Monday, April 29, 2013

Networking - Your Responsibilities

I had one of those "ah ha" moments recently about networking. In a nutshell here it is, it is my responsibility to equip those in my network who want to promote my business with a way to do it within their comfort zone.

Here's the rest of the story.

I was asked to present a business "challenge" to my bi-weekly networking group of 23 people. Here is the email I sent with the challenge:

My challenge centers on networking. Specifically I am looking for suggestions on how I can better improve my networking effectiveness. I know what you are thinking - not another networking question! But please read on to see why this is unique. 

It is fairly common to hear a business person state he/she needs a good real estate agent, or a payroll expert, credit card processor, lawyer, promotions guy, website, marketing,  insurance provide, or even someone to help sell or buy a business. After all there is no stigma associated when asking for any of these services. Thus, in each of the above cases we can offer up the network of experts we know and trust who can fulfill their needs. 

But how often will you hear a business owner state he/she is struggling with running their business; that he/she is overwhelmed, working ridiculously long hours, or that sales are sinking and they don’t know how to turn things around? The fact is ego, and a multitude of other forces will prevent a business owner from ever admitting they need help let alone solicit openly for a solution. They won't even tell their wives or husbands when there is a lingering problem.  The business graveyard is overflowing with businesses whose leaders were pulled down into the death whirlpool despite being thrown one ring buoy after the next. Though I know each of you (in my networking group) can spot a company in need of my business consulting services, I also know it is unrealistic for me to expect you will ever say anything to that owner or even suggest a counseling coffee meeting with me. It is sort of like telling a psych patient he is psychotic. Nobody wins. So given this reality, how should I network? What should I ask of those I meet in networking meetings who are sincere about finding ways to connect me with potential clients? I haven't figured this out which is why I now only ask for speaking referrals. That seems to be something most are more comfortable taking about.

This response from one of my strongest advocates (Daniel Mastrodonato of Payroll1) is a reinforcement that I had failed in fulfilling my responsibilities as a good networker - to make it easy for those in my group to connect me with others.

"That is a tough one because I have been pondering over that since I met you! I want to refer business to you, as you have done to me, but I fall over my words when I want to say to some of my business owners……… You need HELP and I have just the guy that can HELP!"

We all know that a personal referral is one of the most powerful marketing tools for any business.  Getting that referral requires more than just being great at what you do.  To truly leverage your network you must equip them with a script that is natural to them, that won't be awkward, or make them come across as inappropriately nosy.

Have you equipped your network with a script for how to promote your business? Are they comfortable with using it? Have they tried it in a business networking environment?  What kind of response does it generate?