Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9 pm ET. This is excerpted from my interview with @TishTimes. Tish Times is on a mission to bring a sense of purpose and authenticity back to networking. She works with companies to amplify their business and increase profits through harnessing the power of networking, without feeling sleazy or salesy. A corporate executive-turned-entrepreneur, Tish combines proven strategies with inter-personal awareness to create effective networking plans that produce results while still feeling natural. As a Networking Strategist and coach, Tish is a frequent speaker for professional associations and conferences regarding networking, business development, workplace improvement, communication and camaraderie, confidence building, assertiveness in the workplace and more. For more info, visit tishtimes.com
SmallBizLady: How is networking a part of the sales process?
Tish Times: Often people see networking as a necessary evil; something that we MUST do in order to find new contacts, something that takes us away from doing ‘real work’, or something we dread because we are so uncomfortable meeting strangers. I suggest that we instead see networking as an entry point for our business. If you want long-term relationships that feed your business, as opposed to transactional sales, you must network and network well. Networking puts you in the position to connect with people with whom you want to do business and allows you cultivate a relationship from the beginning. When done appropriately, it is a great way to develop a long-term client!
SmallBizLady: You talk about a ‘pre-game routine’ for networking. What do you mean?
Tish Times: Walking into a networking event with absolutely no plan can cause even the most seasoned networker to miss opportunities. The Pre Game Routine is systematic behavior that helps networkers to be prepared for each interaction. I believe that proper preparation prevents poor performance. Some “Pre-Game” tasks are:
- Finding out if your ideal clients are likely to attend
- Checking the online membership of structured organizations to see who you need to meet
- Doing some social media reconnaissance to learn about those with whom you want to connect
These simple tasks are game changers.
SmallBizLady: How important are the first 5 seconds of a networking interaction?
Tish Times: You must be able to articulate value – clearly – and concisely and in a compelling way or you miss the moment. You must be so engaging and compelling that you leave a mind/heart mark. (Cause them to remember you.) When you call to follow up, the potential client should quickly recognize your name.
Networkers should be able to succinctly articulate a powerful engagement statement; a statement that will cause prospects to want to hear more, know more, and anticipate the follow up call. Networking IS emotional. You must create attraction within 5 seconds of the point of impact.
SmallBizLady: How many contacts should I make at a networking event?
Tish Times: Plan your goals and stick to your plan. At a typical event, 3-5 contacts might be all you can handle. This may not seem like a lot of contacts, but it’s really more than enough when you’re talking to the right people. (That’s why it’s so important to have a networking strategy.) Attending two events per week equals 10 events per month, or 30 to 50 new contacts every 30 days. Doing this over about two months–while being faithful to your follow up routine, you’ll soon have more than enough high-quality contacts to keep you busy.
SmallBizLady: How important is confidence to networking?
Tish Times: You’d be amazed how much more confident, assertive, and certain you will be when you develop a strong knowledge base around the service or product you offer or the company for whom you work. I often ask my clients:
- What are you doing on your own time for professional development?
- What industry associations have you joined?
- What trade magazines or journals are you reading?
When you come across as knowledgeable AND sure of yourself your ideal clients are attracted to you. When you engage people at an event, regardless of your education or experience, if you are confident, people generally are more apt to spend time talking to you. Confidence is attractive.
SmallBizLady: Why do sales professionals have a hard time filling their pipeline?
Tish Times: I believe the biggest challenge for most people who network is little follow up, inconsistent follow up, or no follow up. Some of the reasons why follow up falls through the cracks are:
- Lack of organization
- No “post networking routine”
- No system to ‘ping’ you on the next step
- No effective database or customer management system
- Not making ‘lead/prospect management’ a part of your weekly routine
- No system
Most people who don’t follow up within 24 hours of an event likely won’t, that’s because when they get back in the office, they jump back into their routine.
Always Always Always follow up with the people you meet at a networking event. A simple email the next day telling them what a pleasure it was to meet them and thanking them for their time is great, but that’s not follow up. It is a nice and necessary gesture, but this alone will not build a relationship. The better you follow up and nurture relationships the quicker you will fill up your pipeline and the more money you will make.
SmallBizLady: What is the connection between networking and net worth?
Tish Times: When you are a Confident Networker, you will elevate the circles in which you network. Those who elevate their networking circles have more meaningful conversations with their ideal potential clients which could help them make more money through a larger and more qualified pool of contacts. Networkers with a networking system network well and more frequently compared to those who are less confident and play it safe. The Association of Psychological Science, in a recent study showed that those willing to take more risks in networking tend to see an increase in revenue.
SmallBizLady: How should we track income from networking?
Tish Times: In order to determine ROI on networking I start by asking questions like:
- How many events do you attend each month?
- How much does your average event cost you?
- How many potential clients did you engage?
- How many clients did you obtain from each event?
If you network, I recommend that you use a CRM that allows you to track every phase of your interaction with your ideal potential client. The CRM you use does not have to be expensive, but it must allow you to create tasks and next actions. Otherwise, you may drop the ball and miss opportunities.
SmallBizLady: What’s a great way to network with your ideal clients?
Tish Times: When I speak, I sometimes get the question, “I am in a field where it isn’t as easy to find clients through networking. I don’t know how to locate my ideal clients what is the best way for me to find them?” To this question I answer – create your own event. I don’t mean a huge event with dozens of attendees. You can invite 2-4 people with whom you would like to connect to a ‘networking coffee’ giving them a chance to meet each other as well as interact with you. This is actually how I started my business and I have been holding monthly events for over 5 years now. The majority of my clients came from attending my monthly events.
SmallBizLady: How can networkers stand out at events?
Tish Times: Be different. Ask good questions and take the time to listen to the answers. (A “good” question is one that gets the person talking about herself while helping you understand her business. It’s not an opportunity for you to vet this person as a client.) Prospective clients will be able to determine your trustworthiness based on the questions you ask. Take your time – ask the right questions. You have to earn trust before you can earn business. Only 1 out of 3 of professionals do this well.
SmallBizLady: Why not just network as we always have?
Tish Times: The old cliché, if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten, is spot on. If your business is highly profitable and you are making all the money you desire, carry on. If you, however, realize that you may be leaving money on the table, you may want to change things. Even small tweaks like creating systems to follow up will make a huge impact on your revenue. Most see networking as a social activity where you make friends who sometimes turn into clients. I am a firm believer that you can have buddies and profit. Change the way you network and you will change your business.
SmallBizLady: What is the one thing you want our audience to understand?
Tish Times: Take control of the way you present yourself. Before you leave your office/house.
- What you want to accomplish.
- How many contacts you intend to make?
- What type of prospect are you hoping to meet?
- What level of decision maker are you focusing on?
- What do you want to walk away with?
Arm yourself with the information that will give you the upper hand against your competitors. Most sales professionals and networkers have pockets of success. The difference between the profitable and successful professional and others is systematic behavior. Decide what you want to accomplish then put a system in place to attain your goal consistently and see your business grow from profitable networking.
If you found this interview helpful, join us on Wednesdays 8-9 pm ET; follow @SmallBizChat on Twitter. Here’s how to participate in #SmallBizChat: http://bit.ly/1hZeIlz
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