How to Get ROI From Your Networking Efforts

February 23, 2009 at 4:51 pm | Posted in entrepreneurship, Networking, sales | Leave a comment

Have you noticed the ever-growing number of networking groups? While there was once only a handful of opportunities to network at Chamber of Commerce breakfasts and local trade association get-togethers, you know have to decide among the thousands of online and offline groups that seem to be sprouting up on a daily basis.

The problem is that you only have so much time in the day. If you joined every networking group out there, you’d inevitably be meeting some useful contacts, but you’d have little time for anything else. To effectively make connections and save your sanity in this age of hyper-networking, you need to be selective. The following five tips will help you filter through the vast and sometimes murky world of business networking to find the groups that can offer you the greatest ROI from your networking efforts.

Define Your Networking Style

With countless networking events, you have the ability to choose what type works best for you. Speed networking, cocktail parties, conferences, informative seminars, online get-togethers – each format has its own unique advantages and disadvantages. You most likely will gravitate to one or two types of events. That’s ok. You’re better off sticking with attending only the activities in which you have the highest comfort level.

Do Your Homework before You Commit

Once you’ve found a handful of groups that are in line with your networking style, research the types of members, their companies, and the focus of the group. Don’t be afraid to attend a group’s events two or three times to get a feel for their dynamics. You may love it, or you might find that it’s not in synch with your goals, interests, or personality. The key is not to commit yourself to anything until you are confident that it’s a good fit for you.

Stay Focused on What You Can Give

Many networkers leave groups frustrated because they feel that they are not getting enough. Yet, they haven’t put any effort into giving. As in the famous words of the Beatles, “The love you take is equal to the love you make.” This certainly applies to networking. Always think about what you can give and offer to your contacts before you ask for or expect anything from them. Once you begin to focus your energy on helping others, you’ll quickly find that they are enthusiastic about helping you!

Follow Up and Follow Through

Interestingly, it may seem like you’re networking at the events you attend, but in reality, the true networking doesn’t actually begin until afterwards. If you neglect to follow up or connect with the contacts you’ve made, you’re merely socializing and not networking at all. It’s 100% about how you maintain those connections that will determine your level of success.

Be Realistic

The reality is that not every networking connection you make will be able to produce leads and referrals to you. Yes, you need to be helping others, but you also have to devote the bulk of your energy to cultivating your most valuable resources. Assess each contact and determine how you can work together. If there just isn’t a great deal of potential with a particular connection, it’s ok to minimize your dealings with him or her. Both of you will be better off shifting energies to others who will be more beneficial. 

Adrian’s Stimulus Plan

February 17, 2009 at 12:03 pm | Posted in Customer Service, entrepreneurship, Networking, sales, Sales Training, small business | 1 Comment

We’re all pondering the methods our government leaders are proposing to jumpstart the economy. Meanwhile, the recession seems to be getting more and more critical with each passing day.

The reality is that regardless of the stimulus plan that is finally decided upon, you’re not likely to get a handout anytime soon. So, instead of fretting over the economy and what the politicos will or will not do, it’s time to take matters into your own hands and create your own stimulus plan.

With a simple disciplined plan to reach out to others, you can and will increase your sales – even in these troubling times. Don’t fall into a downward slide of pessimism. Get out there and start making it happen!

Expand Your Circle

Make it a weekly goal to meet ten new contacts. Remember, there is safety in numbers. The more people you can connect with, the more sales you’ll make, and the less likely you’ll be affected by the economic downturn.

Go to Networking Events

Too many people think that they’re above having to attend networking get-togethers. Interestingly, these are the same people who are complaining about their lagging business. Commit yourself to attending events at least twice a month. Sure, you might generate some new business, but just as importantly, you may be able to provide help to someone who also needs a leg up.

Become Active in a Group/Committee/Association

Undoubtedly, you’re a member of at least one industry association or business group. While you may have ignored their email invitations to events when times were good, you could probably benefit from their support now.

Show Some Appreciation

Now is the time to thank all of those loyal existing clients who have given you business through the years. Be generous with your appreciation, and you might just drum up some new sales.

Work Your Database

Make it a daily plan to start reaching out to everyone on your database. Begin with the smaller accounts and work upwards so that you don’t miss anyone!

