How to become clear and consistent when networking

This is the second installment of the 8 easy-to-make networking mistakes that can be avoided series.

I’m going over two mistakes this week:

  1. I wasn’t comfortable talking about myself, and I wasn’t prepared to share with others what I do.
  2. I was only clear on what I used to do in my former job.

One part of this is I wanted to make sure I was including as many people as I could in my description of my ideal client.

This is a common problem. One of the best examples of this is someone who sells makeup saying that their ideal client is someone with skin.

So, my husband is your ideal client? And so is my 20 year old nephew? And my mom, oh AND my 8 year old cousin?

Well, that’s confusing. And if I approached any of them saying, “hey I just met someone that works with people just like you, people with skin!” They probably wouldn’t be interested.

Be specific about who you help.

Instead of saying that your ideal client is someone with skin, you might say, “I work with women who want to look 10 years younger” or “I help prevent and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.”

It’s much more specific and now I know that my husband is NOT your ideal client (he really doesn’t care about either of those things).

Be clear and consistent.

Remember how I wrote that I got a referral for my old company? My old job was the only thing I was really comfortable talking about, when I talked about them I was clear and consistent, even when the wording changed. After all, I had worked there for almost 10 years!

I knew exactly what they did and how they helped people. I spoke with a confidence and authority I didn’t have when I talked about my own business.

Yes, some of that confidence comes with time, but you can help it along with some preparation.

How do you become clear and consistent?

Make a list of the results your clients get, both the tangible results (more clients, clearer skin, etc) and the intangible (confidence).

And practice how you talk about what you do. Work with your business coach on this. They’ll have a different perspective than friends and family (who mean well, but might not understand networking as an entrepreneur).

What has most helped you or would most help you be clear and consistent? Share in the comments below.

The person out there doing things imperfectly is always making more progress (and money) than the person sitting at home waiting for things to be perfect. - Evie Burke

Why is networking so important?

Last week I shared 8 easy-to-make networking mistakes that can be avoided and this week I dive into the first one:

I assumed I didn’t need to network because I believed that all of my clients would find me online.

Why spend all that time and effort to find and attend networking events when my ideal clients would find me online?

While it doesn’t immediately seem like it, there are two parts to this question.

The first part is that I genuinely believed that my ideal clients would find me online and I was deaf to any suggestion otherwise.

And my coach at the time handled my naivety quite well, she suggested that I attend networking events anyway. I trusted my coach, so I went.

I’d like to point out that this is something I did right – not only did I have a coach I trusted, but I listened to her even when I thought I was right.

While I made many mistakes, I would not be where I am now had I not started then.

The second part is more obvious. I felt it was a better use of my time to do more productive things. Sometimes the inside of my brain sounds like this:

There are THINGS! that need to be DONE! and done NOW!

Here’s a truth about being an entrepreneur: There are always things to do. Usually, it’s a matter of assigning priorities. Which I was doing, but looking back it was more about staying comfortable than anything else.

What it all boils down to is something that I didn’t realize at the time: meeting people in-person is very important and networking is a great way to do that.

Why is networking so important?

Have you heard of the know, like and trust factor? It means that people will buy from those they know, like and trust.

The easiest way to build know, like and trust is to meet people face to face.

Think about it. How well do you feel you know, like or trust someone after spending five minutes on their website? How about after talking with them face to face?

When you meet someone in-person, you get a feel for if you click or would work well together. While online, it’s much more difficult to tell in a short period of time.

I followed my current coach online for years before I bought anything from her. But the second time I saw her in person (at her 3-day event), I invested in her yearlong program.

What I did right:

With everything I did wrong, I did do something else right (in addition to having a coach).

And that was I kept going to networking events.

What you can learn from my experience:

  • Go to networking events! After you meet someone, your website is a good place to point them to learn a bit more about you, but it’s NOT required. Those in-person meetings are much more important.
  • There is no easier way to build know, like and trust then meeting someone in person.
  • The person out there doing things imperfectly is always making more progress (and money) than the person sitting at home waiting for things to be perfect. - Evie BurkeDoing something “wrong”, “incorrectly”, or “imperfectly” is great! It means you’re out there doing something and you’ll learn much more from trying than from not doing anything at all.
  • Get a business coach. Coaches encourage you to stretch and do things that you didn’t think you were capable of.

Why is going to networking events important to you? Share in the comments below.

8 easy-to-make networking mistakes that can be avoided

exclamation point girlImagine this:

The year is 2010. I’ve just left my full-time gig to venture into the world of entrepreneurship. At the insistence of my coach, I’ve picked a couple of networking events to attend.

However, I’m pretty sure I don’t need them.

