Over the years I’ve heard every possible excuse to avoid networking from clients, colleagues and even from myself. Here are my top five, with my translations:
- ‘I don’t like bothering people’ (I’d rather hide behind my computer hoping a client will magically ring me up)
- ‘I’ve asked too many times already’ (I did a few coffees and sent one email 6 months ago that I never followed up on)
- ‘I’ve exhausted my network’ (My referrals have dried up/I don’t have much of a network. Everyone has a network, believe me.)
- ‘I don’t want to feel pushy’ (I don’t think I’ve got much to offer)
- ‘They can’t help me’ (I haven’t asked for what I really want)
You may try to fool yourself that you’ve been there, done that. There’s simply no more to be done. You’re wrong. There’s hope for you yet!
Don’t Be A Wallflower
You know deep down that your network is a brilliant way to get more clients, don’t you? And you need clients to pay your mortgage, go on holiday and save for retirement. And most of all you need clients to keep doing the job you love.
So, don’t miss out on what is a brilliant way of getting new business, just because you don’t feel you’ve got the right shoes or enough small talk to join the party. You don’t need to be a wallflower. And I’ll show you how.
Choose Parties Not Blind Dates
So why does working your network, you know, work?
Well it plays to the classic know, like and trust factor – that people will buy from you only if they know you, like you and trust you. People in your network already know you – yay! And they are pretty likely to like and trust you too. They are already interested in hanging out with you.
On the flipside, those outside of your network are waaaaay harder to convert into clients. They are more like blind dates in fact. You’re starting from zero. You’re dressed up to the nines in your new outfit with the tags still on, trying to impress a total stranger over an awkward bowl of olives. That’s no-one’s idea of fun, surely?
Contacting people from the cold outer limits takes a lot of time, effort and money for little return.
Only 1% of cold calls actually result in meetings. And a whopping 90% of business to business decision makers don’t even respond to cold sales outreach. Don’t do it.
A Nod And A Wink Your Crowd is Already Excited!
People in your network on the other hand are already warmed up. They’re giving you a little nod and a wink from across the room. They’re already more open to what you have to offer. So, they are the absolutely best place to start.
Think of your network as a shortcut to more clients. They are a medium to tell the market about all the brilliant ways you can help. That sounds pretty appealing, right?
One super successful consultant I know gets 100% of his business via just 20 key contacts. He nurtures these contacts as carefully as his children and gets some amazing results. And you can too.
4 Easy Party-Planning Steps To Get More Clients From Your Crowd
Step 1: Start With A Master Guest List
This first step is all about get your contacts in one place. Print off your LinkedIn contacts with photos to jog your memory, and/or any spreadsheets or address books – basically wherever you store details of people you know.
Also, think about people you’re connected to outside of your day-to-day business – school parents, friends of friends, family, people from your gym/pub/taxidermy class or even the couple you met on holiday. Put them all together, whether that’s digitally or on paper – whichever you prefer.
Once you’ve done that, think about how your current clients came to you. Did they find you by talking to one of their suppliers who knew you from an event they met you at? Or did a parent at the school gates suggest you have a coffee with one of their friend’s brother’s ex-wives? Add all these people to your list. Sometimes it can be that guy with the short shorts in your yoga class who can turn out to be your best source of work. Don’t discount anyone at this stage.
All of these people should feature on what is known as your Master Guest List.
Step 2: Choose Your VIPs
Next, look at each person on your Master Guest List in turn (yes, every one. Or at least try to, because honestly, seeing their names and faces individually can jog all sorts of memories and cook up some great new creative ideas).
As you do, ask yourself:
- Do they know, like and trust me?
- Do I know, like and trust them?
- What can I bring to their party? (Refer them business? Introduce them to someone who could help them? Buy them a coffee with some interesting insights? Invite them to an event?)
- What can they bring to my party? (Become a client? Introduce me to a potential client? Get me into an association or group?)
If you answer ‘yes’ to questions 1 and 2 and have plenty to say for 3 and 4, then that contact is likely to be one of your VIPs. Someone who can be useful to you and whom you can build a strong relationship with.
These awesome VIPs are the ones you need to roll out the red carpet for. Save them your best wine (not the stuff you give your mother-in-law), your wittiest repartee and your full attention.
Generally, around 15-20 VIPs is a good number – any more than that and you’ll be stretched too thinly. (And remember, you’re not actually holding a party – this is all happening right in your office!)
Step 3: Personalise Your Invites
Now it’s time for the fun bit – inviting your guests to the party. Start with your VIPs, and then if you have time move on to the rest of your contacts.
- Decide on the best way to contact each person – email, social media, in person etc. Don’t be afraid of the phone – it’s used so rarely these days that it can be an effective way of getting hold of your VIPs.
- Be clear on what you want from them – a catch-up coffee, an introduction via email to someone they know, a piece of advice etc. Make sure you personalise each communication wherever possible – people can smell a cut and paste job from a mile away. Keep it brief, but try to include something unique to them if you can.
- Always remember to offer something in return. We’ve all been to a party where you’ve had to traipse across town, only to find a few cans of warm beer and soggy quiche. Ugh. So offer something to make it worth their while coming to your party – a useful article/introduction/referral etc.
Step 4: Get Your Party Started!
Get on the phone, crank out those emails and hot foot it around town! Stir up as much momentum as you can.
The more emails you send, phone calls you make, coffees you set up, the easier it becomes. And when you start seeing results – ‘Oh sure I’ll introduce you’, ‘You know it’s funny you contacted me now, we could use your help with something’, ‘Come along to our next get-together’ – you’ll forget you ever were a wallflower about the whole thing.
Don’t Save Parties for Christmas
This isn’t just a once a year deal. Oooooooh no. This is something you can do every week.
Give yourself the challenge of connecting with 5 contacts a week so that you keep your party going. This has a HUGE impact on the amount of business you win, I promise.
Follow up with your hottest contacts regularly – I’d say at least every month or two, or whenever you have something interesting or useful for them.
Hello Mover And Shaker
So there you have it. My party-planning secrets to help you nab brilliant new clients from your crowd. With waaaaay less cringe-factor than any stiff networking meeting and with some pretty spectacular results. (And you didn’t have to eat any over-cooked rubber chicken.)
Now I’m on to you, you won’t be trotting out any of those tired excuses anymore, will you? Of course, now you’ll be way too busy having amazing conversations with people only too happy to help you (and who are so grateful for everything you’re doing for them.)
So goodbye wallflower, hello party animal! Go rock that party!