Reactivate Dormant Accounts

Haven’t heard from a customer in a while? Give them a call, send them an email, or even invite them to an event or function. Just don’t let them drop off of your radar.

Cross Sell Everyone

If you’re making assumptions about what your customers want and need, you’re missing out on valuable opportunities to cross sell. Always provide information on all that you have to offer, and let them decide what they want to buy.

 

 

 

 

   

Will You Love Me in the Morning?

February 6, 2009 at 8:23 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

We’ve all had those sales presentations where everything went right. You captivated the audience with your words, and they nodded in agreement. You left the room feeling like a rock star, confident that you’d soon have a sale. Then, the romance quickly ended when you tried to close the deal. They fell off your grid, wouldn’t take your calls, and basically disappeared without even an explanation. Hmmmm!  And, you thought they loved you?

 

Yes, it sounds more like a one-night stand than a sales presentation, but too often seemingly productive sales presentations end up going nowhere fast. Why? Well, there are four primary reasons why your once captive audience is not really into you anymore. Here they are:

 

Oops! You Romanced the Wrong People

Often times, the people who seem like they are sure bets during a sales presentation are just those who don’t have any buying authority. It’s easy to get positive response from individuals who aren’t authorizing the checks, but you’re spinning your wheels by focusing on them. Do your homework ahead of your meeting and make sure that the decision-makers will be listening to what you have to say.

 

You Didn’t Probe For Information BEFORE the Pitch

You’ve memorized the features and benefits of what you’re selling and can probably even recite them in your sleep. But, no one is sold by a running monologue. To captivate them enough to get them to buy, you better be finding out how you can help them. Without this information, you have no ability to offer them an improvement of their current situation. This translates into them having no reason to return your call.

 

You Didn’t Present Enough Value

You could have the flashiest, most innovative product or service on the market, but if you can’t communicate its value to your prospect, they’re not going to buy it. Sure, they’ll ooh and aah over the fantastic things that you’re showing them, but if you’re not explaining why they need to have it, you might as well pack up and go home.

 

You Didn’t Ask Enough Questions

Besides determining their specific needs, you still need to find out much more before you have the sale. Do they have the budget for what you’re selling? What’s their timeline? How does the purchasing process work? How best to follow up? What else can you do to help them?

 

Like going on a first date, you need to play it smart if you’ll continue on towards a relationship. Find the right people, ask them the right questions, and you’ll go a long way to preventing being jilted again.

Rev Up Your Sales Engine

February 4, 2009 at 7:45 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Ladies and gentlemen, start your sales engines! The current economic situation may be bleak but improving your core sales skills and competencies will help you to accelerate ahead of the pack and come out ahead at the finish line.

Sure, you’re probably noticing everyone around you putting the brakes on their sales efforts in an effort to protect their status quo. Go ahead and let them. However, who says you can’t buck this negative trend and use these tough times to your own advantage? Follow these tips and put yourself in gear to speed past the competition.

Create a Winning Value Proposition

In tough times, you better have a very clear understanding of what makes you different and better. And, you’ll need to be able to communicate it effectively too. Does your value proposition need refining? Start by writing what your offerings provide in terms of tangible business results. Make them distinctive, measurable, defendable, and undeniably sustainable.

Design an Integrated Sales and Marketing Campaign

Putting all of your eggs in one basket doesn’t work in the hen house, and it isn’t a smart business strategy either! You don’t need to spend a fortune on a campaign when money is tight, but you do need a way to effectively reach out to your market from a variety of mediums. Shop around for new marketing opportunities and don’t be afraid to bargain.

Pick Your Prospects Carefully

Now is the time to target your suspects carefully before you initiate converting them into prospects. Develop your profile of who is qualified for your products or services and keep your sales funnel full of only those who meet these qualifications.

Be Persistent and Patient

Buyers are understandably slower to purchase and more diligent about making decisions these days. Keeping that in mind, you may have to provide that extra amount of effort to help them make the decision to buy from you. There are still plenty of opportunities to get new business. But, if you want to sell to more than just the easy to convert “low hanging fruit”, you will have to utilize “real” selling skills to turn them into customers.

Enjoy the Process

Reaching higher levels of sales competency shouldn’t be drudgery. While it can be challenging, it should be enjoyable. Taking pride in your accomplishments and knowing that you have overcome adversity to find greater success is always worth the effort!

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