Al Gore strikes again. When researching a topic for this week’s newsletters yours truly came across an article listing movies that best explain networking newbies. Movies about networking? Really? Then, when you really put some thought to it, there are many movies with a networking element.

The most obvious networking film is The Godfather. Sure, we hear the cliched “it’s just business, nothing personal”. Of course, that’s not really true in the movie. Even in real life, we do tend to want to do business with people we like versus we don’t.

Ground Hog Day was an interesting mention. Bill Murray’s character can try out any number of “verbal brands” or “elevator pitches” and know that if one doesn’t work out, he will have the same opportunity tomorrow. That’s not always true in business. Yet if you are in a networking group and you come with the same verbal brand every time, folks may start to tune you out. That’s why mixing it up with a client success story to back up your verbal brand is so critical.

Other movies mentioned include: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The Social Network, Gone in 60 Seconds. For the complete list, click here.

Are you tired of opening with “What’s your business?” as an opening line at networking events? Or the ever so popular, “who’s your best customer?”. While those are perfectly valid questions, it sets the stage for a canned conversation that probably doesn’t flow naturally. As an alternative, why not ask something like:

How did you land your first client?

This question will catch them off-guard at first. But typically people don’t forget their first client. Usually, there’s a story of some kind with it. If it’s a business that’s been around a while, it may even make that person nostalgic and proud about how far the business has come since it’s humble beginnings.

Or they may not remember at all.

If they don’t remember, ask how they landed their last client. Or last five clients. Usually, there’s a straightforward answer to these questions that don’t require much rehearsing. So people can answer without a lot of thought and it’s a more natural conversation.

If these questions fail to inspire a conversation, you have two options: tell them how you landed your first client or customer; or bail. You can use your judgment on that one. But if you’re having difficulty getting somebody to talk about their business, it’s probably a good sign to choose the latter and move on.

The point of any networking activity is to learn about other people and their business so you can be a connector. Hearing the story of their beginning can jump-start a conversation and provide you enough information so you can think about who in your network might travel the same traffic lanes as your new acquaintance.

Give it a try at your next networking event.

Adopt a 5-second rule

In last week’s ezine, we discussed strategies for introverts at networking events. Making a pact with yourself to talk to the first person you see is a great start. What about the next conversation? For that, you may want to adopt a 5-second rule.

This 5-second rule has nothing to do with dropped food. It has to do with eye contact. During the course of a networking event, you will make eye contact with someone across the room. After mutual eye contact is established, vow to walk over within five seconds and introduce yourself.

Why five seconds?

Well, in the other 5-second rule the thought is if you drop the food on the floor and don’t pick it up within that amount of time it becomes too germ-infested to consume. For this variation of the rule, more than five seconds gives you too much time to think about what could happen, what won’t happen. Essentially, if you wait longer than five seconds you are more likely to talk yourself out of walking over.

So, don’t.

If you are standing in a spot and make eye contact, walk over within five seconds and launch into some of the conversation starters mentioned in the last ezine. Or, simply say, “I saw you there and thought I would come over and introduce myself….”

Also, while this tip is for a networking event, you can also employ it for your regular networking meeting. If you see a guest walk into the room, give yourself five seconds to go over and introduce yourself. The guest will certainly appreciate it. You may also have a head start on getting to know someone you could help or vice versa.

He/she’s a great networker

When you hear somebody referred to as a “great networker”, what do you think? You might think of somebody who walks into a room and everybody knows his/her name, like Norm from Cheers. He/she then proceeds to speak to nearly everybody in the room. Or so it seems. Inside, you think that’s what you should be doing. You also know you’re an introvert by nature and that’s just not you.

So, what can you do?

The first thing might be to change your definition of a good networker.

“Working the room” may be natural for some. Yet the people who walk into the room and seem to be having conversations with everybody probably have met those people before at other gatherings. Maybe they did a one-on-one with them or even shared some business. Or perhaps they are introverts who have worked at the craft of networking to the point where it appears natural.

For most, networking isn’t first nature. It’s a learned skill.

So, how do you learn it?

