Networking/Collaboration

Try something new

Keep-calm-and-meet-new-people-9It is incredibly easy to become stagnant at networking.  It is easy to attend the same functions, put on by the same organizations and continue to shake the same hands, month after month and year after year. We become comfortable because, after some time, we know most of the people in the room and the conversations are easy.  Relationships have been built and the nerves of meeting new people have worn off.

Do not fall into this trap.

I try to attend at least one new event each quarter where I may only know one or two of the attendees.  This forces me to be on my toes and to meet new people, which helps to expand my network.  It also ensures that I will continue to meet individuals who may add value to the people I already know.  By attending new events and meeting new people I never get completely comfortable and complacent in my networking efforts. 

New events are not hard to come by.  Hundreds of organizations are putting on networking events all of the time.  It simply takes a little effort to find a new function or the recommendation of a good friend.  One such recommendation came when a close friend was going through a leadership program.  He invited me to the kickoff party for their class project - a massive fundraiser to help a local nonprofit with their strategic plan. 

Through the course of the night I met many new individuals of various backgrounds who were in completely different circles than the ones I typically associate with. Towards the end of the evening I was introduced to the executive director of the nonprofit.  We hit it off and scheduled a coffee for the following week.  During our coffee she asked if I would be willing to serve on their advisory committee, a group of individuals who would help fundraise and work with the board of directors to further the nonprofit’s cause.  I jumped at the opportunity.

The appointment to the advisory committee of Amanda the Panda has allowed me to help many individuals who are grieving the loss of someone close to them in the community I call home.  I have seen this organization touch so many people and help them through one of the hardest times in anyone’s life.  It has also allowed me to connect with a whole new group of individuals and build friendships with people I would have never met if not for that event. 

Do not become complacent by attending the same events.  Meet new people and get out of your comfort zone once in a while.  Find a new event to try or sample what another group is doing.  This will allow you to continue to grow you network and expand your influence.  After all, you never know what other opportunities may exist.

Good networking is a lot like wearing a bow tie

Bow tieDanny Beyer, a sales executive at Kabel Business Services, is a serial networker and often speaks about networking to groups.

Good networking is a lot like wearing a bow tie.  Hear me out here. When it comes down to it, good networking involves three crucial steps. The same can be said for wearing a bow tie. 

Step one:  Patience.  When I first started networking, it took almost a year to see the fruits of my labor. I can still remember the first deal I closed from networking and the rush it gave me to know that I'd built enough trust with someone for them to recommend me to a friend.  It was a small deal but it was my deal.  Similarly, a bow tie takes a lot of patience. The first time I bought one I stood in Younkers with a very close friend for almost an hour replaying a YouTube clip over and over until I got the thing tied around my neck. Looking back on it now, it was really a terrible tie job but I got it done. Now I can tie a bow tie in less than thirty seconds and I can rely on my network for almost any need that arises. 

Step two:  Getting over nerves.  Let’s face it, there are very few people who can honestly say they enjoy walking into a room of strangers and meeting new people.  In fact, public speaking outranks death as most people’s No. 1 fear. Networking is nerve-racking, even for most seasoned pros. Wearing a bow tie in public for the first time triggers those same nerves. The easiest way to get over them? Dive in headfirst and don’t look back.  Take the risk, walk up to a stranger and say hi. Wear that bow tie with pride for the entire world to see. 

Step three:  Realizing both get easier with time. As I mentioned in the first step, tying a bow tie has gotten pretty easy. The same can be said, albeit to a lesser extent, for networking. I’m still more nervous networking than I do tying a bow tie or wearing it in public, but it has gotten easier. The simple fact is everything will get easier with practice.  I’ve learned to suppress the nerves, or ignore them all together, because I now realize that most people attending an event are just as nervous as I am. 

There you have it, how good networking is like wearing a bow tie. Sure it’s a stretch but just remember with a little patience, some practice, and by diving in headfirst anyone can learn to tie a bow tie or be great at networking.

The written word

Thank youDanny Beyer is a sales executive at Kabel Business Services. He is a serial networker and often speaks about networking tips to groups in the community.

A random stranger sent me an email in late 2012 asking for an opportunity to take me
to coffee. He wanted to connect and get to know me as well as share about his business. He also explained how he was newer to town and really trying to figure out how to connect with people. I happily agreed to meet him. We had a great discussion about his goals and dreams, what he did for a living, and how I could help him get more involved in the community. He asked me all the right questions and I left feeling like I had made a great new connection. I made a note to follow up with him a couple months later to see how his progress was going. 

Two days later I strolled into my office and saw a little white envelope sitting in my mail slot. I do not know about you, but I love getting mail. It is almost like Christmas morning every time I get a new letter. I cannot wait to rip it open and see what surprise rests inside. To say I was excited is a mild understatement. I rushed over and saw that the envelope was from the gentleman I had coffee with two days prior. My curiosity peaked as I opened it up and found a hand written thank you card inside. 

The card was nothing spectacular, just a simple printed “thank you” across the front. Inside the card he had taken the time to hand write a of couple sentences thanking me for my time and explaining how he was planning on implementing some of the things we had discussed. He concluded by thanking me one more time and emphasizing that he was excited for the next opportunity for us to connect. It was wonderful.

In this over connected world, it is so easy to make contact with people. My new connection could have just as easily sent me an email, tweet, text, or countless other digital messages which would have taken all of thirty seconds to compose and send. Instead, he took the time from his busy schedule to craft a hand written letter of thanks and that letter had an immediate impact on me and my day. It showed a genuineness that is often missing from most of today’s social interactions. It also made him stand out among a sea of emails. Here was someone different, someone who really cared about building relationships. 

I have tried to send a thank you card after every meeting I have since receiving that note in 2012. The meeting does not have to be business-related in order to justify the time to write a thank you note. A simple cup of coffee with a new connection, reconnecting with an old friend, or checking in with a business relationship all warrant thank you notes. They are just simple pieces of paper but they really do make an immediate impact on those that receive them. They show that you care, that you are not too busy to really let someone know how much your appreciate them, and that you want to build a long-term relationships with them.  

To eat or not to eat?

FoodDanny Beyer is a sales executive at Kabel Business Services. He is a serial networker and often speaks about networking tips to groups in the community.

Most networking events will have some sort of food and beverage provided. The food can range from cheese and vegetable trays to full flung heavy hor d'oeuvres and everything in between. The beverages could include water, soda, wine and beer. It is the intention of the host for those attending to enjoy these refreshments.  They can be delicious and enticing. They can also be disastrous if not given proper respect.

I once attended an event with a full bar and full spread of some of the best food I have ever experienced while networking. I had done my research and knew some very influential individuals would be attending that I wanted to meet. They had not yet arrived so I piled up my appetizer plate with shrimp, meatballs, humus, and more. It was all delicious and I made sure to compliment the host on her taste. Everything was going well until I accidently bumped into the back of someone else attending and a meat ball rolled off of my plate and down the center of my white dress shirt. There is not a Tide Stick large enough to undo that kind of damage. Needless to say I did not meet the people I had hoped to as I hurriedly left the room to change. 

