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Steps to Attracting Clients: 1. make your networking pay

In the last few years many businesses have considered the ability to tread water and maintain a constant flow of revenue as a success. Now, they are focusing on growth. With this in mind over a series of seven articles we will be looking at the best ways of attracting new clients; be it through networking, communication, pricing and positioning. The first in our series looks at networking. It can fill even the most confident entrepreneur with dread but whether you are a newly formed business or an established SME, networking is a tried and tested method of growing your business.

So what is networking really about?

Networking is about making connections and growing your circle of influence.  A savvy networker understands that if they put the time and effort into creating an enviable little black book of contacts it will deliver the desired result; clients.  Think of it like a tree, where from seed it branches out, expanding and growing. Do a great job for one client and they may tell four or five people. If your network of influence contains one hundred businesses or individuals and they each tell one person about your services or products, just imagine how much your business could grow.

So what do you need to do to create an effective network that only too happily tells the right type of people about you and your business?

Creating your plan

It has been suggested that 80% of business owners do not have a networking plan, yet the business owners who do generate approximately 90% of their business from it. So how do they do it? Firstly, they spend some time writing a plan. This may only be a page or two in length but it clearly states the objectives of the networking activity over the next 12 months. The plan identifies from which tier of their network they want to get future business, how much time they are willing to invest and how they are going to grow their future pipeline of desirable contacts.  You also have to think about a budget. As a small business owner you will probably belong to a number of networking clubs, attend breakfast meetings and follow up with coffee. All of this can take a hit on your bank balance. By building the cost into your business plan – and consequently your networking plan – it won’t come as a surprise when you are balancing the books at the end of the year.

Who is in who is out?

The first question to ask yourself is what do you want your network to do for you?

  1. Brainstorm all the people you know. At this stage don’t let your judgement enter the equation. Use your address book, your mobile phone, social networks like Linkedin and Twitter along with your memory.
  2. Once you have your list leave it for a couple of days: You will find that your brain will be on constant boil and names will pop into your head. Jot them down on a pad or straight into a document on your phone so you can keep track, even when you’re on the move.
  3. You then need to start to categorise people into groups. Kathy McAfee in her book Networking Ahead calls this the Value Chain;
    1. Contacts you know well who could invest in your services or buy your products. Add into this category family and friends as well as those who have worked with you like ex-colleagues and suppliers.
    2. Contacts you know well, will speak well of you and can connect you to other people but do not want to purchase your services.
    3. Contacts you have met once or a few times but at this stage you unable to decide if they are someone who can and wants to purchase your services/products.
    4. Contacts you would like to have in your network but you do not know.
    5. Now that you have your lists strip out the duds.  The duds are the contacts that cannot help you to further your networking objectives at this stage in your relationship. This doesn’t mean you are going to completely ignore them but you are going to spend minimal time trying to progress your networking goals through them.

Where to spend your time

Spend your time with the people that are going to help you advance your business. Primarily the people you know well, can buy your services and you want to work with. It’s important to get face-to-face meetings with them in order to move the relationship forward. One thing that’s vital is to leave them with a sense of confidence in you and your ability. It sounds so simple but often we remember individuals by the feelings or the impressions they left us with. A negative impression, we probably won’t work with them. Positive and assured, we’re more likely to call them back. Be that person whose calls they return.

While the to-do list above has you thinking about existing connections it’s time to start planning for tomorrow.

How can you meet your future network?

  • Try to connect with the people you are not sure about to decide which category they fall into.  If you met them at a networking event find out if they are going to attend the next one so you can further your understanding, or drop them a carefully worded email if you have their contact details. Alternatively, ask another member in your network about them to establish the type of investment you should make.
  • Look at the companies you would like to get into and see who from your network can help either to broker a meeting with the appropriate person or give you a name you could approach for a coffee.  The latter is always much harder as it’s more of a cold call but if you can use the name of the person who has given you the contact details your cold lead warms up just a bit.
  • The next group to focus on is those you haven’t yet discovered. Many years ago I worked with one of the best business coaches in the industry; she made over a million pounds a year.  The key to her success was she attended two networking meetings a week. Her goal for each meeting was to get two business cards from ‘quality’ people and without fail she would follow-up within 48 hours. If you want to reap the rewards from your network you have to be persistent and put in the effort.

