In this guest blog, Marcus Cauchi, writes about how he has learned to network effectively. Marcus is the leader of the Reading NRG Group and you can see him in action there on the third Tuesday each month.
Is Your Networking a Series of Random Acts of Hope?
Do you have a plan of action when you go to a networking event?
Do you know what you want to achieve and who you want to meet?
Do you attend networks and do little or nothing to engage with other attendees or members between meetings?
Do you spend a fortune on breakfasts, lunches and dinners, G&Ts, coffees and beer but have little or no business to show for it?
Because you are probably behaving more like a butterfly than a bee. You flit from one unsatisfying social engagement to another without any purpose or direction, you don't engage, you may be trying to sell to a room of needy, desparate and skint people without ever listening or asking the right questions. And chances are you are doing structured 121's with the people who attended to explore if you could become regular referral partners.
Do you have a handful of referral partners who you meet on a regular basis to exchange contacts, set up appointments for one another, support one another with intelligence, hold each other accountable or act as part of their business support network?
Probably not. Few people do. I know I didn't for the first few years and as a result I ran around like a headless chicken and my wife Suzanne became a networking widow. 30 networking events a month, credit cards up to the hilt paying for memberships, event fees, bar bills and lunches nad very little to show for it.
Then I got smarter.
Who to Partner With
Now I actively seek out people who I like and trust, or have been referred to me by trusted sources, and aim to establish a strong personal relationship first. I look for people who sell to the same audience or target market that I do but we don't compete directly. For my sales & sales management training and coaching business, complementary disciplines include banks, accountants, marketing consultancies, outsourced sales/sales management/lead generation companies, CRM vendors, recruiters who are local to me. If you are one of these or know someone who operates in the Reading/Thames Valley/South East of England area I'd love to hear from you/them as I've just oved my business and I'm currently looking for another 2 referral partners to work with.
The process I go through involves gaining a mutual understanding of each other as humanbeings first. Then we establish a strong understanding of each other's business, our respective target markets and we teach each other how to identify, qualify and do each other's 30-second commercial to our mutual satisfaction, so we are making introductions and setting up introductions properly and without ambiguity or errors.
We meet regularly. Every 6-8 weeks. We identify what we are each looking for and then produce a long list of people in our contact base who might fit the bill. This list might be 20 or 30 people long. Then we go through the list and refine it until we have a shortlist of 10-15 who we each call from our own contact base. We make the introductions there and then and attenpt to book time in our contacts' diaries for our referral partner to meet.
We establish a clear up front agreement about the what our contact can expect form the meeting and give them permission at any point to end it or to say "no" and as partners we understand our job is to protect the relationship of the person referring us so we cna rest easy, knowing that we won't be suffering from referral remorse (when you make a referral and regret having made it).
We commit to keeping each other up dated as to progress on each of the referrals. We let the other person know how they went, what went right or wrong. And we keep refining our understanding over time so we get better at referring.
Once you have momentum and have built that trust and experience up, a referral partnership meeting can easily generate between 7-10 qualified, warm, personal introductions to decision makers in our respective target markets per meeting.
If you have 4-8 of these referral partnerships going live and you meet every 6-8 weeks you can easily have between 40-200 meetings booked into your diary each year. If you do the maths it can get as high as 693 introductions per year (yes I did say six hundred and ninety three) with 8 referral partners if you're meeting every 6 weeks with 10 meetings booked per engagement. That is more than enough for you NEVER to have to cold call again isn't it?
So why wouldn't do this for your business? Masochism, apathy or sloth ar ethe only legitimate reasons for not doing it.
Make the decision to get your act together. If you'd like to learn how to do this effectively, you can contact me if you're in the South East, ideally with easy access to Reading where my office is based, or speak to the Referral Insititute for their methodology which is pretty robust too.
I'd be delighted to explore becoming your referral partner if you sell to SMEs and corporates, preferably in the the technology, media and professional services sectors, if you're based in or near Reading, Basingstoke, Maidenhead, Camberley, Bracknell, Wokingham, Windsor or other towns nearby.
And if you happen to know anyone who is frustrated that their networking isn't working, they struggle to fill their sales pipeline or their pipeline is weak and inconsistent, they have to sell to survive or they have a sales team that is complaining they haven't got enough leads consistently, their marketing isn't delivering the prospects they need to hit their targets, do please pass on my details (07515 937221 or firstname.lastname@example.org). better still, call me and we can discuss the person you plan to refer me to, we can establish the groundrules by which I will operate to protect your relationships and I will educate you in my process by way of a thank you. Is that fair?