Another example happened shortly after that event. A friend and I were attending an after work social. We had both left the office early that afternoon to arrive at the event about fifteen minutes early. People began to arrive and we each grabbed a beer and made our way around the room. He had grabbed a plate of food and was standing in the corner when a lady walked up to him and introduced herself. He fumbled with the plate, trying to find a place to set it down, and as he was bending down to put it on a nearby ledge he tipped his beer down the front of the her blouse. I have never seen that particular shade of red on a person’s face before as he apologized again and again. She was very calm as she tried to sop up the beer from her shirt. They both left shortly after the incident, him out of embarrassment and her to change clothes. 

The food and drink at an event is typically a highlight. The host has gone to a lot of trouble putting in time and money to provide whatever they deem appropriate. It would be somewhat rude not to partake, but how to navigate a room, meet new people, and enjoy refreshments can be tricky. The best piece of advice I ever received on managing this – arrive early.

Arriving early, even five minutes early, can allow you the opportunity to enjoy some of the food and drink without the worry of how to shake hands, make small talk with a mouth full of food, or where to put finished plates and cups. It also gives you first choice at most of the items provided. Additional advantages to arriving early include being able to check out the name tags to see who else is attending, meeting the host and getting good quality time with him or her before other guests arrive, and the opportunity to talk with those who have had the same idea.

Another way to save yourself the hassle of trying to figure out what to do with a cup or plate is to only partake of one or the other at any given time. Instead of loading up a plate with food and grabbing something to drink, do one or the other. This will allow for an open hand to shake hands and also makes it much easier to navigate a room. Always keep one hand free because you never know when it may be needed.

The final pointer is to always enjoy in moderation. No one likes the person who has had one drink too many or walks around with a food plate piled to overflowing with food. The first impression is often the impression that sticks when meeting people for the first time. The food and drink provided by the host is meant to be enjoyed, so go ahead and enjoy it. At the same time, be sure to know your limits.

The art of the follow-up: We're not dating...

Follow upDanny Beyer is a sales executive at Kabel Business Services. He is a serial networker and often speaks about networking tips to groups in the community.

There is no point to networking without the follow-up. It's the most important aspect of the entire process and it's something that most of us tend to mess up. I want to be absolutely clear right now - networking is not dating. There is no 24 or 48 hour rule, no guideline about who should call first, no risk of sounding desperate with an immediate meeting request. In short, networking is typically about getting things done. The only way to do that is to follow-up.  

As I wrote in my last blog, I typically try to set at least one follow-up meeting at each event I attend. It's pretty easy because all of us tend to carry our calendar in our pockets through our smart phones. If this isn't your style don't be afraid to connect or email the person you'd like to meet as soon as you get back to your office. It's usually easier to set appointments with people you've just met because you're still fresh on their mind.  

The final piece is being persistent. Don't give up after one email or one voicemail message. There have been multiple times that I've had to email or call a person more than 10 times to set an appointment. When I finally got the person on the phone I apologized for leaving so many messages. Their response kind of surprised me - "No need to apologize. I kept meaning to call you back but things kept coming up. Thank you for the follow-up because I really did want to have this meeting." They thanked me for my persistence.  

Getting good at following-up doesn't take an overly complicated calendar or call strategy. It takes the willingness to be persistent and a desire to truly connect with people. Always remember that without a good follow-up plan, there is no point to attending all of those networking events. After all, I just want to go out for a cup of coffee, not on a date.  

Meetings are better than cards

470Danny Beyer is a sales executive at Kabel Business Services. He is a serial networker and often speaks about networking tips to groups in the community.

When I first started building my professional network I used something called the "shotgun" approach.  

The rules were simple. Put fifteen business cards in a shirt or suit pocket and stay at the event until all fifteen cards were gone. The additional challenge was to try and collect as close to fifteen cards from other people attending the event as possible. The event was deemed a "success" by getting rid of all of my cards and collecting those of others. Any count over 10 was a good use of time. Any count under five and the event was a complete waste of time, or so I was taught.  

It was easy for me to approach people and trade cards. I happily came back to my office each afternoon with a stack of business card and carefully entered them into my database. At the end of my first month I marveled at the collection of business cards and the "success" I had with networking. But there was one problem. Sure, I had a great stack of cards and hundreds of individuals in my database, but I had no sales. I had no meetings. I had no prospects. I had no relationships.

That's when I realized that shotgun networking simply wasn't going to work for me.  

The next event I attended I made it a point to meet one person that I could set a meeting with before I left the event. I was apprehensive and a little nervous because up to that point my entire strategy had focused on getting in and out of conversations as quickly as possible. Now I had to sustain conversations and ask for a meeting before entertaining a new contact. To my surprise, it was easier than I thought. The first person I talked to agreed to have coffee with me the next day. Turns out people really do want to connect and get to know others. Who knew?

Since that time I've had hundreds of meetings scheduled during networking events, some of which have ended in business and others that haven't.  

I challenge any business card collectors or "shotgun" networkers out there to give this approach a try. Try to meet someone and set a follow-up meeting during the event. In the end it's a lot more fun to actually connect with people than stare a desk full of business cards.

5 Things to get more out of LinkedIn now

Danny Beyer is a sales executive at Kabel Business Services. He is a serial networker and often speaks about networking tips to groups in the community.

LinkedIn is one of the most useful networking tools currently available as a “social media” platform. It allows user to connect professionally, share great content, and generate business. Unfortunately, it is also very underutilized. I’ve given several talks to students and professionals about the power of social media. It seems like most people have Facebook and Twitter figured out but LinkedIn is a different story. Here are five quick tips anyone can do to start seeing real value from their LinkedIn profile.

  1. Make sure the email address associated with the account is up to date: LinkedIn uses that email address to communicate when new messages are received, when connection requests have been sent, and when group conversations are happening. There will be no communication if the email address on record is from an old job or an AOL account that doesn’t get attention anymore.
  2. Use the “Recommended for You” section of the profile editor to add valuable content to your profile: The recommended for you piece is a wizard that forces users to enter information that will complete their profile. It covers things like education, work experience, non-profit volunteering, certifications, special projects, and more. Remember, the more information you provide on your LinkedIn profile the easier it is for others to find you and your services.
  3. Find great content on Pulse: Pulse is LinkedIn’s news and headlines channel. It allows users to customize the news the want to see based on hobbies, professions, and interests. The content and articles that are available through Pulse are from industry leaders. It’s a free way to keep up on current trends both professionally and personally.
  4. Use the “inshare” button to share content outside of Linkedin to your page:  The inshare button is the same things as the “like” button or “share” button for Facebook. When you read an interesting article share it to your LinkedIn page by simply clicking the inshare button. By sharing great content you provide valuable resources to your network and position yourself as an expert in the industry. 
  5. Connect with weak or lost connections with the messaging service: LinkedIn provides a fantastic messaging service that people feel compelled to respond to. I have had a 100% success rate when using the messaging service through LinkedIn. It has more clout and attracts more attention than traditional emails or other forms of digital communication. 

