This is the 10th in a series of 10 tips about networking based on a phone call I received.
You can read the nine prior tips and a little bit about the conversation that prompted this series on prior blog posts:
All of this networking, being nice and serving others is irrelevant if you ignore…
Tip #10 Connect OUTSIDE of a Networking Event
A networking event is just an introduction. Consider it an opportunity to get on the radar of new and current friends. However, even if you do everything “right” at a networking event you will be quickly forgotten if you don’t make it a point to meet with others OUTSIDE of the networking venue.
At networking events people are pumped, nervous, they’re trying to get their own message out for their own personal benefit. Add to that the additional people all working their own agenda, not to the mention the event programs are generally fast-paced. To see a real gain through your efforts you need to connect on some level with people. The best way to do this is to meet your new and existing contacts perhaps for coffee or lunch, during a business day, for the express purpose of getting to know one another, in order to promote each other, or help one another in some way.
Who should you meet with?
Ideally you would strive to meet with “everybody” at least once but lets be honest, time is at a premium. Obviously, you should meet first with someone who you think is a good prospect for you, is a current client or referral source, or you believe could be a good referral source. But don’t discount those individuals that you like but you think there is no common ground. Sometimes the best connections and referrals come from the most unlikely sources.
How often should you be meeting with people outside of a networking event?
I suppose I should answer “as often as you can” but there are constraints. You want to be meeting with new people all of the time and meeting with existing contacts too. Of course you’ll want to be actually working, having a personal life, going to networking events, sleeping, you get the picture. I strive for 2 people a month. I know that number sounds low. Sometimes, the count is definitely higher than that but I feel like I’ve really accomplished something if I meet my goal.
I read somewhere that we over-estimate what we can do in the short-term and under-estimate what we can accomplish in the long-term with consistent action.
Realize too that I’m going for quality interactions in all of my efforts and not quantity interactions. I want to take my time with people and really get to know them so that I can benefit THEM. I don’t want to meet with multiple people in a day and herd them through my local coffee shop. I want to create a relationship, and honestly, I go into this effort knowing that I’m not going to be “simpatico” with everyone. I have been amazed at what I have been able to accomplish with just a handful of like-minded, giving, business people. So you don’t need everyone…just a few gems to benefit one another.
How often do you meet with one particular person?
How often I meet with any one person depends on the relationship. Honestly there is no reason to meet on some set schedule unless you’ve formed a mastermind alliance or something. But once you and your networking-partner have determined that you can help one another, you want to keep in touch in some way. In fact, the contact schedule is something you’ll want to discuss with them.
How do you invite someone to meet outside of the networking venue?
Well, first of all, don’t be scared. You are NOT asking for a date! I like to call or email my targetted individual and ask them to meet for coffee in order to get to know one another better for our mutual professional benefit. Especially if I am meeting someone of the opposite sex, I make it very clear that this meeting is for professional reasons. They will either say yes or no but generally people are very eager to meet to talk about their business. I do tell them up front that the meeting will last a half hour, or hour, or whatever.
So I might call or email them something like this.
“Hi (name)! I’m hoping to set up a time with you to meet over coffee to go over our businesses. I’d like to get to know you and your business better. I think we can help one another with referrals. Do you have time on ….”
See, it’s easy!
I prefer to “go dutch” or, in other words, have everyone just pay for themselves. This keeps everyone’s costs down and makes everyone feel “equal.”
Admittedly, if I am meeting with a client, I like to pick up the tab.
I have found, though, that sometimes men feel obligated to pay for coffee or tea just because I’m a woman even though this is for professional purposes. I have also found that some people (men and women) have a preference to pay because not paying makes them feel weak. I try not to have anyone pay for me in a professional meeting because it makes me feel uncomfortable but I am sensitive to the fact that some individuals feel vulnerable or weakend in some way if “a woman” pays – – it’s usually a generational thing and you’ll know them when you meet them. In this case, because the idea is to meet and get to know one another professionally, I don’t want them to feel uncomforable and after insisting a few times, I will allow them to pay for me. I wish they wouldn’t but I’d rather be the one that feels uncomfortable.
What do you do or talk about at your meeting?
Well, one thing I DON’T do is spend all of the time talking about myself. I generally keep the meeting brief between 30 minutes to an hour max. I have lost track of time before, but these meetings that go on and on, are just counterproductive. You’re busy and if not, you want to appear busy, so spending too much time is not a good idea.
- I like to ask the other person questions about their business or job.
- I ask them a little about their kids, spouse, hobbies, etc.
- I like strive to find some common ground where we can refer business to one another.
- I don’t try to sell them anything at the meeting.
- I don’t try to convince them how awesome anything or anyone is.
- I just want to get to know them and I’m looking for people that want to get to know me too.
- I know I’ve found a good relationship when I find someone that strives to keep things equal and share.
- I strive to leave with a list of “to-do’s” for them. That is to say, I try to leave with a list of people that I can refer them to.
- The goal here is to make yourself valuable to them. To help them to obtain the connections or sales they are looking for. My goal is never to impress them or sell them. Through the process of giving, most people will naturally want to reciprocate.
What if I have met with someone who is a “all into themselves?”
It does happen that sometimes you’ll meet with someone that will spend your limited time together trying to sell you on their product or service with no regard for you personally or professional.
First, please don’t ever be “that person.” That is no way to conduct business, build a business relationship, or build a friendship.
When you do encounter what appears to be an overzealous, self-centered, seller at a meeting, just forgive them. They most likely are nervous and don’t realize that they are talking to much. Trust me, it will happen to you too and you’ll want to be forgiven.
Sometimes you just run out of time. This happened to me recently with a new friend. We spent the whole hour talking about her, but that was my fault. I was really, really interested in her product and just kept asking her questions. Don’t worry if that happens, just schedule a time to meet again! Far better to spend “too much” time on them than “too much” much time on you.
It is ALWAYS a good practice to talk less and listen more. I’ve been very surprised in the past to have spent an hour with someone where they spoke all about themselves and only about themselves and then they’ve given me the most amazing referrals a week or so later. People like to talk, let them.
But when you do find that person every now and again that is clearly only interested in themselves, just enjoy your cup of coffee and see what happens. You can always observe their interactions with others and over time to determine if they were just nervous and excited that day and talked too much. If you do find that person where it is “all about them” or that you just don’t connect with for one reason or another, just don’t meet with the again.
What do I do after the meeting?
After the meeting you should keep in touch with the other person if you both think you can be of benefit to one another. Send the occasional email, card and get together for coffee or lunch every now and again. You know, just be a friend.
If you like them and believe in their business, send them referrals, help them to make connections, help them any way that you can.
When you get referrals or business through this process, thank them and let them know how you are progressing with each referral. Some referrals will work out, some won’t but the idea is to encourage more referrals. There is nothing more disheartening than sending someone a referral and not knowing what if anythng came of it. Worse yet, is the person that you send a referral to that doesn’t even bother to say a simple thanks.
When you do help or give to new friend, give without expectation. People can feel it when your giving has strings attached and that’s not attractive. Just sow and sow and you will reap. Realize that your reaping may come from unexpected places, but the more you give, the more you’l get and you’ll find that you receive many times over what you have given.
This should be the end of this tip series as we’ve reached tip #10, but I have a bonus tip! Please stay tuned for…
Bonus Tip #11, Give, Be and Do More than What is Expected.