Networking Jewels To Success
In 2013, I co-authored Amazon Best Seller, Networking Jewels to Success. It was a collaboration with members of the Network for Women in Business.
I recently picked up the copy on my bookshelf. In my chapter I talked about the importance of networking, knowing your audience, and having professional confidence. Sound familiar?
See the funny thing about this entrepreneurial journey is you really never leave your core foundation, you just expand on it. In 2013, offering private coaching wasn't even a consideration. I was still trying to make it work with "pay by the hour consultation". My business was an expensive hobby that I worked on after work and on weekends. Gaining clarity, getting focused and creating a signature system changed all of that for me.
Below is an excerpt from my chapter.
Put It In Your Purse (Networking Jewels to Success)
Some of us are just born to network and some of are not. I am what some may call a natural "people person" however, that does not make me exempt from obtaining the skills necessary to effectively network and grow professionally. In my world, everyone is a customer and it has been that way for over twenty years. I started in customer service as a cashier in high school and literally worked my way through the ranks until I managed a call center. When I co-founded my blog in 2009, I was surprised by the fact that it instantly created an atmosphere that drew readers far outside of my regular circle of friends. At the time, the social media industry was just starting to take off and I relied on it heavily to grow our online presence. It was in this process that I realized (although not instantly) just how much I love social media.
I learned to network in such a way that it has allowed my colleagues and potential customers to remember me. Do not get me wrong. It was not easy and not everything worked. However, over time, I took notice, kept notes and I began constructing my golden list of networking jewels. If something worked I hung on to it and when it did not I replayed the conversations over and over in my mind realizing where the conversation went wrong and developing various scenarios to enrich the exchange should I ever get a second opportunity.
While I cannot get in detail with everything I have learned, I can share with you some of my most important (and often outside of the box) tricks I have learned to make networking a success. I like to call them jewels and they go a little something like this:
Jewel #1 - Printed Marketing Material - Never Leave Home Without It!
Out of everything I will share with you, this is the most obvious - printed marketing materials. Whether you have a business card or postcard, you should never leave home without printed contact materials. When investing in your marketing materials, make sure your design is eye catching and represents exactly what you want it to say to the public. It should be consistent with your logo and website design. Your business card should include these key elements: your name, title, phone number, an email address, social media links, website address and the physical address of your business, if applicable. Depending on your industry, a standard business card is sufficient. However, you may feel the need to invest in 3x5 postcards as well. If you invest in both, an important thing to remember when handing out your marketing materials is your environment. There is no need to hand out a 3x5 postcard at a cocktail mixer. Unlike women, men do not carry handbags and the women will more than likely be carrying a small handbag that coordinates with their ensemble. The worst feeling in the world is seeing your marketing materials tossed around unwanted and used as coasters. If you are opening your business on a shoestring budget there are online shops available that will offer free business cards. But the downside to this option is that with every business card you pass out, you will end up advertising their online printing business as well.
Jewel #2 - Know Your Customer!
Spend time getting to know your audience but make sure to research who really needs your business services. A major misconception is that a business can be all things to all people. This is not true. Are you a business to consumer business or a B2B? Ask yourself, who does your product serve? Leave the behind mindset that it is okay to sell ice to Eskimo and truly take the time to develop your business around a customer base that will allow growth. I cannot stress this enough… RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH the type of customer you want to reach. By researching your targeted audience, you will be able to classify your business and develop your niche. A thousand businesses can offer the same services as you, but once you have taken the time to understand the needs of the customer; it will make a huge difference on whether they do business with your or your competitor. Knowing your customer eases the direction of business meetings and cold pitching. It will assist you in answering questions and speaking with your potential customer rather than at them.
Jewel #3 - Know Your Story!
You should know and fully understand your pitch. I know I touched on this briefly in my second jewel. But developing a business pitch can be easier said than done and the last thing you want to do is sound like a rehearsed chorus line. I developed my HERstory by replaying the questions that were always asked and combining them with the unasked. How did you get started? What exactly do you offer? What makes your business different? How can your business help improve their bottom line? Do you have a niche in your field? What makes you an authority? I know it seems like a lot, but guess what? Wouldn’t these be the same questions you would want answers to before hiring another business for your brand? Of course, you would. Not only is it important to know the answer to these questions, but it is equally important to speak them fluently and in such a way that they naturally flow. In addition, if there is ever a question you truly cannot or rather not answer, there is no harm in advising a potential client that you will get back them once you research it further. Trust me, getting back to a client with the correct information will put in you in a much better position than having to recant whatever you previously stated.
Jewel #4 - Use Your Ear!
Learn to listen. Do not become so focused on delivering your message that you miss the opportunity to understand the needs of your potential customer. The customer wants to be heard. There have been countless times, during my call center days, when a customer would call in just to have their story heard. If you are not listening, you will be unable to make sure you are meeting their needs, or even have the skills to. The inability to listen can cost you a great contract opportunity, or even worse, it can put you in a contract that you dread.
Jewel #5 - Get Excited!
Speak with enthusiasm and a smile. While it is always important to maintain your professionalism, it is okay to share your passion for your business with your potential customer. Customers enjoy working with a business that has a passion for their field. This concept is very similar to having a disgruntled cashier at a department store. The line is moving slow. The cashier is working a snails place and their negative energy begins to work its way through the line. By the time you get to the counter, you are just as annoyed as the cashier looks and in the back of your mind you think “why are you here if you hate it so much” (even though you know for some they may not have a choice). Do not become that cashier at any point of your presentation and/or conversation. Remember unlike that cashier this is YOUR business and the monetary bottom line affects YOU.
Jewel #5 - Develop your professional confidence!
As mentioned before, I have worked for twenty years in the customer service field. Believe me, when I tell you, I have fumbled my way through a dozen presentations simply because I was nervous or unsure of myself. Take time to get to know your professional self. Practice in the mirror or in front of family members. Avoid the use of repetitive words such as “umm”, “okay”, and “you know what I mean”. Speak of your service and/or product with pride. Dress appropriately and make sure you are neatly groomed. Allow your confidence to speak for itself but do not allow pride to overshadow it. There is a thin line between pride and confidence. I can count on one hand the number of people will do business with someone who is arrogant and I can multiply that number by ten to discover the number of people who will sign a contract with someone who is not confident in their abilities to get the job done. You own your successes do not destroy it.
Jewel #6 - Wear Comfortable Shoes!
Your shoes should always be comfortable. This jewel will probably raise an eyebrow. But think about it...have you really thought about how the discomfort of a pair shoes can control everything in your immediate train of thought? There is nothing more embarrassing then discussing your business with a potential customer and you're wiggling. You become more focused on your discomfort than on getting to your customer. An extra tip for female entrepreneurs, purchase a pair of folding ballet shoes from your local drug store and keep them in your purse. You will thank me later.
As you can see, the keys to successful networking can take an eclectic mix of traditional and non-traditional approaches. More often than not, we become focused on the fundamentals of building our business that we can forget the simplest things that can make a difference. Take time to master the basic skills of networking and then develop them to truly meet your needs. Trust me when I tell you, once the foundation is set – the rest will be a breeze!
I hope you enjoyed the excerpt from my chapter - Networking Jewels to Success.