These tips can be implemented is as little as five minutes and results can be instant. Try making some new connections through LinkedIn today to grow your professional network and expand your influence.

Get over being nice

Danny Beyer is a sales executive at Kabel Business Services. He is a serial networker and often speaks about networking tips to groups in the community.

A little over two years ago, Scott Siepker made a splash when his YouTube video, Iowa Nice, went viral. It was a scathing rant to all of those people who assumed Iowa was simply a flyover state good for nothing more than producing pork and corn. I remembered laughing so hard I cried, feeling a deep sense of pride in my home state, and quickly forwarding it on to about a dozen people. The video showed a new side of Iowa while hitting home the message that yes, we are nice.

While I will never knock someone for being nice, there is a time when one can be “too nice.” Over and over I hear people tell me that they don’t want to ask favors of their connections or seek help because they don’t want others to feel they’re using them. We don’t want to come off salesy, or conceited, or self-serving. In short, we want to be nice.

My best piece of advice – get over it. People genuinely want to help and the only way they can do that is if we let them know what we want. We have to share our goals, our dreams, and let others know how they can help make those dreams a reality. If you suffer from being too nice think of it like this: Imagine if a friend came to you and asked for the same favor you’re too nervous to talk to them about. Would you assist in any way you could? If the answer is yes than you should feel comfortable asking your friend to help. It really is that simple.

A network, both professionally and personally, really can help all of us achieve our dreams and desires, no matter how large or small. In the end it all comes down to sharing those desires with anyone who will listen. The more people who know what you want the better your chances are for success. Start sharing those dreams and get over being too nice. After all, we’re Iowans, according to YouTube we’re already nice enough.  

Winning the networking race

Danny Beyer is a sales executive at Kabel Business Services. He is a serial networker and often speaks about networking tips to groups in the community.

In 2012, I ran and completed the Des Moines Marathon (don’t look up my time it’s kind of embarrassing.) My goal for that race wasn’t to come in first for my age division or even finish in the top 50; it was simply to finish. The race itself was brutal and exhausting, but I never would have been able to finish without the training. Those 12 weeks of running helped condition and tone my muscles and cardiovascular system to enable me to complete that run. I had to be willing to put in the time in order to achieve the end result.

There are a lot of similarities between completing a marathon and building a solid network. For starters, both take time. People continually share stories about how networking just doesn’t work for them. When I ask how long they’ve been networking I generally hear anything from a few weeks to a couple months. Most people want instant gratification and when they don’t see a return immediately they give up. The fact is a good network takes time to build. New connections need time and positive experiences to develop trust and refer business, just like human legs need time to adjust to long distance running.

Along with time, both activities require effort and follow through. Around the sixth week of marathon training I was ready to throw in the towel. The miles were piling up and my body was breaking down. At one point I simply wanted to give up. The same can be said for building a network. There are numerous times when I don’t feel like attending an event or meeting new people. It’s okay to take a day off now and again, as long as it stays at just a day or two. Relationships need to be fostered in order to grow and that can only be accomplished through effort and follow through by both parties.

Finally, both marathons and good networks start with that first step. No one ever completed a race from their couch just like no one built a great network sitting in their car or office. That first step doesn’t have to be a 10k or an event with 300+ people. It’s OK to start off small and go a lap around the block as long as you’re trying something new and giving yourself the opportunity to meet new people. I believe the following quote holds true whether you’re in to running or not –

“No matter how slow you go, you’re still lapping everyone on the couch.” – unknown

So, who are you going to lap today?

Networking tips and tricks - Tip 4: Save business for the end

Danny Beyer is a sales executive at Kabel Business Services. He is a serial networker and often speaks about networking tips to groups in the community.

When I first started building my professional network I had one goal in mind – sell something.  Every interaction I had was dictated by the desire to sell payroll services to the person I was talking to directly or to someone they knew. The process was always the same: Tell them how great Kabel is, share all of the wonderful payroll knowledge I had obtained through training sessions and experience, then try and close a deal or get to a decision maker. The ABCs of selling – Always Be Closing, right? Wrong.

I quickly realized that people were not listening to me. They didn’t care about my great payroll service or the fact that we could save them money. Most of the time the person I was talking with wasn’t even the main decision maker anyway. Their eyes glossed over, they nodded their heads, and their mind wandered to their next meeting or what was for supper that evening. I was getting nowhere, fast. That’s when I changed my entire strategy and the sales door swung open.

The big change? I stopped talking about business. I started getting to know the person I was actually talking to. What they did for fun, where their kids went to school, how they spent their weekends, where they liked to eat, how many brothers or sisters they had – the stuff that truly matters to people. As soon as I put business at the end of the conversation, and made the meeting about the person I was actually talking to, business started to come my way.

So stop talking so much about business. Instead, get to know the person in front of you. The business will come. 

Networking tips and tricks - Tip 3: Leaving a conversation

Danny Beyer is a sales executive at Kabel Business Services. He is a serial networker and often speaks about networking tips to groups in the community.

I had the opportunity to lead a Networking 101 seminar for YPC a couple of weeks ago. During that event we covered a lot of topics. The most popular seemed to be the tips on how to exit a conversation. There was great feedback immediately following the event and I even received a couple emails mentioning how people have used these tips in the past week. Here’s a brief synopsis of what was covered. 

  • Use drinks to your advantage - it’s pretty simple. Drinks need refilled when they’re empty. When I find myself in the middle of a conversation that is either unproductive or needs to end, I simply excuse myself to refill my drink. The other party is free to join you in your refill or can continue networking.  
  • Introduce a useful connection – as the conversation progresses and reaches a natural ending, an easy transition is to introduce a useful connection or friend. I’m not recommending putting a friend in a situation you’re not enjoying, I’m recommending only introducing someone if it makes sense both parties meet. For example:  I would introduce a mortgage banker to a real estate agent I was talking to if the conversation was at a close but we couldn’t figure out how to end it. 
  • Do them the favor of ending the conversation – this is my personal favorite.  When a conversation is coming to a close I will use the following dialogue: “It was so nice to meet you this evening. I don’t want to monopolize all of your time tonight and I know you want to make other conversations. Let’s connect later. Thank you so much for your time and happy connecting!” This allows the other person to feel good about the meeting while ending the conversation on a high note.

The purpose of these tips is to make the end of the conversation as positive as possible. This way the relationship can continue and the opportunity for future conversations remains strong. Leave the other party feeling good and make sure to follow up when the conversation can truly be used to build a long term relationship.

Networking tips and tricks - Tip 2: Find people’s stories

Danny Beyer is a sales executive at Kabel Business Services. He is a serial networker and often speaks about networking tips to groups in the community.

I had the opportunity to go through Dale Carnegie when I was working at Hy-Vee. Up until that class I had always found it difficult to engage with strangers and make small talk. In fact, I hated it. Discussing the weather or the latest news headline always seemed so shallow. The best lesson I received from that entire course was the fact that everyone has a story to tell. The easiest to way to connect with people – find that story.

