Contributed Column

Marketing 101

Effective networking for business development

by Christine Miller, Miller Consulting LLC

We’ve all heard about the power of networking. “It’s not what you know but who you know” is often repeated in business discussions, yet many networking experiences leave a negative impression.

Maybe at your last mixer you were nervous about meeting someone new, didn’t know what to say, or were ignored. Your biggest worry was the fear of coming off as too pushy.

To overcome these obstacles and produce meaningful results you will need to make a commitment of time, energy, and resources. With proper planning you will be able to acquire new clients, cross-sell other opportunities, and maintain existing clients through expanded business relationships. 

A networking action plan will get you on your way.

Define your networking goals.

What do you hope to achieve? Do you want to meet people or a specific person? Do you want to build your reputation or generate referrals? Answer these questions honestly and specifically. With measurable results you’ll be able to measure the success of your goals.

Develop a plan. Every community has a variety of organizations. Invest time and research matching your goals with events. Ask customers which events they attend and what they liked about those events.

If you want to expand your connections in new energy technologies, join an organization whose focus is on green business. Interested in entrepreneurs? Join a networking group that supports those people. Determine how many events you want to attend in a month and then plan on attending slightly more than that number. If you miss one, you’re not behind.

Be prepared.

Prepare a memorable introduction, often called an “elevator pitch.” Your introduction should include who you are and what you do. Include information that is relevant to the person you are meeting and talk about benefits, not features of your work.

Here’s an example of a bad elevator pitch. “Hi. I’m Joe Jones of Acme Corp. based in Burlington, Vt. We are a human resources company specializing in career management for business professionals.” This is a legitimate description of a company, but as an elevator pitch, it stinks. Sounds boring, doesn’t it?

Here’s a much better example for the same company. “Hi. I’m Joe Jones of Acme Corp., the state’s leading publisher of books, audio programs, and seminars for business professionals on how to manage their careers. We don’t help these folks with their business; we educate them on how to get jobs, get promoted, and become successful.”

This introduction is a description, but it’s a description of the benefits, not the features of the company. It’s also interesting and opens the door to questions and continuing the conversation.

Plan and practice your introduction.

It should last only about 20 to 30 seconds. Behavioral studies show that it takes only about five seconds for a person to decide whether or not he/she likes you, and just an additional 10 to 15 seconds to determine whether to buy something from you.

Bring your best game.

Get the most out of networking events by interacting with integrity. Be helpful and positive. Have you ever been stuck chatting with a person who laments over the state of the economy, bad weather, or all that is negative? Don’t be that person! Share your ideas and be helpful. Connect colleagues together when you can. Know a good accountant and someone who is looking for one? Make the introduction. The favor will be returned to you sometime. Respect confidentiality and listen to your new contact. Don’t scan the room looking to see if someone more important is available to meet.

This summer attend the mixers, expos, and conferences with confidence. You can’t guarantee someone else’s success, but if working with you makes a person achieve goals faster, better, and more efficiently, you’ll be a part of that individual’s winning team.

Now you just have to pitch it. •

Christine Miller is president of Miller Consulting LLC, which provides B2B plans and solutions to the sales and marketing challenges faced by small start-up to established companies. She can be reached at Chris@Millersalesconsulting; 734-5689.

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