If you’ve all but given up on business networking, I’m here to tell you: we’ve all been there.
Whether you regret giving up those precious hours of morning sleep or sacrificing time with friends to attend the after-hours event that left you looking like the walking dead the next morning—I get it. All too often networking events end up seeming like a waste of time and energy.
So, what can be done to change this? Give up, that’s what!
It turns out your high school coach was wrong: sometimes quitters do win. But in order to win at quitting, you have to have a strategy.
How to Get Sales Leads the Easy Way
How do you give up on business networking but still get new business leads? First, start by throwing everything you know about networking out the window. Clean off the slate and create a new strategy for lead generation and referrals that doesn’t make you want to rip your hair out.
Tap Into Your Existing Network
This might not seem like a revolutionary idea at first—so read on.
- How many people have you met while out networking?
- How many people work at your office?
- How many clients do you have now, and how many employees do they have at their office?
- How many people have you met during the course of your life?
Statisticians cite that the average person will meet approximately 80,000 people in their lifetime. That’s a lot!
Sales leads and referrals are already right there in front of you—it’s simply a matter of making the most out of each and every relationship. But most importantly, it’s about giving first.
To be clear—I am not literally suggesting that you quit all networking activities or view them as useless. What I am proposing is that you change the way that you think about business networking. It’s time to step back and use your current resources to meet people.
Cynthia Greenwalt, Professional Networking Coach and Founder at Sea Change Networking, shared the best advice I’ve heard about formal business networking. She said, “Don’t ever expect that your next customer is going to be in the room. That’s not what networking events are about. They are about connecting.”
Cynthia is right. Networking events are about forging relationships, but what we might be overlooking is the fact that we might already know the people that we need to know. Attending a new networking luau on the roof of the trendiest Manhattan hotel might not be the ticket to referral heaven after all.
3 Ways to Get Leads from Your Existing Network
You’ve gone to events, you know people, now what? Here are 3 ways to tap into your existing network for referrals:
- Make 3 Lists
- Inner Circle
- Outer Circle
Make a list of your connections and divide them into the three sections above. The Inner Circle will be people that are close to you—whether personal or professional, you are friends. You know, like, and trust each other and would have no hesitation referring your friends, clients, and contacts to them.
The Mid-Circle list should include people that you know, like, and trust, but perhaps aren’t as close with as your Inner Circle.
Your Outer Circle list should include people you know and trust—perhaps from previous networking events—that you believe would make great referral partners.
- Make it About Them
Have you ever found yourself in a weekly networking group where referral exchange is required and you had difficulty finding the right connections to refer? Why was that? What made the process so difficult?
I believe the biggest wall we run into with traditional networking is that we don’t forge real relationships, which makes it difficult to refer. For this very reason I recommend beginning your new strategy with your Inner Circle list. Since the contacts on this list are those that are closest to you, helping them should be a breeze.
Questions to consider asking:
- “What can I do to help you?”
- “What type of people can I introduce you to?”
- “What resources would be helpful to you or your clients?”
Also, introducing those in your Inner Circle to one another is a great place to start.
Whatever you do: share from your heart. Look for ways to help others—it makes a difference!
- Connect Often
Think about it like dating—the more time you spend with another person, the more you get to know them. The more you get to know them, the more you understand them and their needs.
In the business world, things change often. Services are added, subtracted, extended, or changed constantly. Often what was a priority a year or two ago is no longer true today. Spending quality time with the people in your circles is the best way to know what matters to them and learn how you can help.
Now, I know what you’re probably thinking:
“What’s in it for me?! You basically just told me to make a list of the people close to me, figure out what they want, and spend a bunch of time with them.”
If we want to get anything in this life, we have to give up the idea that it’s all about us.
If we want to get referrals and sales leads, we have to give up the idea that meeting more people is the key.