This goes hand in hand with my last blog about asking others what they’re passionate about. The next step is to listen and actively engage in whatever turn the conversation takes. Once someone starts telling their story, they must become the most important person in the room, no matter who walks in the door. It is only by making them the center point that you will truly engage in the current conversation and ask the questions that will continue the story.

The thing that I’ve realized over the years is that everyone, yes everyone, has an interesting story to tell. It’s finding that story that makes someone a great conversationalist. We all have our favorite vacation memory, best meal, favorite drink, or intriguing hobby. We’re also really good at telling that story to whoever is willing to listen. By sharing this passion, we develop a deeper connection and better relationship that ultimately builds trust. 

The next time you’re at a networking event and really not in the mood to be there, try finding a person’s story. We all have a great story to tell, if only someone would listen.

-Danny Beyer

Networking tips and tricks

Danny Beyer is a sales executive at Kabel Business Services. He is a serial networker and often speaks about networking tips to groups in the community.

Over the upcoming weeks, I’ll be sharing some insights on successful networking. These tips and tricks are things I’ve observed others do or have found useful in my own endeavors. Some topics will cover questions I’m routinely asked by people new to networking or people trying to feel more comfortable with it.  Remember, networking isn’t a science, and everyone has their own unique take on how to do it well. These are simply items that I’ve found useful over the years. 

Tip 1:  How to enter a conversation or do an introduction

This question has been posed multiple times: “I’m at an event or a party and only know the person I came with. How do I introduce myself or break into a conversation with people I don’t know?” This is one of the most intimidating moments of networking because of a couple different factors. 1. We don’t want to come off as abrasive or rude by interrupting a conversation. 2. What do we talk about after the introduction is made?

The simple answer is to always remember the surroundings. Most people attending networking events expect to be interrupted and are hoping to meet new people. The other secret – they’re probably just as nervous as you are. The easiest way to enter a conversation is to simply introduce yourself and then have at least one to two conversation starters ready to go.  Some common conversation starters include:

-          Talking about the event space or location. This is especially useful at fundraising events or community support events.

-          Asking why they’re attending the event, what they hope to get out of it.

-          Asking the usual, “What do you do for a living?”

-          My personal favorite, “What are you passionate about?”

I enjoy the “passionate” question because it gives the other person an opportunity to share about something they truly care about. It lets them set the stage by either talking about a professional topic or personal topic. Always try to avoid yes/no style questions that don’t require much follow up. Remember, the broader the question is the more opportunity the new acquaintance has to answer as they see fit and continue the conversation.  

Stay tuned in coming weeks for more tips.

-Danny Beyer

Meet new blogger Danny Beyer

Danny Beyer is a sales executive at Kabel Business Services. He is a serial networker and often speaks about networking tips to groups in the community.

A good network takes time to build and grow. When I moved to Des Moines with my wife in Danny Beyer2008, I didn’t know anyone besides her and her immediate family. I took an office job and was pretty content with the 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. hours and a Monday through Friday work routine. That all changed in August that year when a companywide meeting was called and we were all handed our termination paperwork. I found myself without a job and without many prospects. I resolved to never be in that situation again. 

My first sales job started with Kabel Business Service, a local payroll provider, a year later.  I was instructed that cold-calling would get me through my first year but that building a solid referral base would make the following years much easier. Not being a big fan of cold calling, I got to work contacting bankers and CPAs and really anyone who would listen to me tell my story of business development. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the groundwork was being laid for the network I now enjoy today. 

Through the next years I continued to meet people. I never said no to a cup of a coffee or a chance to connect with someone new. Everyone had an interesting story to tell whether it involved work or something personal. We shared dreams, successes, and failures. I’ve watched people’s careers take off and learned from veterans who enjoy sharing their wisdom. We’ve let our kids play together, celebrated births and mourned deaths. 

This is why I network and why I try to meet someone new every day. Networking is more than trying to close deals or chasing the next sale. Networking is building long-term partnerships and business relationships that benefit both parties. It involves not being afraid to pick up the phone and ask for a favor and expecting the phone to ring in return. Sometimes those relationships can turn personal, and lasting friendships form. In fact, some of my closest friends have come from the various network groups I currently belong to or belonged to in the past.

This blog will be a collection of stories from my past five years of building my professional and personal network. I’ll share how I helped create a nonprofit event that raised more than $7,000 with a couple of phone calls and coffee meetings. How I helped collaborate with two other young professional groups to pull off the first ever YP Leaders Symposium. I’ll also share the mistakes and tips/tricks I’ve learned through navigating hundreds of chamber and networking events. 

I simply love to connect with people, to hear their stories and learn about what makes them tick. I’d love to hear your story too. Let me know if you’d like to get coffee and connect.

-Danny Beyer

Networking on social media

Katie Stocking is the owner of Happy Medium LLC.

It’s practically impossible to go a full day without someone telling you how busy they are right now. Although that is somewhat annoying, it probably is also very true. I know for myself I would, of course, love to have more time for personal hobbies and interests, but I would also like to have more time for my business goals. One of those goals is networking. Since we basically live on all social media platforms here at Happy Medium, I thought it would probably be best to combine the two and make a go of it.

Here are my tips for networking on social media:

Use the appropriate platforms: For example, if you’re a photographer – using LinkedIn to network might be good – but wouldn’t Instagram or Facebook be even better? You’re a visual company, why not use your best marketing tool, your work, to get business? Find the right fit and you’ll find the right customers.

Be honest: I get a couple of LinkedIn messages every day asking me to coffee “to learn more about my business and see how they can help me get more work” – when usually what happens is you go to coffee and they spend the whole time pitching their own services. (Not all the time of course, but often.) Then you don’t want to go the next time when it’s a legitimate lead and you might miss out. So if you decide to do networking by reaching out to people you don’t know – just be honest about your intentions. Then you kick off the conversation with everyone understanding the expectations and nobody feeling like they were misled.

Set a goal: I try to reach out to at least two people a week via social media. It’s pretty easy to do because it can be on your schedule. Whether it’s participating in groups on LinkedIn/Facebook, tweeting with other industry professionals or reaching out to people you’d really like to get in front of, anything works – just two a week will probably get you pretty far!

Dress for success: Make sure your profile looks just as nice as you would if you were attending a networking event. First impressions are everything and online is no different! Don’t make your profile picture a photo from tailgating last year where you cropped out your spouse. Take the time (and money) to get a professional photo taken.

Ask for recommendations: This is one very simple thing to do. Ask your clients/partners/co-workers to leave recommendations on your LinkedIn/Facebook/Yelp (whatever applies) about you or your business. Often people will visit your page and you don’t even know they are there. The best recommendation is a testimonial – so make sure your pages are stocked with information about all the great work you do.

Good luck! It’s not that scary – I promise, and the worst you will get is a no – which is the same as networking in person right? Go for it and tweet me @interactivekate to tell me how it’s going!

--Katie

Networking works even when you're not sure how

Networking Often times, when we first meet someone, we're not sure how they can add value to our network or if we can add value to theirs.

There usually is no master plan.  There might not even be an immediate "ah ha, I know how he can help me" (or how I can help him).  Instead, there is the recognition that he/she is a person of character. 

