As I mentioned in my last article, The "New" Rule of Networking, there are absolutely rules when it comes to networking. They're just not written, enforced by a governing body, or mentioned at the beginning of a networking event before you "touch gloves" and come out networking.
Imagine if they were!
Everyone is NOT a prospect
If everyone was a prospect, you would have to "sell" them. Or at least you would want to. A prospect is someone that knows you or knows of you. They're interested in doing business with you either now or at some point in the future. You know this because they told you. That's a prospect! If you're not sure if someone you're speaking with is a prospect, simply ask them. "You're asking a lot of great questions about the value of my work. Should I consider you a prospect?" How's that for direct? As I've said before, those you meet at events are not necessarily your prospects. Remember, they're there to grow their business, not yours. Unless, of course, you can help each other!
It is never about you!
Have you ever met someone that talks endlessly about themselves and has no questions about you? Well, don't be that guy! As much as you might like talking about you, your accomplishments, and your business (and you should enjoy this!), you want your conversation with others to be engaging and fun, so put your focus on the other person until they ask about you. I find if you ask good questions of those you meet at events, after answering, you will often be asked the same question in return. "How about yourself? Who are your favorite prospects?" This becomes a back and forth that I refer to as a, well, as a conversation. I'm just saying.
Focus on a target market
Your target market (TM) is those prospects whom you serve best and therefore wish to serve most. Often, TM speaks to industry, profession, market segment, niche, geography, dynamic, and perhaps revenues and number of employees. In most cases, the more specific you are about your target market, the more likely it is for you to make that kind of connection. There's a big difference in describing your target market as a small business versus talking about working with small businesses in the manufacturing industry like ACME Manufacturing in the greater New York City area. Of course, you can be even more specific. I find the more specific you are about your marketplace, the more connections you will make in that marketplace. Also, from a networking standpoint, it will help you determine where you need to go, what you need to say, and with whom!
Create (and use!) your elevator speech
Once you've set your sights on a target market, you can easily (OK, not so easily) craft an elevator speech (or positioning statement) so you can speak intelligently about your company and objectives. I have a model that I use to help formulate this elevator speech called The PEEC StatementTM. PEEC stands for Profession, Expertise, Environments, and Call to Action. When asked, if you can discuss in a succinct way what you do (Profession), what you know (Expertise), your target market (Environments), and whom you want to meet (Call to Action), you'll make more important connections than you can imagine! Here's an example of a PEEC Statement that you might find useful if you were, for example, a financial advisor.
I'm a financial advisor with Knock Out Financial Group focused on helping small business owners with their financial management. My expertise is in a number of areas including life insurance, annuities, and financial planning. Most of my work is with small business owners in the manufacturing industry with companies like ACME Manufacturing and Tyson Equipment. I'm always looking for introductions to the owners and general managers of companies like these. Any insight about how to make connections like that would be great!
Be a connector!
I run a networking organization with a partner. The meetings we run are by invitation only. Those that are actually invited to our meetings are vetted as great connectors before we even consider adding their names to the list. What is a connector? We feel a connector is someone that's seasoned and successful in their profession, thinks of helping others before helping themselves, wants to connect great people to other great people, and are fun to be around. Connectors get connected - so be one!
I'll discuss more rules of networking in my next article. Until then, remember, keep the left up!