skills. What I recommend at the one-to-one is that you sit down and you do an exchange of information, of your GAINS. At first blush you might look at that and say, “That’s not asking for any business.” No, it’s not, but it is all about building the relationship.
The more I get to know you, the more I build a relationship, and the better the chance we establish trust. And knowing particularly your areas of interests and skills and goals gives me an opportunity to make a connection with you. It even helps you find overlapping interests that help to build the relationship over time.
ACTION ITEMS: Complete the Action Items in your Action Guide.
Explain what separates you from your competition.
Describe how you met a customer’s need or plan to do so.
Identify three potential customers, partners or others you want to be referred to and who might refer you to them from within your network.
1) Referred by:
2) Referred by:
3) Referred by:
Explain what you want the referring person to convey to your potential customers or other individuals.
Now that you know what you want your referrals to say, set up an opportunity for a one-to-one and get your message to each of them, BUT only if the relationship has been cultivated and you have developed credibility with them. Never skip the “farming” process of a relationship.