Someone that we would find value in knowing. 

And sooner or later, we will be able to help each other.  We just stay connected

.  Networking isn't about spotting someone you can exploit.  It's about making connections with people you like and respect, knowing that eventually you'll be able to be of value

. Building your network is not a series of calculated moves and tactics.  It's staying open to possibilities.  It's helping first, knowing you'll be helped in return.

The message?  Don't sweat it if you aren't sure how a new connection will be of value.  Just stay in touch, offer help/connections where you can and have no fear.  Sooner or later, you'll both reap the benefits of this new relationship.

What is Yours is Ours

Networking I gave a presentation recently at PSIS.

I had a wonderful time and I've received awesome feedback from those who attended. (I've even got some feedback from others who weren't there) Another testament to a network?  I don't know.  It's a testament to the wonderful people that get up every day looking for ways to improve themselves and others.

As I reflect back and believe you me... I'm reflecting and refining as we speak! I can't get this thought out of my head... It's not MY network.  It's OUR network.

We live in an unbelievable community filled with unbelievable people, places & things.  The longer we spend cultivating each other, the quicker we will all achieve the successes we are seeking.

We Must Have Ridden the same Bus to School

Bus Over the years, I've come to the realization that there are several Central Iowans that possess an unbelievable amount of talent, passion, and desire to create success in all aspects of their lives.

Sometimes, when I listen to them talk, I realize how similar our views are and how we seem to have grown up learning the same life lessons.

I've decided to do a short profile on one of those Iowans because during a coffee, his message really hit home.

Adam Carroll is the definition of an entrepreneur, but he also has a keen understanding the role of networking.  He has written a book and currently owns a mortgage company and financial education business.

That being said, as we had coffee I was discussing the presentation I have at Professional Solutions Insurance Services on the 20th.

He perked up and said, "POWER... Promoting Opportunities While Establishing Relationships; done right can lead to Profiting On What Everyone Refers."

And if you've had coffee with me before, you know that I said, "Interesting..."

Adam is right.  We as business people need to think in terms of providing connections to others that increase their chances for success.  If they aren't successful, the odds of success coming back to us are decreased.

Avoid A Stagnant Network

Team In my opinion, a network is only as strong as the depth of the people that are connected within it. 

By this, I mean that when you are in a situation that calls for an industry expert and your list of "go-to's" are not available; it is wise to have others in your network you know can pick up the slack.  That is why I'm firm believer in continuous networking even when you believe your network is complete/solid/strong enough.

In my line of work, I don't force a business owner to use any particular person in my network.  As a matter of fact, in any industry at any given time, I may have a list of 5 - 10 experts that I suggest the business owner choose from. 

These are usually based on the scope, price and most importantly the 'personality' of the situation.  How deep is your network?

If I stop adding to my networking list... I'm letting my network become stagnant.  With a stagnant network the odds of having the proper industry expert for a situation decrease.  Once your connections within your network decrease, you may be experiencing a failing network.  This is a common problem but one that can be fixed nonetheless.   

Networking Continues to Gain Momentum

Network Amanda Ripp of the Business Record wrote a wonderful article on the changes that our area is making in regards to networking. (View Here)

I happen to know each of the organizers of the networking groups referenced in the article.  They all recognize the need for relationships and see the value in making time to meet face to face.  Many of the meetings don't recognize an immediate output, but they all lay the ground work for future success.

Keep up the great work Central Iowa.  I'm excited to see us gaining momentum.

Who Is Maintaining Your Network?

Connected A business is only as good as the people it employs... we've all heard it and most likely experienced situations that support that statement.

I'm going to change the statement slightly and say, 'A business is only as good as the network that its employees can maintain.'

My reasoning is fairly transparent.  If a business spends the majority of it's monetary resources on creating an image that portrays today's 'buzz words' but doesn't support those words within its people... why spend the money?

In today's marketplace, business is done through relationships and relationship building. 

Some of these relationships are 'time-tested', some continue to evolve, some are still in the discovery stage.  My point is... If you or your employees cannot maintain a network with those around you, then it may be wise to re-look at the focus of the image you are trying to portray.

Access Your Network for Results

Netework I often hear the question, "When should I use my network?"

My first reaction is to try and shift the tone of the question too 'When should you access your network?'

The fact of the matter is, that we build networks for a purpose and that purpose should be to produce output.  I like to call it economic output.  If we aren't accessing our networks to produce economic output, then our networks may be static.  Here are 3 times to consider accessing your network:

  • When you know (or even think) you can introduce someone into your network and cause success for them.  Success can be measured in many ways.
  • When you need to 'vet' an idea to determine its validity in the marketplace. Vetting can lead to time/cost/relationship savings.
  • When you meet someone that is exiting a corporate job and wants to get plugged into a more private sector world.  In a world of seemingly increasing corporate lay-offs, it is important to provide a relationship net for those in need of new opportunity.

Of course there are several other times to access your network, but start small and begin to plant seeds within your network to produce economic results.

Be A Relationship Farmer

Farmer Have you ever caught yourself asking the question... "What value does this person bring me?"  If so, you're not alone.  It's very normal but may not be the best way approach a networking situation.

As a networker/collaborator/business development/salesperson, I believe that is important to operate on the "you just never know" principle. 

Often times, the people you meet aren't the direct contacts into sales opportunities for your organization.  As a matter of fact, the real opportunities lie layers deep and can only be reached through strong relationships.

We must work very hard to develop and nurture the relationships around us before scratching someone off your list.  As my good friend Richard Rowe says, "Networking is farming. Not hunting."

Concentrate on growing your relationships rather than monetizing them and your sales yields will grow.

Oh yeah... Happy Thanksgiving! 

Social Event Networking

Handshake Over the past 3 years, I've heard or seen just about every type of networking event imaginable.  I've also been asked just about every question revolving around networking imaginable.  One of the top questions I hear is "How do you get business from social events?"

My response is usually something like this: When you're participating in a social event, the odds of you developing an instant relationship that translates into business are slim to none.  That's not to say it won't happen, but your odds will be increased if you take the initiative to set up a coffee or lunch within the upcoming weeks.  In that follow up conversation get to know them more intimately and find out what resources you possess that could fill a void with their needs, both personal and/or professional.

After all, in a business world that is shifting and changing faster than most can blink... it's important to have a relationship based on the person rather than your product.  Your products may change but it's what you possess as a person that should remain constant.

Get Out Of Your Cave

Chain I wish I could take credit for the title of this post because it is so true when you speak of an entrepreneur and the necessity of a network. 

The title came from Matt Owen of US Rodeo Supply and he just happens to be the person I decided to interview for this post. 

He and his brother Nathan have built quite a business and their story is one that needs to be told.  His comments are in italics.

Question 1 - As a small business and an entrepreneur, you and Nathan have been fighting a hard battle.  Can you describe how plugging into outside resources and networks have helped to ease the pressure on you two operating the business? i.e. can you outsource certain things like financials, etc.

