Guest Blog By Bonnie Ross-Parker
Remember the Total Cereal commercial a few years back? You’ll have to eat ten bowls of the leading brand to get the same nutrition that’s in one bowl of Total! The advertiser’s point is clear: If you want better nutrition for less calories (not to mention money!), you’ll logically choose the “one-bowl” alternative. This same principle applies to business. Experts say that only one percent of all cold calls ever convert into sales. Imagine! How many calls do you need to make each day to close the number of sales necessary to stay in business? Even if you can stomach the rejection, the fruit you reap is far too sparse in proportion to the amount of time and effort you invest.
What’s the “one-bowl” solution? Try networking! Statistics show that you can boost your chances of closing a sale from 40 to 90 percent. You’ll generate more qualified leads in less time than any other marketing effort . . . if you do it right. That’s the catch. Networking blunders hurt your business credibility, shutting the door to sales — not only with one person, but sometimes with a whole “grapevine” of prospects.
What can you do to minimize mistakes and make the most of your networking time and money?
1. Go for the gold. List your best clients. Where do you find more like them? Find out what organizations they belong to and ask to be their guest for an upcoming function. This way you network with people who have established credibility in the group, are familiar with you and your work, and are willing to introduce you to key prospects.
2. Commit to action. The adage rings true in networking as in any activity: “You get out what you put in.” Seek to be an active player and leader in whatever group you join. High-level involvement gives you and your business greater exposure to prospects, by revealing your personal qualities — whether it’s being a go-getter or a visionary — this helps build your credibility.
3. Come fully prepared. Oh the power of first impressions! Forgetting to bring business cards, promotional material, or your appointment book to a networking function is worse than not attending at all. This conveys a sense of amateurism that will turn off prospects and keep potential “gatekeepers” from passing you leads. When you show others you’re serious about your business, people will take you seriously.
4. Be concise. Tell others what you do — in one sentence — in a way that makes them hungry to know more. A long description may result in losing people’s attention — which in turn can affect future sales or referrals.
5. Speak confidently. Admit it. You’re an expert in your business. If you weren’t, clients wouldn’t pay their hard earned money for your products or services. Use networking functions as an opportunity to share your business accomplishments. This way people feel greater confidence in both passing you “hot” leads and seeking to do business with you.
6. Listen intently. Ask questions. Clarify statements. Listen for expressed needs that your business might be able to meet. When you demonstrate you genuinely want to understand other people and their businesses, you will build greater rapport, opening the doors for sales opportunities.
7. Give first. If you appear as a “taker,” people will notice. They will feel uncomfortable around you and avoid you the next time they see you. Give leads, gifts, marketing ideas, or offer to buy lunch. Remember this: when you have given nothing, ask for nothing.
8. Follow-up! Follow up! Follow up! Show your prospects that you’re thinking of them. Fax them articles relevant to their interests. Don’t just say, “We need to do lunch sometime.” Take initiative to set a date. When your actions correspond with your words, people trust you and feel comfortable passing leads. One must earn credibility. Do what you commit to do.
Bottom line: Networking works. The days of the hit-and-run salesperson are over. Those who succeed in today’s marketplace know how to build long-term relationships, which in turn creates a steady stream of repeat business and hot referrals.
Bonnie Ross-Parker is a multi-dimensional entrepreneur, speaker and author. She’s passionate about sharing strategies on effective connectng for effective results. Bonnie, a.k.a. “America’s Connection Diva”, delivers customized keynotes and workshops especially in the direct selling/network marketing industries. Learn more about her business networking organization for women, The Joy of Connecting.