7 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Networking. Do you know when the word “networking” became sleazy? It became sleazy the day that businessmen and businesswomen decided “networking” meant showing up to events, pitching their own products and services to everyone, handing out as many business cards as possible, and then walking back to their office to wait for their phone to ring. It doesn’t work, it’s a tired strategy, and it’s counter-productive for your sales. It’s like the ABC (Always Be Closing) sales style of networking. It’s hurting your business. So, if you want life-changing results for your business, here’s how to really network.
Start inside your house
Your business is your house. Don’t start looking for ways to build your house from outside the house (by going to events and such) until you’ve taken care of everything that needs taking care of inside the house.
Here’s a strategy taught to me by a fellow networking expert, Dorie Clark. First, prioritize your most important contacts. Block out an hour to review your entire list of current contacts. As you review your contacts, jot down on a piece of paper or basic spreadsheet who should fall into your top ten, top 50, or top 100. For your top ten, include the people who could make a real difference to your professional future. This might include current or past clients, prospective clients, recommenders, mentors, sponsors, or people in the media.
Next, think about the ways you can keep in touch with your top ten contacts. It could be through email, phone calls, postal mail, or in-person. After you’ve done that, look at your calendar and actually mark out time to connect with your top ten contacts. For example, before the coronavirus hit, you might have had a long commute to work. That’s time you could have planned to call at least one person in your top 100 per day on your ride home from work to check-in. But, if you’re now working from home, you might try to schedule a one-on-one coffee Zoom meeting each week with someone on your top ten list. That means that approximately every quarter you’ll be personally connecting with someone who could change your life.
Go outside to seek collaboration for your house
As soon as you’ve done everything you can to get things in order from inside your house, you can start working from the outside.
Here’s what’s killing your sales. The common mistake made among business people looking to network their way to business success is a lack of twenty percent strategy. The twenty percent that will give you the eighty percent of the results you’re looking for.
When you go out to networking events, you’re not looking for prospects or potential customers. You’re looking for partners. One good prospect can make you one sale. Then, if it’s a prospect who really likes your products or services, it can make you ten sales or more. But, one good partner can make you hundreds of sales with a simple shoutout. We live in a world with high-status influencers, bloggers that get massive traffic to their website, podcasters with large subscriber-bases of listeners, and so much more. All you have to do is put twenty percent of your effort into acquiring partners instead of prospects and that will bring you eighty percent of your results. The eighty percent that will make your business boom.
So, how do you find the right partners? This is the secret. You don’t. Some of the most successful business people in the world understand that the big lie out there is to go searching for people to partner with and then once you have a list of good candidates to pick the best and weed the rest. That’s an OK strategy, but it’s not nearly as good as the strategy top-performers rely on to boost their sales.
The real strategy you need to use is to have your customers find the right partners for you. They’re the ones who already bought your product, so they’re the ones who had that need that your product was able to fill. So, ask them what blogs they read. Ask them what podcasts they listen to. Ask them what newsletters they’re subscribed to. Then, take their responses as recommendations and check those people and organizations out. Those are the contacts that are continuing to fill a need for your customers, so they’re the ones you need to partner with if you want massive results fast because you can fill a need for their audience as well.
Recruit partners to work on your house with you
Alright, you asked your contacts. They gave you answers. You now have a list of potential partners. How do you connect with them?
Before we get to that, start by doing your research. Start with the first partner on the list, and validate them as truly a good fit for the needs of your house (business). For example, if you want a partner who will mention or promote your product or service to their email list, you need to ensure that person has an email list worth networking for. Does that person’s website get traffic? Google search their website’s domain authority using a domain authority checker and find out. Does the website even collect emails? Surf through their website and keep a mental note of how often you’re hit with a lead magnet or email opt-in opportunity. Your customers recommending these partners means they’re good for them, it doesn’t always mean that those partners are good for you. So, this is where you want to select the best and weed the rest.
After you have a list of good potential partners, reach out to them via email. And, structure that email to outline what’s in it for them at nearly every point. For instance, the subject line. To make the subject line persuasive to where they’ll want to open it, make sure the subject line has an element of either utility (how this email is valuable to them) or curiosity (this email sounds so interesting they have to open it). An example might be, “Hi, [Their Name]! Congratulations on your podcast’s achievement!” They’ll see that wondering, “What achievement? What is this person talking about?” And, you can congratulate them on reaching their hundredth episode and compliment them from a place of understanding that that’s hard to do. Then, segway from there into what you bring to the table (how you can add value to them) and that you’d like to set up a phone call to discuss some possibilities for collaboration. Boom. A persuasive subject line. A valuable email. And, a contact you met through networking that will actually call you. And, guess what? You didn’t waste a single business card.
Rinse and repeat
Once you’ve done this, simply collaborate with your partners and rinse and repeat this process. There are numerous networking strategies out there that are intended for different things. This strategy is great for fast business traction. When you want a quick boost or boom in your business, just reach out to that friend of yours who has 200 thousand followers on Instagram to do a quick post for you. Or, that other friend of yours who has an email list of over 500 thousand. There are other networking strategies that are great for other goals as well, so most of all, always be sure to be continuing your self-development. And, you can bet you’ll see results in your business you only ever saw in your daydreams.