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Practice Management > Building Your Business

7 business networking questions, answered

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I was asked the following questions during a recent business networking interview. Hopefully, my responses will help answer some of your questions on how to build a reliable network.

1. How did you first begin crafting your expertise in networking along with building PEEC*?

(*Also known as the PEEC Statement, which stands for: Profession, Expertise, Environments – or target market – and Call-to-Action.)

When I started my speaking and training business, my expertise was in the areas of leadership and communication, so those were the areas where I helped clients. But I always gravitated toward sales teams.

In growing my own business, I put an emphasis on networking because I didn’t have a big marketing budget and I loved talking to people. If fact, I enjoyed meeting new people and learning about their businesses. I figured that if I like them and can help them get what they want, they’ll help me get what I want. It was that simple.

And that’s what started to happen. Then, an organization realized that I was “well-networked” and hired me to teach their members how to network. Once I did that, I never looked back.

As for PEEC, it was comprised of the four principles that I thought were most important to share with those I met when networking. If we were able to exchange PEEC Statements, stay in touch, and help one another, we would grow our businesses. That became a formula that I’ve been sharing for the last 15 years.

2. What advice can you offer on networking for the very first time?

You must have a clear-cut understanding of what you do and for whom. You can’t offer everything to everyone. For example, I was speaking to a coaching client and she felt that everything she did applied to everyone. In theory, she may be right. But as far as marketing, you can’t market to everyone. Not until you reach a tipping point in your business and become Amazon.

So, if you’re a first timer to networking, find the thing that you do best – speaking and training services, financial planning, IT consulting, whatever. Then create, establish, and develop a target market – whom you serve best and therefore wish to serve most.

My target market happens to be the financial services industry. From a networking standpoint, that helps me determine where to go, what to say, and with whom. And that’s really my networking model.

By the way, this approach applies to LinkedIn and social media too.

3. How can you get out of a bad networking situation? For example, from a seedy company, a liar, etc.

You never want to be rude. But if you’re in an awkward conversation or you simply don’t click with someone, it’s natural to think of an “early departure.” Keep in mind, if they don’t click with you, you probably don’t click with them. Hey, it happens.

I believe we only truly connect with about one third of the people we meet in a networking scenario. One third!

Try your very best to focus on developing relationships with those “one-thirders.” It’s much more fun and it will be more likely that good things will happen. That said, if you’re already in a “bad networking situation,” after a couple of minutes, or when it feels right, extend your hand and say, “Good talking with you. Let me know if I can be of help to you at this event. Otherwise, good luck and I’ll catch you at the next meeting!” Or something like that.

It’s like tearing off a band-aid. I would suggest that you never make up an excuse like you have to use the restroom because the person you’re trying to escape from may join you. Awkward…

4. What are some of your best rules for networking via social media?

Here are my five best rules for social media:

Personalize your communication.

Don’t just send a generic note (for example, to those that are available on LinkedIn and other platforms) to invite someone to connect, follow, or like your page. Personalizing your approach will set you apart from others and help you come across as more genuine and engaging, which helps with the next point.

Create engagement:

In order to create a following – or followers – you must create engagement on social media. Those that see your posts, notes, comments, likes, and tweets need to find your interactions interesting enough to respond back and, ultimately, create a dialogue. Taking online connection to offline conversations is important in many service related businesses.

Offer value:

What you’re saying online must be valuable. Can your comments help someone solve a problem? If your goal is business related and you’re posting pictures of yourself just to say, “Look at me!” your posts won’t be valued and may be ignored. Some followers may even unfriend you.

Position yourself as a resource:

When you post, demonstrate to others that you have information in your area of expertise. You’ll create a brand and eventually be called upon as a valuable resource.

Create visibility every day:

I hate to say it, but social media is an everyday thing. That means creating a routine in your busy day to provide valuable posts and be a presence to your followers and fans every day.

5. What is the biggest business networking mistake an entrepreneur can make?

If you’re an entrepreneur, service provider, or sales person, the worst mistake you can ever make is to have every conversation be about you. Your goal is not to pitch your product, service, story, or intentions to everyone that you meet.

Introduce yourself, ask great questions, listen, and truly get to know those you meet. If you like them, perhaps you can continue a follow up dialogue and look to help them. If you help them, they may help you right back. And that will lead to an important and hopefully fun relationship.

6. Is there a certain networking etiquette that you wish more people would follow?

I think business owners naturally come on too strong. Relationships happen at the speed of trust. You must get to know, like, and trust people before they become your client and/or referral partner. Take it slow. The best business – and often personal – relationships are a slow process.

7. Best advice for business owners looking to make the very best first impression?

Relax, take a deep breath, and look to have fun. Talking to strangers in a business setting may not be your idea of fun, but as you get more comfortable with your language, approach, and being the best you, you’ll start to generate business and a few friends along the way. That’s when the fun really starts!

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