Initially it was difficult to embrace the concept of seeking outside resources. Each attempt we made tended to be a dead end or required unrealistic amounts of capital to have "expert" advisers. We became extremely frustrated and found ourselves reluctant to proactively look for outside advise. However once we had exhausted all of the traditional forms (Bank, SBA, SBDC, SCORE and others) it was a cross-roads and we needed to find a trusted source that could assess our situation and be able to advise us to either "Kill It" or "Double Down". Fortunately we were able to find this in part through a connection made during the SBA FastTrac Program. Kreamer Law offered us our first real "realistic" look at our business. We mapped out our plan and indicated that we did not believe at that stage that we could secure traditional financing. We needed to connect with resources that we could vet the Model to and see if we had a realistic shot at securing Angel Investors or Venture Capital. In hind site this was the first "networking" effort that we had engaged in. Since then we have been able to find numerous external resources to "outsource" expertise.

Question 2 - Could you briefly describe the benefit of accessing a mentor and/or vetting your business model to someone who has successfully exited a like kind business model?

We have been able to remove the "emotion" and drive the business based on facts. The confidence gained from being plugged into people who have done it before (failing or succeeding) has totally changed our use of time. We have since moved beyond the starting line and we are seeing traction with the business. The amazing part is we stopped being focused on securing capital and focused on driving the required changes internally and the sales doubled since the initial networking started.

Question 3 - Have the presentations/connecting you've done with SEMEE and the local universities prepared you for future presentations that involve direct capital growth for your business?

ABSOLUTELY. The opportunity to share our story and learn from others has been an amazing early stage proving ground. This exercise has allowed us to clarify our vision and define what steps we need to take to move the business to the next level. The personal confidence gained through a non-threatening "resource" environment positions us to bridge quickly into a "Road Show" if/when we do have a need to secure venture capital.

Question 4 - Looking back, what would you say the turning point in your business was, after you started your networking process, that validated your business model?

Finding others that can see the vision of creating an Enterprise Model has been difficult. However once plugged in, we have found an array of respected Executives that do see it. When you start to have resources align with the same shared vision (not blinded by capital~however interested in creating something impossible) I think that is when it starts to gel and gain traction.

Question 5 - If you had one piece of networking/collaborating advice for small business owners in Central Iowa... What would that be?

Opportunities are only wasted if you let them be. Get out of your cave. Be proud of what you do and share your story with others. Iowans want to help Iowans. Businesses enjoy helping other businesses. Go to events...even when they have nothing to do directly with what you do. Odds are someone there knows someone who can directly change your business. Don't go out looking to make Sales, go looking to find ways to help others.

Many thanks to Matt for taking the time to answer a few questions. I recommend that everyone take the steps necessary to get plugged into the community.  We live in an ever changing world and it will be our networks that ultimately cause us to succeed.

Dear Central Iowa Businesses...what do you need?

Grow_2 Here's one thing we all share.  We want to grow our business.  Please tell me what you need as a business owner to become successful.  We're fortunate to be currently surrounded by the best human capital in the world.

According to StartUpNation, here are the ten steps they propose to grow your business. See if you agree.

  • Measure and analyze your current status
  • Get efficient through technology
  • Enhance your customer's experience
  • Cozy up with vendors
  • Maximize your niche, expand to a new one
  • Develop new channels
  • Acquire growth capital
  • Create a culture
  • Ramp up awareness and demand
  • Improve sales technique

So what do you think? Do you know where in Central Iowa to go find collaborators to help you strengthen your business in each of those areas?  It's a networking/connectivity process these days.

Want to hear a Central Iowa success story?  On my next post (the 22nd) I'm going to introduce you to US Rodeo Supply.  Matt & Nathan Owen will be interviewed for 'Get Out of Your Cave' one of the best stories of our time... (Yep... I'm 27 years old, which means nothing)

It will be worth the wait.

Think Around the Constraint of Time

Let's face it, time is one of our most cherished assets and also one of the smallest assets we possess.  The challenge lies in finding a way to capitalize on what little time we have as business owners. 

A quick tip to make the most out of a networking moment.  In this instance, the networking activity is a presentation from a company in the Bio-Technology Industry:

Assume you know nothing about how a polymer reacts to a DNA strand filled with bio-nucleic acid.  Now, assume you are listening to a 3 hour presentation on the entire subject. In the back of your mind you're thinking 'none of this pertains to me.'

Truth is, that presentation does pertain to you.  The trick is to look beyond the boundaries of the information and find a way to create value from your time.  Here are some questions to ask yourself during that presentation:

  1. Who do I know that isn't here that could benefit from knowing this company?
  2. Who do I know that would make a good strategic introduction to this company?
  3. Who is in the audience that I haven't yet introduced myself too?
  4. Who would the presenter know that may be able to benefit my business?
  5. What is the presenter doing good/bad that I can learn from for my own presentations?

The fact of the matter is, there are opportunities surrounding each and every one of us. It's up to us (and us alone) to look on the edges of mainstream activity to take advantage.

Cold Call Conversation

So how do I start a conversation?... is a question that I hear quite frequently.  My first response is usually... stick your hand out and say "Hi!  I'm so and so."  Typically the conversation should just start from there, right?  Well... sometimes that happens, but sometimes you need to keep it going.

I wrote a post relating to this subject on my business blog several months ago that I believe still rings true today.

There's one important thing that maybe didn't get stressed enough in that post though... can you find it within the page?

If not, here's a hint... It's in Cory Garrison's comment.

Find a Networking Partner

One of the biggest fears in networking could be the easiest to overcome.  The fear I'm talking about is attending an event alone and not knowing if you'll know anybody in the room.  This often causes people to avoid networking events and ultimately could lead to not getting that big client you've been hoping to sign up.

How would that be easy to overcome?  Simple.  Take a networking partner with you.  They don't have to be your best friend from high school, but they should be someone you're comfortable with.  They should also have a good grasp of what it is you do and what potential clients you're looking to meet.

When you have a networking partner, make sure you introduce yourselves to people in the room.  It helps break down social barriers and may lead to that client introduction you've been seeking.

5 Tips on Getting and Staying Connected (5)

This is the 5th and final segment of a 5 part series (Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4)

The competitive marketplace is changing very rapidly.  As an Intrapreneur (Thanks Matt Owen for pointing me to that term) or an Entrepreneur, we all must be able to adjust and change accordingly.  One of the changes that is happening is our connectivity to other businesses.

Tip #5 - Make Introductions

Part of staying connected to others revolves around your ability to create success for others.  If you go out of your way to make filtered introductions to people in your network... Your network will grow and increase your odds for success.  Here are some thoughts/suggestions for making introductions.

  • Filter But Don't Worry.  This could also be said as, qualify but don't over-qualify.  If you constantly make introductions; you won't make a good match every time.  Do your best in the beginning and you'll get better as you grow.
  • Match Personalities.  One of the easiest ways to filter is to match attitudes and personalities.  People are driven by different things, so do your best to discover what that is and you're intro-success rate will increase. 
  • Give A List.  If you are highly connected you'll end up knowing people within competing industries.  Give someone a list to choose from of your trusted contacts and let them decide who they should choose to hire.
  • Disclose Compensation.  If you're on a commission basis with an introduction; it's my opinion that you should disclose that in the beginning.  This way the person you are meeting with knows there is a vested interest in the introduction.

