Rob Brown, Guest Author
Profitable business networking is not a one-night stand. It’s a long term relationship. It is a shame, a waste and even a crime to commit that precious time to networking, only to never do anything else to follow it up. Trouble is, most people struggle to make the most of the contacts they meet. Let’s explore why.
So you spend time going out there networking, meeting people, making connections and swapping cards. But honestly, how often do you spend valuable time doing the business networking, only to return to the office, put the collected business cards on your desk, turn to your inbox and say, “Right, where was I?” Probably a lot of us, if we’re honest. The hard work is done in carving out the opportunity and positioning yourself well to start a business relationship. The problem arises when you consider how rare it is that any strangers you meet networking have an exact need for exactly what you offer at that exact time. It rarely happens, and without that tangible opportunity to do immediate business, very few professionals are motivated to do the networking follow up.
Seeds need to be sown for long term relationships, because the need will arise months and perhaps years down the line. Your prospect will probably have existing advisers/providers in place, and you need to be in prime position when their needs change or that particular relationship falters. I call it being the ‘spare wheel’! The skills of profitable business networking and doing the networking follow-up are like ‘brother and sister,’ yet many people commit the networking crime and fail to make that important call which gives the relationship the best chance of leading to something meaningful. So what stops you from picking up that phone, following up those contacts and taking your networking to the next level? There are generally three areas for concern:
More specifically, reasons for not calling people after networking might include: being unaware of how to prepare; scared of using scripts (which are vital to success); unsure of how people will respond; scared of rejection or sounding desperate; unable to handle objections; uncertain how to take things to the next level. Most commonly, people are too busy and do not have the time. But you should see that the phone is an excellent tool for building relationships. It should not be the only tool, and I have yet to find anyone who can build a better relationship over the phone than I can face to face. Still, it has many advantages, including being quick and convenient, with shorter and more direct, focused conversations. On average, 90% of professionals spend two hours a day on the phone. 40% spend over three hours a day.
Of course, there are a few disadvantages. It can often be impersonal and so difficult to build rapport. There is an increased chance of both parties being interrupted or distracted, and crucial body language signals can be missed. Most obviously, it is less easy to gain commitment on the phone. Still, beyond networking, it is one of the best tools you have in your toolbox to turn your relationships into profits. So what does it take to be good on the phone?
Research has highlighted the skills and qualities shown by professionals who are excellent on the phone. They are confident, with a self-belief in what they say and deliver. Their voice is clear, low pitched and not rushed, and professional without being pushy. They are good at reading people’s reactions and responses on the other end. For instance, can you tell when someone is busy on the other end, even if they don’t say so? Strong phone users are also disciplined and very well organised with their diaries and systems. Above all they are persistent. Generally, nearly half of us stop after the second call, and most give up after the third. People who use the phone as a tool to build long term relationships know that there is a very high success rate on the fourth call. You only need to be weak in one or two of these areas to undermine your performance and stop it working for you.
The best way to motivate yourself to follow up on those contacts you’ve made is to consider why you need to make that call. We are all charged with a business development remit these days. It doesn’t do your career or your pay packet any harm at all to win more business for the firm. The follow-up call keeps you in touch with possible future clients ‘outside the transaction’, which is vital to build the trust that will lead them to buy you and your services. Although they may not need you now, when they do, you want to be in pole position. Remember also that you are in a brutally competitive market, and if you do not make the call, other professionals will. Also you must know that circumstances change in business. People retire, die, move up or move on. Budgets and strategies change. You must keep yourself ‘front of mind’ to be considered when that change happens.
You can also ‘negatively’ motivate yourself to call by bringing to mind a few serious penalties of not calling. You could lose trust with your prospect, you could damage your reputation, you could give the impression you are unreliable, and you could actually lose out on potential business. When you consider the lifetime value of your potential client, plus all the referrals they might bring in, the loss could be substantial. If you think back to when you were networking with them, you will also recall that you developed good rapport with them and you liked each other. Why should that stop just because it’s a phone call a few days later?
Finally, they probably revealed an interest in your services and a potential need for your solutions. So you should feel confident in making the call and asking for a meeting to find out more about their business, their situation and their challenges. The follow up call is a key part of the networking process. If you don’t follow up, it’s just like you never went networking in the first place. Can you afford to waste all that precious time? For a complimentary copy of my “Networking Checklist: 45 Great Networking Follow Up Tips,” click here.
Copyright 2013 – Rob Brown. According to LinkedIn, Rob Brown is the most recommended person in the world on business networking. He is Head of the Global Networking Council which comprises the world’s top 200 thinkers and writers on topics such as networking, referrals, trust, relationships and communication. Author of the bestseller, “How to Build Your Reputation,” Rob speaks and coaches internationally on building and leveraging powerful networks, which covers the areas of career acceleration, corporate executive presence, generating referrals and building relationship capital. For a complimentary copy of his Special Report: “57 Great Ways to Build Your Reputation” (value $47) go to www.therobbrown.com
Larry James is a Professional Speaker, Author and Coach. He presents networking seminars nationally and “Networking” coaching by telephone or one-on-one. His latest book is, Ten Commitments of Networking: Creative Ways to Maximize Your Personal Connections! Something NEW about Networking is posted on this Networking BLOG every 4th day! Visit Larry’s Networking Website at: “Networking HQ!”
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