“Time is money”. Benjamin Frankly coined this adage in 1748 in an essay titled Advice to a Young Tradesman. Too frequently we fail to realize that our time is valuable. This includes the time we spend on networking.
I do a lot of networking. Probably two to four events each week. I often fall into the trap of forgetting what my time is really worth.
Some networking events are free, while others cost anywhere from $5 to $35, sometimes more. We pay our fee, maybe order a drink or two, and have some nibbles. Maybe we drop another $20 during the evening. No big deal, right?
Now, stop and think – how much do you charge for your time? If you are a professional, you could be “spending” a LOT of money (remember, time is money) every week. So you need to ask yourself, “is it money well-spent?” Are you seeing a return on your investment?
Too often, when put it in this light, the majority of us, if we are being honest, have to answer no. Sure, we are “getting out there” and “meeting people”, but the truth of the matter is, more often than not, we are simply seeing the same people week after week. Some of that can’t be helped – but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t realize a great networking ROI.
“So, you ask, how do we do that?” I’ll tell you how I do it. I call it the PRE networking process. Preparation, Relevance, Engagement.
You have to be prepared to tell people what you do; you have to make the conversation relevant, and you must be engaging. All of this needs to be part of your initial elevator pitch, or self-introduction.
Your next question is probably “How do you do that”? I’m glad you asked. I coach my clients through a unique, proven, 5-step process. At the end, they have a killer introduction that sets them up for an extended conversation and, in many instances, a new client or a hot referral. Here is what you need to do:
Step 1: Focus on what you love to do in your business.
If you talk about what you love, people will pick up on your enthusiasm and share in your energy. The tone of your voice and your body language will force them to listen harder and mentally “lean-in” to what you’re saying.
Step 2: Stay away from what you don’t love about your business. Now, if the majority of your business consists of something you don’t enjoy doing, that’s a whole other discussion. However, just because you think that maybe the listener may want to hear about it, you’re not going to sell them on it. It will be clear that you’re not excited about it, and they won’t be interested. Again, your lack of enthusiasm will shine through.
Step 3. Make yourself unique and memorable; and don’t give me that argument that you’re not unique. You are – everyone is. Things that may make you unique include:
- Education – do you have advanced degrees, certifications, industry standards, etc.?
- Awards/distinctions – many industries have peer-awarded recognitions. Other organizations recognition businesses or individuals.
- Obstacles – have you overcome something that is relevant to what you do? For example, I am a life-long, severe stutterer, but I teach and coach public speaking.
- Experience – business/industry/military. This often speaks for you. This is especially impactful if it is directly relevant to what your are doing.
- Language skills – not only may they be valuable, but people are impressed.
Step 4 – What brings in the money? If it isn’t making you money, why should you talk about it? What is your 80/20? The 80/20 is based on the Pareto principle, or the law of the vital few. Pareto first revealed this principle after he studied the economics of his village and found that 80% of the wealth was controlled by 20% of the population. He went on to apply the principle to multiple endeavors, and it continued to hold true. In most businesses, it can be demonstrated that 20% of the people do 80% of the work. This also applies to most business finances, wherein 80% of their profit comes from 20% of what they do. So, if it isn’t something that usually makes you money, why should you be talking about it?
Step 5 – Testimonials – these are all the good things that your clients have said about you. Even when the listener doesn’t know the person who said the nice things about you, they tend to take them at face value. This is where story telling comes in, as well as relevance. If you can show the listener how you helped someone who has the same issues they do, this is solid gold.
It takes a little work, but if you follow this formula, and make your conversation engaging and relevant, you will see your ROI increase dramatically.
If you want to know more about how this process works and how I can help, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.