Last week I attended a three hour seminar called “Fill Your Pipeline with East” hosted by the St. Louis Referral Institute (http://referralinstitutestl.com/index.php/en-us/). Virginia Muzquiz, who owns the company, ran the seminar. She was amazing! She kept the entire room so engaged and completely focused on what she shared, in three hours no one got up to use the restroom out of fear something important would be missed. I thought I would share a little about what I learned from this three hours. Virginia shared what she believes to be the top three biggest mistakes business owners make when it comes to networking and offers suggestions to overcome the mistakes.
Starting with #3, NO FOLLOW UP SYSTEM. She says, “Write POWER notes”; meaning P = personal, NO company letterhead; O = Optimistic; W = Written by hand; E = Engaging, make it all about them meaning do not use I or WE phrases; R = relational, referencing where you met and even the conversation you had. These key points are important to the process because it begins to set up a relationship between you and the prospective client. She also referenced this as a nurturing campaign in which you give them something, instead of right away trying to get something. Lastly, she reminded us to pick up the phone. We all know it is heavy, but it works. Just call someone you have in your file and see how they are doing, again – relational.
Mistake #2 is Transactional Networking. What this refers to is those of us who go to a lot of events, hand out a lot of cards & brochures and talk about how we can help others leads to what she calls a network disconnect, which she explains to be low social acceptance, low contract margin and chronic overwork. How many of us have felt that way or do feel that way now? She suggests that instead of this approach we implement, here is that word again, relational networking. Relational networking is about fully engaging with the people you meet, try to actually like them, care about them, and make new friends. She suggests that you pick 3 organizations and go ALL IN. They don’t all have to be Chambers, BNI’s, or business networking style organizations. Get involved in your community, your church, or maybe your favorite non-for-profit and spend 6-8 hours a week with these organizations volunteering, working the registration tables, and just being in front of everyone involved. When they need services that you offer, you will be remembered or referred because you have built up a relationship with them.
And mistake #1 is No Word of Mouth Plan. She laughs and says, most businesses do some form of networking that isn't working, yet they then do more of it with even higher intensity; the whole room laughed and shook their heads. The following things take a lot of time and money: cold calling, direct prospecting (cold calling in person), and direct mail & advertising. These things can work, but for a small business owner they are much harder to find the time and money to make happen. She goes on to explain a system for word of mouth referrals that she calls the 3 T’s!
Select a TRIBE. Choose your specific demographic using psychography, which means choose like-minded people who will actually need your services at some point. She suggests to focus on one tribe and care about the how, what and why, which will make you a value to their lives and they will call you for everything, including referrals for other places.
TRUSTED AUTHORITY. This sets us up to be sought after by helping to solve problems and value to the tribe. Three steps to do this are claim it – be confident in yourself, your business and be the expert in your field that they need. Second, communicate effectively – be clear, and lastly be congruent – which I believe is similar to being open-minded in your opportunities to be in agreement and work together.
Build a TEAM. Turn your clients into your brand ambassadors, use reciprocal marketing by creating a team in which you all work in harmony to build each other up by referring prospective clients to one another. By doing this, your word of mouth growth will jump without having to really work that hard.
I learned so much from this seminar and there is much more to learn. Although we chose not to sign up for her 8 week course, I believe that someday I just might find the time to do it. If you have the time, energy and money to put into this I would highly suggest it.
What I walked away with most, was that building your business is all about building relationships with people outside of your office/business. Make some new friends, be comfortable sharing a little of yourself with the people that you meet and remember what they share with you. Call them up and ask how they are doing instead of calling to see what we/I could do for them. I plan to implement as much of this as I can in my work and see how it goes. I believe I have done that a little already and it seems to be paying off, so I will continue to do more of it with these lessons in mind.
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