 

What will make you a great networker?

In my experience there are five common traits all great networkers have. If you want to become one try these for size:

  1. Build rapport and good relationships. To do that you need to be seen and heard so show up for each event and be present and engaging.
  2. Be authentic when you meet people.
  3. Know your elevator pitch so that when you meet your target client you will be ready to go and can get across easily who you are, what you do and how they can’t work without you.
  4. Get greater mileage from your network by being a great connector. People remember the contact who introduced them to their next big client. A fruitful relationship is one that benefits both sides.
  5. Always follow-up and honour your commitments.

If you follow the above you will start to design your own networking roadmap and become one of those strategic entrepreneurs that get in front of the right people. You never know you might just become one of the 80% that generates 90% of their revenue from their network. Now that’s an easy way to grow a business.

 

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Keep an eye out next Thursday for the 2nd step in this great series of 7 articles by Carole Bozkurt.

See Step 2 here See Step 3 here See Step 4 here See Step 5 here

Share this article if you found it useful! And leave a comment in the box below. We hope to connect with you soon.

About Carole Bozkurt

** On Saturday 20 June, The Blueprint Practice is running a Sales Master Class in London, click here to find out more about it. And if you enter the code Carole in the promotional box you will get a £30 discount as a member of Women Unlimited ** Hi there, I'm Carole Bozkurt, founder of The Blueprint Practice. I’m a Visibility Strategist and I help female business owners to stand out in a crowded market and get noticed by their ideal client. Once the right connections have been made I help my clients to turn those contacts into paying clients. If you are interested in growing your business, increasing your client base and claiming your expert status then please email me directly at carole@blueprintpractice.com. Alternatively, you can contact me via my website here.

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10 comments

  1. Hey,
    Even though I am that newbie in the field of network marketing, it is my main priority to find some tips and guides to help my strategies more successful. I am so glad that I encountered this article of yours, since it gives me another new tips and guides. Thanks. 😀

    • Hi Lew

      Thank you for reading my article and also taking the time to respond. It really means a lot to me when people give feedback as I really value the opinion of Women Unlimited’s readers. I am really pleased you have found this article helpful; it’s the first one in a series of seven -the next will appear next Thursday, so I do hope you will be able to read the series and find them equally beneficial to your business. If you have any specific questions relating to your business, please do not hesitate to email me at carole@blueprintpractice.com – I am a great believer in helping people in making their businesses a success – I feel we all need support no matter what stage we are at in the life cycle of our business.

      Many thanks. Carole

  2. Great article. A couple of other points. Remember that networking is a slow burner – don’t give up if you haven’t found a client through networking after a few months. It takes time to build the relationships. Also, leave the hard sales pitch at home – ask questions and take an interest in other people’s businesses rather than pushing yours.

    • Hi Alison

      Thank you for reading my article and also your comments.

      It is really helpful to readers to have this added information; you are ‘spot on’ with your comments and I agree totally. Many thanks for highlighting theses points and I do hope you will be able to read the rest in the series – the next article is out next Thursday.

      Many thanks. Carole

  3. Hi Carole,

    This is a fantastic write-up on how to network effectively, and a great wake-up call for myself. I am in the network marketing industry where building relationships is vital and I have been a bit slack lately and have moved my networking online rather than face-to-face which is always more personal. Cheers!

    • Hi Rachel

      Thank you for your comments and very pleased that it has given you an opportunity to reflect on your approach. I have no doubt you are a great networker.

      Many thanks. Carole

  4. It is sad that a lot people have some negative thoughts about networking especially having experienced the aggressive approaches of people doing networking. The business has a lot of potential and unless we learn how to properly introduce it will it produce amazing rewards. I like your tips and I wish to learn more about it.

    • Thank you Barbara for taking the time to read my article. I am glad you found it of interest and hope you will continue to read the series – the next one is out on Thursday.

      Many thanks Carole

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