I encourage everyone to build upon each part of this series.  After all, I believe the collaboration and connectivity among us will ultimately cause our marketplace to grow.  Let's share resources and challenge ourselves to create business success.

5 Tips on Getting and Staying Connected (4)

This is the fourth segment in a 5 part series (Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3)

If you've ever had an extended conversation with me, you've undoubtedly heard me say... "We volunteer about 80% of our time."  That is still the truth today and it's still my recommendation for others...

TIP #4 - Volunteer Your Time to Those in Need of Your Expertise
In this case, don't volunteer to get something back.  Volunteer because you know you can help someone out.  If you truly give your time, you'll see benefits in the long run.  Here are some thoughts to keep you motivated to volunteer.

  • Tithe Your Time:  Don't expect to receive anything back for your time.  Give your time and forget about it.  After all, if you give with the expectation of getting something in return... you're giving for the wrong reasons.
  • Watch Success Be Created:  Mark, Measure and Track where you started and where you finished with each volunteer project.  You'll be amazed at the results you will produce.
  • Be A Bridge: Strive to bridge gaps within industries you see that need help.  Independent operators have a hard time marketing themselves and running their business; find them and ask how you can help them market.  Done right, you can have a hand in their successes.
  • Grow With Your Clientele:  Far too often, we place constraints on future clients.  Some can't afford to pay you, but if you are creative with your expertise, you will be remembered when a company can afford to pay you.

As your network grows, your personal value will grow as well.  Set yourself up for future success by volunteering your time.  After all, it's people we do business with and it's those people that will make you truly valuable.

Related Posts Elsewhere:
- Volunteering that Pays by Cheryl Rankin
- How Volunteering Can Grow Your Business by Michelle Waters

5 Tips on Getting and Staying Connected (3)

This is the third segment of a 5-part series (Part 1 | Part 2)

If you buy into the theory that a business needs to be connected to be successful, then you may also buy into the theory of associations.  You may also have doubts on whether or not associations will truly help your business grow.

TIP # 3 - Join an Association
Call them an association, call them a chamber, call them what you will... they cost money and it's important to watch where every dollar in your business is spent.  Here are some suggestions when joining an association:

  • Be Picky.  There are several different associations that you can join, so be sure to ask questions from current members and former members.
  • Your Dues Are An Incentive.  Sounds strange, but you should view your dues as a reason to attend events.  If you pay a yearly fee and don't attend the organizational events... you're wasting money.
  • Be Proud.  You know you're involved with the right association when you won't hesitate to drop their name.  If you're not willing to share who you're aligned with; you're aligned with the wrong group.
  • Volunteer For Them.  You paid money to join, but that doesn't mean your time shouldn't be allocated to get involved in your association.  View your time as promotion for yourself and your business.  You'll be amazed at the connections you'll make.
  • Help Them Help You.  It's important to find ways to help your association grow and improve.  Far too often, businesses expect their dues to be the cure-all for their business.  Dig into the association and see how you can help them improve you.  After all you, as the business owner, know exactly what resources you need in order to grow.

We're passed the halfway point of the 5 part series!  #4 and #5 are on the way...

Previously: Part 1 | Part 2

5 Tips on Getting and Staying Connected (2)

This is the second of three-parts. Also see 5 Tips on Getting and Staying Connected (1).

Hand Back on April 22nd I wrote a post for Iowabiz.com that had a segment dealing with the sacrifice involved in networking. More specifically, the long hours that are required and the fact that there are several options for networking... you just have to seek them out.

Tip # 2 - Attend Seminars and Professional Development Business Functions
In many instances you should view these functions as if you're reading a business book.  You're not going to believe everything you read/hear and it's up to you to take out pieces of information that you can apply to your business.  Here are some things to focus on when attending these events:

  • Re-Connect.  In many cases, you'll run into people you already know. Make it a point to follow-up with them and find out if they're in need of any resources.
  • Connect.  Make it a point to seek out others that you don't know.  Remember, people are there for a reason and it may take pro-active steps to start a conversation.
  • Make Yourself Visible.  Separate yourself but don't stand in a corner.  You can make yourself standout by 'working' the room and introducing yourself.  If you have too, strike up a conversation in the beverage or food line.  This allows for one on one interaction and makes for great practice on your elevator pitch.
  • Follow-up.  Make sure to gather business cards and follow-up with an e-mail or phone call... and then buy them a coffee.  Sometimes the best 'marketing dollars' can be spent on a coffee and an hour long conversation.
  • Make it a Habit.  If you continue to pursue networking events, they will soon become easier and easier to attend and most importantly... this will make them effective.

Stay tuned to Iowabiz.com for tip # 3

5 Tips on Getting and Staying Connected (1)

Almost a year ago, I was asked by Juice Magazine to give five tips on how to get connected and stay connected to the business community.  I was limited by space, so I'm excited to be able to expand on them now.

Tip # 1 - Blog
I have witnessed much debate over the last few years on whether blogging is worth the time commitment.  In my opinion, it is well worth it.  Besides the fact that your website/blogsite will become more findable... wouldn't it be great to network in your sleep?  We've all heard that we should strive to make money while we sleep, but what about networking in our sleep?  Below are my networking tips, based on my personal experiences, within the blogging category:

  • Hire a blog coach.  By investing a small amount of money and time, you'll find that your blog will be more dynamic and effective in a shorter amount of time.
  • It's very hard to put your thoughts out on the web.  So, before you decide to jump in, start to read a few blogs first.  When you are comfortable reading posts, then type in a comment.  The author will appreciate it and you'll instantly establish a new connection.
  • When you finally decide to write your own blog, your blog should 'sound' like you.   When you meet someone face to face, you know if they are 'being real' or not.  Your blog shouldn't be any different.
  • To maximize your reach, you should post everyday.  Since I don't do that; I won't recommend it, but you should post at least 2 times per week.  The more you post, the better chance you give yourself to make a new connection.  The more connections you make, the better chance you have to make a new customer.
  • Write your thoughts down.  With all the distractions in the world it is easy to forget a great idea for a post.  Take the time to write it down when you think about it.  If you don't, you may lose that great thought forever.
  • Don't try to be perfect with your writing.  One of my biggest challenges is making sure everything sounds right before I post.  When I do this, it takes a long time and gets very frustrating.  Don't forget to let conversation happen.
  • Don't be too long with a post... (and that's why you'll have to wait until the 22nd to read Tip # 2 on Getting and Staying Connected...)

Collaborative Competition

Armwrestle_2 I often get the question: "Who are your competitors?"  My response usually gets odd reactions and/or a muffled comment that I think sounds like "Yea. Right. You're ignorant."  I could be wrong though.  They may be saying "You're right. You're excellent." Most of the time I never know.

My response to the question is always: "Nobody. I don't view anyone as competition."  I'll give them some time to mumble something and then I'll give my reasoning...