There are many different strategies. Most begin with starting a conversation. If that’s not a comfortable thing for you, you need to set the bar very low. Here’s how: Make it a point to speak to the first person you see at any networking event. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Just:

“Hi, my name is…”

“Have you ever attended a __ function before…”

“What other networking events or groups do you attend…”

“What networking works best for your business…”

Remember, at one point in time, the stereotypical great networker you know walked into a room and did not know a soul. Networking starts by meeting one person at a time. Give it a shot and watch how easy it becomes to say hello to the next person you see, and so on, and so on…

That’s the question you should ask and be prepared to answer when you do a one-on-one with anyone.

This does not have to be the first question you ask as to best answer requires some knowledge of the person and what it is he/she does. Yet if you leave the meeting without asking it or having it as a follow-up item, you have done yourself and the other person a disservice.

Some view one-on-ones as a direct path to business. Most times, they are not. It’s a process. Many times the person we meet with in the one-on-one can’t help us directly. But as you describe what it is you do, it will more than likely become clearer to them as to who in their network you should talk to—and vice versa.

Bingo!

Many times, the path to who do you know that I should know occurs organically. As you learn more about somebody and their business, you probably do start thinking of people. The pointer here is to go in very consciously looking to ask that question and provide an answer. If you don’t have one by the end of the one-on-one, then make it part of an action item list following the meeting.

This is far from an original thought. Melissa Murphy of Insight to Success put this one front of mind for me as part of her Live2Lead gathering last month, featuring John Maxwell. But if you faithfully do one-on-ones with this mission in mind—finding out who the other person knows that you should know—you will see better traction than simply looking for a direct lead or referral.

For more networking pointers, download My Pinnacle Network’s ebook “15 Keep-it-Simple Tips for B2B Networkers”.

 

If you are in a networking group, is your networking meeting on your calendar? If so, for how many weeks/months in advance? A month? Two months? Or is it marked for the rest of the calendar year and beyond?

What can often happen when people join a networking group is that a certain complacency can set in. The meeting becomes part of your routine. While in some ways routine is good, in networking not so much. Particularly, if you are in a monthly group.

As a member of a group that meets monthly, that meeting should be more like an event. Most people don’t want to miss events. That’s why they mark events on their calendars, so they won’t miss them and won’t schedule anything at that particular time.

While it may seem like a small thing, marking your calendar with your networking meetings for several months in advance symbolically represents a commitment to that group. A commitment you’ve reinforced by putting it to paper or, in most cases, a calendar item on your handheld or computer.

Does that mean you make every meeting? Not necessarily. Life events still happen. Yet it’s probably safe to say the networker who books their networking meetings and events in their calendar well in adavnce will make it there more times than one who doesn’t. And in networking, being their is more than half the battle.

 

That’s a question we have asked at several My Pinnacle Network meetings this month. The response from one of the attendees at My Pinnacle – Plymouth caught yours truly off-guard:

“The best referral I ever gave was you,” said John Adams, of Adams Communications. “I introduced you to Steve Dubin*.”

Technically, it was more of a cold lead and one other person (Stephanie Gray) had recommended Steve as well. Still, there’s no way either John or Stephanie could have known the career/life-altering impact this referral might bring. They made the introduction because they were following the fundamentals of good networking:

1. Listen to what the other person does.
2. Think of who you know in your contact sphere who might be a good match.
3. Provide contact info and follow up.

Now, if you knew that every introduction/referral you made had the potential for a long-term working relationship and eventually a partnership, you’d go that extra mile every time you made an introduction, right? The point is you never know where a simple introduction might lead. But if you do it as a practice, as John and Stephanie did/do, good things can happen.

*Steve and I have now worked together for more than 10 years to build PR Works, a full-service public relations and advertising company. Additionally, we launched My Pinnacle Network approximately five years ago and have expanded the network to 11 locations. Yes, I’d have to say, that was a pretty good introduction.)

Think about the referrals you have passed. What was the genesis of that referral? More than likely, the referral involved your listening skills more than any other variable.

First, you probably heard a friend, colleague or peer talk about his or her business and what their needs are. If you were truly listening, that registered in your memory on a certain level.

Next, in your travels–be it at your place of business, networking group, coffee shop, etc.–you heard somebody express a need for a certain product or service. You interjected and said, “I know somebody who might be able to help you!” And that is how a lead/referral is born.

So, if you’re in a networking group and you’re wondering why you have not received a referral, perhaps you’re not asking the right question. Maybe you should be asking, why have I not passed a referral?

Clearly, there are exceptions to this rule, but when it comes to referrals you have to give to receive. And the only way you can give is to know what people want or need. That you can only do by listening.

