by Lee Abraham
Structured networking meetings are like a music concert. From advance promotion and venue prep, to sound, lighting and onstage performance, lots of variables make or break the show. Want to be the rock star of your own referral marketing tour? It’s simple: show up, look good and be sharp!
Basic Etiquette 102: Arrive Early – Stay Late.
Open networking before and after the meeting is the most valuable portion of a structured networking meeting.
Let’s say your group meets once a week for 90 minutes. More than likely, the meeting starts at 7am with 15 minutes to mingle and everybody sits down at 7:15 to start the agenda.
Tip: Be a Power Team networker and get there early, say 6:45 and help set up. Your extra participation will quickly strengthen your relationships with the group’s Leadership Team, as well as other members who also show up early. Plus, you will be one of the first people to meet any new Visitors, jump starting your productivity at the meeting.
Get Up – Stand Up
During the meeting several things happen. Early in the meeting, people stand up one at a time and tell the group about the type of referrals and business prospects they are looking for this week.
Later in the meeting the group goes around the room again, this time passing referrals, written slips of paper with contact information and notes on prospects they’ve found for each other over the past week. Clearly, the priority is to make business for each other.
And as important as these agenda items are, it’s Open Networking, the time before and after the meeting that’ll put the meat in your spaghetti sauce. Why? Open networking is your opportunity to connect, share ideas and most importantly, exchange energy with the other people at the meeting.
Fact: people who like you, care about you and are emotionally invested in your success are the ones who will pass you the most referrals. And nothing strengthens the bond between people faster than face to face interaction.
Write this down: Your primary goal inside and outside the meeting is to evolve networking relationships from Visibility to Credibility, and finally, Profitability. Call it the “VCP Process®.”
Questions are Your Answers
OK, let’s get down to details.
Prior to the meeting, if there are no visitors, talk to the other networking group members. Start with the people you know the least. Get to know them a little better and the type of referrals they are looking for.
If there are Visitors, talk to them first! Learn about the Visitor with the “9 Key Questions.” Go for it – chat ‘em up! Use the “2 Big Trigger Questions” to uncover referral opportunities. Take enough time to focus, make a connection and then shift networking gears from data collection to referral creation.
Once you identify the Visitor’s business category, and if they are in one of the “Six Target Markets,” you will know if the Visitor is a Golden Goose referral source or Consumer Prospect for someone else in the group.
Be a good Bragging Buddy! Introduce the Visitor to the networking partner in your group who will benefit most from the connection. Help the Visitor like and trust your networking partner with a powerful, heart felt testimonial. Nothing will build VCP with your networking partners faster!
Here’s the money shot. Now that you know a few things about the Visitor, use your opportunity during the meeting of telling the group about the type of referral you are looking for this week, to tailor your message to the Visitor. In other words, if you see the Visitor as a prospect for you, now is the time to describe that type of prospect as well as the benefit and value you bring to that Target Market, when it is your turn to ask for referrals.
Let’s say you are a Realtor. The Visitor is a Personal Injury Lawyer. Using the “Two Big Trigger Questions,” you uncovered the Visitor’s biggest challenge at the moment is finding good Health & Wellness professionals to refer his clients to. The attorney also mentioned he is looking for the right investment vehicle to put profits into from his rapidly growing Law Practice. Now you’ve got the information you need. The target in your sights!
Prior to the meeting you introduced the Visitor to the Chiropractor, Physical Therapist, Personal Trainer and Massage Therapist in your group. Why? As a Personal Injury Lawyer, the Visitor can become an ongoing, Golden Goose source of business for all of these business categories. Good work! Your Visibility has just taken a giant leap toward Credibility with your Health & Wellness networking partners!
Later, when you have the floor and opportunity to tell the group about what you are looking for this week, you ask for referrals to “Successful business people and Investors, people with cash who want to make money by building Real Estate equity with Income Properties, taking advantage of incredibly low prices and historically low interest rates, as well several Real Estate Tax Shelters for high income earners.” Ca-CHING! Do you think you’ve got the Attorney’s attention?
All Good Things in All Good Time
By using questions to uncover opportunity, being a good Bragging Buddy first with effective introductions and testimonials before the meeting, and then connecting your product or service to the needs of the Visitor, you achieve a measure of Credibility before asking for business. Taking your time, being strategic, giving first and then asking for business later is much more effective than talking about the benefits of your product or services to the Visitor before the meeting.
Last point: Never show up after the actual meeting agenda starts! Racing in at the last minute always works against you. Not only have you missed the valuable opportunities of open networking, you’ve created a distraction. Bottom line: a pattern of late arrivals slides you down from Credibility to the wrong kind of Visibility. Not good.
Savor the Afterglow
The meeting is now over. People pop up from their chairs and conversation buzzes around the room. Energy crackles. A few people scramble, packing up their briefcases in a rush and bolting for the door. These folks will get no further benefit from the meeting. Many will wonder why that “networking thing” just doesn’t work for them. Oh well. See ya!
Everyone else clusters in small groups or twosomes, talking. A fun house mirror image of Open Networking before the meeting, the after meeting mingle has many more angles. For starters, no deadline. Lots of time to make things happen.
Right after the meeting is the time for your first follow up with Visitors. Keep the focus on ways to build the Visitor’s business, even if they are a prospect for you. You will talk about your products and services later. Realize your goal right now is building the Visibility you’ve already achieved with the Visitor into Credibility. Do not try to skip over Credibility in an overzealous grab for Profitability! Trust me, the grasp of the VCP Process® is inescapable.
Also, scheduling Face to Face meetings with other members of your networking group is very effective time management for after the meeting.
Next time out we put our best foot forward and spiff up the blog a bit with ideas on how to look good, be sharp and make money at a networking meeting, when our adventure in networking continues… Follow Me on Twitter!