Why?

Because I found my coach online, and we didn’t meet in person until we’d been working together for over 6 months. I was convinced that my people would find me the same way.

However, despite my fears and my belief that I didn’t need to network to find clients, I went anyway.

And then the mistakes started. (Can you spot them?)

At one event I stood up, fumbled over my elevator speech, and quickly sat down again. I remember clearly who I sat next to. His name was Mike, and we talked about his young grandkids (he didn’t look old enough to have grandkids).

At another event I spent most of my time talking about what I was really comfortable with: my previous job. I even walked away with a referral for my old company! In retrospect, the leader of that group, Christina, tried to help me out a bit. She asked me questions about my new business and gently offered suggestions about how I might tailor it to the women in the room. But I was too naive to realize she was trying to help (a classic case of really not knowing what I didn’t know).

At one of the events, I met Robin. She sold insurance and reached out to set up a coffee date. I agreed and immediately regretted it. I just knew she was going to try to SELL ME insurance! It was going to feel icky, and I’d want to leave.

I arrived 30 minutes early with a book so I could order and get settled before she arrived. When she got there she asked me a few questions and then proceeded to give me some great advice, make a recommendation for an accountant (who I still happily use), and only much later, tell me more about her business.

There was no hard sell—just her getting to know me better and wanting to help me out a bit.

Now, let’s talk about all of the phone calls I made to the people I was meeting… Oh wait, I can’t, because I didn’t make any phone calls.

And why not? Well, coffee dates are meant for getting to know people so you can refer others to them, right? And I didn’t know anyone. So, why should I spend my time doing that? I didn’t make sense to me.

So what did I do wrong? Let’s (lovingly) review:

  1. I assumed I didn’t need to network because I believed that all of my clients would find me online.
  2. I wasn’t comfortable talking about myself, and I wasn’t prepared to share with others what I do.
  3. I was only clear on what I used to do in my former job.
  4. I didn’t know what I didn’t know, so much so that I didn’t have a clue what to ask my coach for help with.
  5. I assumed coffee dates were only for selling your service/product.
  6. I didn’t do follow-up calls with people I met or set up coffee dates.
  7. I assumed I had nothing to offer in the way of connections or possible referrals.

Learn from my experience and mistakes.

Over the next few weeks, let’s dive into these mistakes that I (and probably many other people) have made when networking. We’ll explore each one and learn what to do instead so you can make the most of networking.

Share with me some of your networking mistakes in the comments below. I’d love to know that I’m not the only one who made them.

What “share what you need” is really asking

Tell me, have you ever been to a networking meeting where you’re asked to share something that you need with the group?

Usually, at least half (if not more) of the group shares who their ideal client is and do some version of asking for an introduction to anyone you know that fits the description.

While it’s important to know who your ideal client is and be able to describe them, that’s not really what the “share something that you need” question is about. They’re really looking for a service or product that you need or want right now.

They want to know who you’re an ideal client for and help connect you with them.

And I get it, this can be really difficult to figure out. So think about these questions:

  • Is there something you need done that you’d like to hire out for? Business or personal.
  • Is there a resource that you’re looking for yourself or to recommend to your clients?
  • Is there some information that you’re looking for?
  • Is there something you’re planning on researching that someone there might be able to help you out with (a five minute conversation with a knowledgeable person verses two hours of online searches and distractions)
  • Are you looking for a connection with a business that has the same ideal client as you, but with a different business focus? (have an idea about how you see this connection working for both of you)

At one such group, I asked for recommendations for a contact management system and instantly had three people make recommendations. People love to help!

So, next time you’re asked “what is something you need or are looking for right now?” how will you answer?

Share in the comments below!

A great place to network (sorry guys)

I’m writing this from the hotel of the event/conference I’m at. I wrote something last week (that you’ll see next week) so I wouldn’t need to do this.

However, sometimes you have a realization that you just have to share.

My realization: some of the best networking happens in the line to the women’s bathroom (sorry guys!).

Think about it. You probably have a few minutes together with nothing else to do but look at the ceiling, floor or walls. Why not enjoy the company of those around you!

And it’s probably the easiest place to say “Hi” too. Just turn around and introduce yourself (Hi, I’m [name]). She’ll introduce herself, you can ask her what her business is and you’re off! Don’t forget to ask for a card.

Oh, and if you’ve been given a name tag where your name slides in and you clip it to your shirt or lanyard, then slide some of your cards behind your name and put the cards of your new friends there too.

Don’t forget to write down when and where you met them! You remember now, but by the time you get home it will have all muddled together.

Where do you notice the best networking happens? Share in the comments below!