Now, there’s probably not one of us who has paid attention to every single word every person has said at a networking meeting. We should, but we don’t. Fortunately, it’s an area where you can improve quite easily.

Make it a point to listen at your next networking meeting. Bring a notebook and be sure to write down at least one type of referral your fellow members are looking for as each gives his or her elevator pitch. You would be surprised how much registers in your memory when you put it in writing. From there, all you really have to do is go about your life and business and just listen–the opportunities are out there.

Last week’s topic discussing the correlation between gratitude in elevator pitches and success in networking groups struck a real chord with readers. This week’s topic is essentially the opposite of gratitude: resentment. And it can be a death sentence to not only leads, but it can cast a cloud over an entire networking group.

If you have been in a networking group for any length of time and done your share of one-on-ones, you may have heard grumblings from fellow members about certain members not passing them business. These grumblings were probably louder if your fellow member had passed leads to the member they are complaining about. If you are in a situation where somebody is bashing a fellow member, it’s your job to get them off the “whine without the cheese”.

That’s not saying they might not have a beef. Yet complaining about somebody not passing referrals never solved the problem. If anything, it creates an animosity that casts a cloud over your group and makes others uncomfortable-and that diminishes the effectiveness of the group.

So, what do you do? Politely suggest to your fellow member to take a good look in the mirror and ask themselves a few questions:

  • Have I done a thorough one-on-one with this person (you’d be surprised how many people expect referrals without having sat down with said person)?
  • Did I present myself in a way that makes me easy to refer? Sometimes preparing a list of businesses you’re looking to be referred to and a list of how you can help them makes it much easier to pass a referral.
  • If it’s a scenario where you have passed your fellow networking group member a lead, did you take following steps:
    • Contact the lead to let them know somebody from your networking group would be reaching out to them?
    • Did you follow up with your fellow group member to see whether they connected with your referral and whether or not it was the right kind of referral?
    • Follow up with the referral.

If this exercise turns up nothing, suggest they set up another one-on-one (you can do as many of those as you need, there is no limit). This is an opportunity to be direct. An example of what to say might be:

“I was hoping we’d be good sources of leads and referrals for each other. Is there anything you can tell me about your business that might help me pass more referrals your way?”

Granted, this is not really addressing the problem. But once they answer that question, most people will reciprocate and ask how they can help you. That should lead to a discussion that will lead to an answer. Nine times out of 10, the reason one networking group member is not passing leads to another is about them and not the other member.

No matter what the reason for not passing leads, this exercise is really meant to stop the bad mouthing and resentment and get back to work on passing leads and referrals. That’s why when discussing people in your networking group with other members it’s best to follow the golden rule–if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.

Grumbling about what you’re not getting from other group members typically makes you look as bad as the person you’re complaining about. And the last thing you want is that frustration giving other members of your group a reason to hesitate in passing referrals to you, too.

So, you do a one-on-one with somebody from your networking group and he/she gives you a lead. Now what?

That depends largely on the information provided. As a practice, you want to try and get a phone number and an e-mail address. In fact, e-mail is often an easier ice-breaker to introduce yourself and the connection to person providing the lead.

Once you have the lead’s contact info, the follow-up process should start before you end your one-on-one meeting:

  • Confirm next steps – Will the person who gave you the lead reach out to that person? If so, by when. Offer to make the initial introduction to the lead via e-mail. Mention you met with John/Jane Doe from your networking group and they suggested we should connect. Be sure to cc John/Jane on the e-mail.
  • Let it breathe – Don’t expect an immediate response, particularly if the lead hasn’t heard from Jane/John about you. Give it two business days before taking the next step.
  • Call the lead – Again, reference John/Jane and how they thought it would be beneficial for the two of you to connect. Be sure to reference the e-mail you sent and that you are just following up. Hopefully, the discussion takes its course and you can set up a meeting.
  • Follow up with your networking member – Let Jane/John know if you connected with their lead. If more than a week goes by and you haven’t been able to connect, let them know that as well.

When somebody gives you a lead, there’s a responsibility of follow-up that falls on both of you. Otherwise, it’s a cold lead, which is just one notch above a cold call–and that goes against the grain of why we join networking groups.

Know that when you give or get a lead, it’s going to require effort on both parties to make it a warm referral and be prepared to do the follow-up to make that happen.