Identify your objectives; know precisely what you want to achieve. When you’re clear about your goals, you can explain them to others. If others understand what you need, they will be better able to help. The clearer you are about your goals the more likely you will be to create a plan that will accomplish them.Before I attend meetings or events, I set goals. I decide what I would like to accomplish. Since meetings usually have specific agendas, I identify what I would like to achieve. Defining my goals helps me when I finally meet with people; it helps my focus by subconsciously keeping on track.
For events, my goals usually break down into three broad categories. In most cases, I want to either:
- Meet new people.
- Deepen existing relationships.
- Accomplish specific tasks.
Then, I set more specific goals, which I call my intentions. For example, if I go to a two-hour event, one of my intentions will be to meet three new people. If I plan to go to an event, where I know a lot of people, my intention may be to deepen my relationships with three people. Frequently, I have a number of intentions. They may be to meet new people, deepen relationships, accomplish specific tasks, or to generate a certain amount of business. In an hour and a half meeting connecting with three people is a realistic goal.
When you set goals to get referrals and build relationships, it’s easy to be diverted. Other opportunities frequently come up that look more promising. I find that I’m more successful when I create a plan, develop a strategy, and stick with it. For example:
· Step 1: Define my targets. Identify who are the most likely people to buy my services.
· Step 2: Select an approach. Send a post card to 50 potential customers informing them about my availability and the wonders my services can provide. I try to link my services to particular events of interest to them.
· Step 3: Set targets. Try to connect with a specific number of people. If I attend an event, I make it my goal to meet and schedule meetings with 5 new prospects to discuss my services.
· Step 4: Follow through. When they show interest, I promptly follow up because as time passes, they may not remember me. If I make and confirm appointments when I am still fresh in their minds, they are usually more responsive.
CREATING A STRATEGY
When you attend a networking meeting or event, devise a clear strategy ¾ whatever it is. Know exactly what you want to accomplish and create a plan to see it through.
In devising your strategy:
· Reaffirm your objectives. Identify what you want to achieve in both the short and long term.
· Set financial targets. Decide how much business you hope to generate from each meeting or event. If you don’t make financial projections, you can’t judge whether attending the meeting or event was successful.
· Select your targets. Decide how many people you want to meet and what connections you wish to make. Then identify who they are. What you have in common with them?
· Plan how you will approach them. Practice exactly what you plan to say until you can rattle it off in 10 to 15 seconds. Be direct, clear, and brief.
· Have brochures, handouts, business cards, and other supporting materials to distribute. People are busy. Show concern for their time by giving them your card and materials as asking if you can call them to follow up.
· Be able to expand on your 10 to 15 second opening if asked and to answer all questions.
· Prepare specific questions that you can ask to start conversations. For example, “Why are you here? Is this the first time you have attended? Do you need or know of people who need a strategic business consultant? What other good networking events have you enjoyed?” To get specific referrals, be specific.
During events, look at name tags. Find out what kind of business is he or she in? Would this person be a good connection for you, your customers, clients, or people in your network? Besides looking for yourself, think who could help your customers, clients, and network members. Networking is a reciprocal arrangement: if you help others, they will usually help you. Frequently, you have to start the ball rolling by referring business to them. Usually, when you do it often enough, it pays dividends.
You never know what connections exist, how far people’s networks extend. So if, at an event, you see that someone who is a painting contractor, don’t automatically disqualify her. If you can’t connect directly through her business, you may fit with a member of her network. At an event, I actually met a painting contractor who was involved with an organization that was looking for speakers. We spoke, hit it off, and I was invited to speak to his group. So don’t make too many assumptions.