How to Avoid the 3 Most Common Challenges Every Small Business Owner Encounters by Mike Raber - Part Two
Probably one of the most over looked ways to generate leads is through networking.
Networking is a contact sport. It takes work to turn a contact into a lead. Business owners will attend a networking event in hopes of finding new business or contacts. Yet will often fail to have a desired outcome before they get there. This is a big mistake.
An example might be a financial advisor thinking, “I’m going to the event tonight and will meet three people between the ages of 45 and 60 who have at least $100,000 to invest.” Or, “I’m going to set three appointments with people who want me to help them prepare a financial plan.” If you know your ideal outcome, you will know what types of questions to ask when talking with people.
Many people will go to an event and try to get as many cards as possible, or they may just pick out a couple people and talk to them the entire time. In these cases, they could leave without making any actual contacts at all. Conversely, other people leave networking events with multiple new contacts or may have set appointments before they leave the event.
The most important key to networking is to ask people questions. In negotiation, there is a saying: The person who talks first loses! In networking, the same holds true. The next time you're at a networking event, try to learn four to seven new things about each person you speak with specifically regarding his or her business.
When it comes to business cards, I have found there are two common mistakes people make at networking events. Some will treat their business cards like they're made of gold and hesitate to give them out. There is also the person who pushes their cards into the hand of anyone who has a hand. Warning: Don’t let this be you! Being selective with handing out your cards is always an effective approach.
Whenever I go to a networking event or meeting, before I even enter the room, I think, “Why am I here and what is my desired outcome? What type of client am I looking for? How many appointments do I want to make?” Upon entering, I first scan the room and see if there is anyone who immediately matches the criteria for my goals. Then I move around the room and ask people questions that will aid me in determining if they match those requirements.
Don't just go to events to find your business’s new leads or clients. Instead, think of the needs of other people you know. Share which businesses would best fit their specific need. Additionally, seek people whose businesses would complement what you're doing. Find your power partners. A power partner is someone or a business who is a perfect fit for your business.
An example would be a real estate agent meeting a lender or a personal trainer meeting a nutritionist. When talking with someone at a networking event, ask yourself the following questions: “Do I know anyone this person may be able to help?” “Does this person have a need that I can service?” “Would this person make a great advocate for my business?” “Could this person become a good power partner?” Try to limit conversations to a few minutes. This way, if there isn't a good fit, you can politely excuse yourself and move to the next person. If there is a fit, then try to set an appointment for a later time.
Tip: When booking the appointment, only give a few times of availability to meet; otherwise you'll give the impression that you're not in demand.
Once you're in the appointment, ask open-ended questions. Some examples of open-ended questions are, “How long have you been an accountant?” or, “What is your ideal client like?” Then spend as much time as possible learning about the other person and what they do. Continue to listen for their wants or needs. Last, send a personal note expressing how you enjoyed talking with them and how you look forward to learning more about what they do.