In todays world, the marketplace is highly competitive and always changing. Because of this, businesses need to be connected to various types of resources.  Businesses that stand alone and are unwilling to collaborate with 'competitors' may miss an opportunity to grow strategically and/or financially.

Here is a real world example: My first job was with Country Insurance and Financial Services. I lived, worked and played in Plymouth, MN and I conveniently joined Country at the beginning of an acquisition.  Very difficult, but a great learning experience.  Early on in my practice I realized that I was not going to write every policy to every person I met.  So... I began looking for agents that directly competed with me.  I soon developed a trusted group of insurance agents that had the exact same products, only different descriptions.

If a potential client would say, "You're $300 more than my current rate!" I would say "Okay. Let me give you some names and numbers of others that I know and trust and see how they compare" instead of saying, "Yea, but I'll be the best darn agent you've ever had!" Let's face it... even I'm not going to pay $3600 more per year because I can call my agent on his cell to tell him "Hey. I just drove my truck in the lake."

This is a collaborative selling process based upon networking with the right people.  It's not a new concept, but because the marketplace & practitioners within different industries changes so quickly; businesses and business owners must be able to utilize each other to add value to potential customers.  You may just find that potential leads you 'lose' will come back to you (with friends) in the long run.

Photo on Flickr by Elijah

From Zero to Something in Seconds

We've all heard one, we've all tried one, but at the end of the day- do we know what we heard or said?  And better yet, do we understand how and where success can be created in a conversation that we just had? 

A porch pitch, an elevator pitch, a brief rambling…  call it want you want, but at the end of the day, if you don't know what the person across from you does... how can success be created for either side of the conversation?

For an entrepreneur/intrapreneur looking for collaboration or connection to a resource; make it easy for others to understand what your needs are.  After all, you're networking for a reason and if you can't describe in short form why you exist, you may have given failure an opening.

 For 2 1/2 years I've been practicing my elevator pitch.  I'll be the first to admit... it's not great... but it's getting better.  The fact of the matter is that many times your elevator pitch may change based upon your audience.  And while the words may be different, the meaning of your business shouldn’t change. With that in mind, what core values does your business possess?  The following questions can assist in uncovering the value within the corporation you work for or within your own personal practice.

Why do you exist?

Describe what the need is in the marketplace and why you fulfill the need.  You don’t have to validate (in this initial conversation) that there is a market for your product or service, but make sure you plant a seed in another’s mind that you understand your industry.  In a networking situation, you have succeeded if the other person seeks to know more about your personal practice.  The follow up conversation can lead to marketplace validation.

Why are you different?

Describe how your business or personal practice is not a commodity.  Whether the differentiation comes from experience, attitude, motivation or even a niche within a niche; a person needs to know why you stand out from others.  This doesn’t imply being quirky.  Your description should cause them to remember your business needs, not your behavior.  Your behavior and mannerisms will cause you to be remembered for your personality, not your business.

Who do you work with?

Describe who and where your target markets are.  This can be achieved by simply stating two or three needs that you currently have.  The idea is to say the right “buzz words” that connect a person within their network to your resource needs.  Be careful to NOT limit yourself to certain industries. Success often lies around the edges of your business model. 

The ability to explain your existence, differentiation and target market will put you in a position for a successful elevator pitch.  Not everyone will know someone that can help you, but it’s important to remain in the mind of others.  This activity takes time to perfect and will only get better with practice. 

The Personality of Networking - Part 2

How do you stay motivated? I’ve been asked this question for several years… Even before I decided to join the working world. It’s a tough question, but I’ve been able to answer it every time I hear it. My response typically revolves around passion and sacrifice, but in Part 2 of 'The Personality of Networking', I’ll dig a bit deeper.

Motivation:
I broadly define motivation in this case as, 'the drive and desire of an individual.' This can be for monetary reward, personal satisfaction or both. This is essentially what makes a person get out of bed everyday.Being able to define why you do what you do will make it easy to decide who you are. The following are traits often demonstrated by an effective networker:

  • Implementation - Setting specific networking goals and achieving them. The goals a networker sets should not revolve around seeing how many sales they can make, but rather simple goals like handing out two business cards per day. In this case, you should set achievable goals and follow through. If you find that at the end of the day you haven't handed out two cards... then get your butt to the grocery store and hand ‘em out!
  • Determination – The belief that you will create success.Far too often, I see individuals give up when they don't see success being created from the networking they have done. Reality is that some of the time, nothing will happen. On the other hand, many times things are being created from your efforts that you'll never even realize.You must be able to trust in yourself and your judgments that you've surrounded yourself with the right people. Good things will happen.
  • Sacrifice - Successful networking requires long hours.The excuse, "there are no networking events available" doesn't apply. If you can't find a networking event; you aren't looking hard enough. Check into your local associations and visit their events. Events are held at all hours during the day/night and it's up to you to make the time commitment to attend. This often leads to becoming a networking nerd; which is okay if you remain light-hearted and don't take things too seriously.

In my opinion, attitude & motivation can be learned/trained or born within. It’s imperative to recognize which characteristics you lack and strive to fill the gaps. In an ever changing and competitive market place; a business can thrive through the networks we build.

The Personality of Networking - Part 1

Handshake It's been my experience as a networker/connector that there are several pieces to the overall puzzle often referred to as connectivity.  One piece of this puzzle revolves around the personality traits of a successful networker.

Two basic characteristics within a personality that make for an effective networker are Attitude & Motivation.  First, we'll focus on a networking attitude.

Attitude
I broadly define attitude in this case as, 'any person that recognizes their strengths and weaknesses and utilizes them to achieve success in their personal practice.' In my opinion, it is important to recognize early-on what you don't know and surround yourself with the expertise you need to grow. 

Over the past three years, I have seen the following attitudes in effective networkers:

  • Fearless - It takes courage to walk into a group of people and introduce yourself to others.  In many cases, someone that is unwilling or unable to approach a group may miss an opportunity for collaboration.  Sometimes a group may seem unapproachable, but in reality the group is in a comfort zone that will make them MORE approachable.  In order to find this out, you have to step outside of your personal comfort zone and make that determination.

  • Light Heart - Life can and will throw you curve-balls.  Think back to a time you've met with someone and instantly knew they were having a bad day and couldn't care about anything you had to say.  Did you want to force a conversation that you knew they didn't want to have?  An effective networker is often able to hide their negative emotions (if only for an hour) in order to produce results from a conversation.  An effective networker can also utilize their positive attitude to brighten the other's day.

  • Opportunist - It is of high importance to see opportunity when it is not readily apparent.  In a situation that has signs of little promise, an effective networker should be armed with open-ended questions that can lead to a potential opportunity (if not for them, then for someone else).  These questions can be as simple as: “Where are you from?”, “What is your passion?”, or “Does your neighbor have rabbits?”  Some of the best meetings come from those that show no signs of opportunity.  Many times questions can disarm a tense conversation and produce great results.

By recognizing different characteristics of your attitude, your odds for success will be increased as you move into the networking process.   

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