Intentional Networking

March 15, 2017

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How many of you receive this same email two or three times a day:

"Hello, we have 24,683 qualified (insert technology name here) leads just ready for you close, please contact me ASAP to see how we can help you close more business!"

It must be effective at some level because someone is buying this line, but good grief, there are so many better ways to generate new leads that deliver much better outcomes. Honestly, of those 24,683 "qualified" leads, how many do you really think are valid? 2%, 1%, 0%? Probably very few.

In my experience, the best way to generate good quality leads is through intentional networking. What do I mean by "intentional networking," networking with a purpose and an outcome you are trying to achieve. It is active, not passive, and requires effort. How do you become good at intentional networking?

  1. Know your target audience - do your homework and know what type of events attract decision makers, both business AND casual events. Awards banquets, economic development seminars, trade shows and executive briefings are the types of events you want to attend.
  2. Have a purpose for being there - and have a point of view about the event that you can share with other attendees. This will encourage conversation beyond just the "hi, nice to meet you".
  3. Set a goal - If you've done your homework correctly, you know who is likely to attend the event, put them on your target list. Ask other attendees you know to make introductions for you, and make sure you know something about that person or their business that you can use as an ice breaker for the conversation. Use LinkedIn or Facebook to see if any of your connections know those targets and use that as your entry point.
  4. SHOW UP! - this might be the hardest part. Make sure you make arrangements for family or personal commitments that may interfere with this event so that you don't have to bow out last minute.

The number one characteristic that I see from successful networkers is that they show up, they make the effort to be at events where potential customers will be, especially at non-work related events, and they execute. They don't leave without that business card, that meeting invite, that lunch plan or whatever was on their list that day. They are relentless!

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Since changing my strategy just over two years ago, I've added dozens of net new customers, engaged with multiple strategic partners and closed millions of dollars worth of net new business...

Like many others, for a long time I struggled with how to get started, where should I go, who should I be talking to, how do I get invited to these events? It's not as hard as you think, here are a few suggestions on how to get started.

  1. Join local business organizations - Join your local chamber of commerce, economic development organization, or other business associations. They host dozens of events every year where you have access to business leaders. Be prepared to pay a fee to be a member, but use that as your driver to get a return on that investment.
  2. Join a non-profit board - I can't stress this enough, make sure it is something you are personally passionate about, don't just join a board to join a board! These folks need your full attention and don't have time for slackers. Many executives fill board positions because they have a passion for philanthropy as they progress in their careers, and its their way of giving back to a cause they care about personally.
  3. Identify different leadership development programs in your area - these typically have some expense associated with them, however, the ROI is boundless if you invest the time and energy to participate fully. You will meet dozens of people outside your circle of business and personal associates, opening up new doors for opportunity.
  4. Attend social events open to the public - art walks, concerts, festivals, etc., many of which are free, and great opportunities to meet people in a relaxed environment.
  5. Out kick your coverage! - Go for the elephant in the room, you might only end up with the gazelle, but don't sell yourself short. Aim for the stars!

Again, be intentional with your efforts. Set specific goals to achieve and pivot when they are not being met. Networking is just as much and art as it is a science, be prepared to use both strategies simultaneously to be effective. Since changing my strategy just over two years ago, I've added dozens of net new customers, engaged with multiple strategic partners and closed millions of dollars worth of net new business.

Prior to taking on this new strategy, I was the typical passive networker. I would wait for people to approach me, or wait for someone to make an introduction to a prospect. In most cases, neither of those happened, and I would go home empty handed. My prospecting was unsuccessful, we weren't partnering well and we sure as heck weren't getting new revenue streams. Now, with specific targets in mind, I take the role of the aggressor and seek out the people I want to meet, and have a compelling story for them upon introduction. As an introvert by nature, this can be difficult, however, once you execute a few times, it gets much easier.

Following through with these activities does mean you have to sacrifice personal time with friends and family, therefore, balance these efforts appropriately otherwise, you'll be living in a van down by the river!

(This article is reposted from Dave Baxter's LinkedIN)

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