Some people seem to nail networking and it is the main form of marketing they use. Even people I know in corporate rely on networking for long term growth. So what makes some people networking rock stars while others struggle to make it work? Networking is both an art and a science that takes time and practice to perfect but there is a common trait amongst top networkers that you can easily develop to increase your networking effectiveness, by developing Solution Focussed networking (SFN).
Master salesman Zig Ziglar, yes that really is his real name, often said the key to sales is understanding . . .
“you can have everything in life you want, if you will just help enough other people get what they want.”
You need to find the challenges people are facing and be part of the solution, or as Zig puts it, ‘Help them get what they want’. When you help people out you become more valuable to them and they generally want to help you out.
Unfortunately many people operate under the opposite principle, they try to get what they want from as many people as they can. They act like hunters, searching for the next sale, when they need to be farmers, developing and nurturing new connections. Like farming you need to put value in before you get value out. By developing a Solution Focused approach you can go to any network meeting and show people you are someone who is worth knowing and can add value to them. There are two steps to SFN, firstly identify people’s challenges, then look for ways you can draw on your network to solve those problems.
Step 1 – Connect and Identify the Challenges
Businesses exist to solve problems. People have challenges they need help with, and other people have solutions for those problems. For example;
-If people need a hole there are shops to sell them a spade and services to provide a crew to dig it
-If people have difficulties with their accounts there are bookkeepers and accountants to sort it
-If people need posters and flyers there are graphic designers and printers to do this
As a networker it is your job be part of people’s solutions so rather than spraying out business cards and telling everyone what you do, instead ask them questions about their business and the challenges they are facing.
Try these questions at your next networking meeting:
-“can you give me an example of who uses your product?”
-“what’s the biggest benefit clients get from using you?”
-“what do you like best about your work?”
-“can you tell me about some of the challenges you have in your business”
By asking them about their business you are;
•showing you are interested in them and their business
•finding out about what they do, who their clients are, what problems they solve and how they benefit their clients
Most of us like it when people take an interest in us and our business so this helps build a great connection.
Step 2 - Get Them Connected
Once you have engaged and identified their challenges you need to draw on your network to offer solutions. The greater the depth of your network the more people you can help. Here are some examples;
-Appointments – “I know someone who is targeting the same client group, maybe you could partner and host a seminar or share a marketing campaign? I’ll get them to give you a call and you can see how you go”
-Marketing – “I know someone who has helped a lot of small businesses get inspired about their products and promote them, I’ll get her to give you a call and see if she can help you out”
-Tax and accounting – “I know a great bookkeeper/ accountant, I’ll get them to give you a call, have a chat with them and see if they can help you out”
-Staffing – “You need to be careful before you make any big decisions, I know someone in HR, I’ll get them to give you a call and see if they can help you out”
Being an effective networker is about connecting others so don’t discount personal connections as well. When you make quality connections it’s a win-win.
-The person you met wins because they are on the way to having their problem solved
-The person you referred wins because they have an opportunity to meet with someone who might use their services, and
-You win because you have increased your value to both those people and your profile as an active networker increases.
This is where networking is like farming, you are planting connections and nurturing a referral culture. This will attract similar people and those connections will grow and over time you will find more and more opportunities will come your way.
So next time you go to a networking event practice a Solution Focused approach;
-Get them talking
-Identify the challenges they are facing, and
-Connect them to someone who can help them out.
There are many elements to becoming an effective networker, if you are struggling to be an effective networker then reach out to people like myself and those in your network and ask for some tips, most great networkers are only too happy to help.