This blog is based on an excerpt from our webinar, Cultivating your Network for Maximum Profit, hosted by renowned sales coach Mitch Harris.
One of the best ways to meet new contacts that fit your target is to attend networking events. A lot of people aren’t too fond of networking events, but if you harness the opportunity to speak with as many people as you can, you’ll be amazed at the types of people you meet and the support you get in your efforts.
First, a little review from the last section about where to find these networking groups and events that can lead you to high-value partners and contacts.
There is a networking group called BNI which stands for Business Networking International. Sometimes this organization can get a little bit of a bad rep just because they are so large and there are so many chapters. I encourage you not to write that off, you can find tremendous contacts there. It is a great resource to look at and you can very well come to a meeting as a guest to explore it and meet people regardless of whether you are going to participate or not. I highly suggest jumping onto their website and finding a chapter near you and attending some of their events.
In addition, look for other types of networking events on Google or on your local event boards. One example is a speed networking group. I have never personally done that, but I have heard great things about it. Your local chambers of commerce can be a tremendous resource for networking events. There are alumni associations events, which have given me some value. The alumni association doesn't have to be your own you can come as a guest to another alumni association. It’s definitely worth a shot.
These events are stones that may have not been overturned. I really recommended these events because they’re right in front of you.
Put yourself on mailing lists through event websites, sign up for any direct mail, get yourself on every database you can, and you will very often get invited to these types of events naturally. When the invitations roll in, gauge if something is worth it or not based on attendance, price, and the types of people that will be at those events.
What can You Do For the Events?
A real diamond to look at when it come to really high level events is to be willing to volunteer. You heard me right, be willing to volunteer at these events. And I want to share a brief example about my own life which illustrates it perfectly.
The book that I have just launched, it took several years to bring that to fruition. And it is not exactly the easiest thing in the world to get a publishing deal, regardless of what people may say. You can always self publish, but that does not give you the kind of support that you might want.
There was a publisher I knew I wanted to work with. Pure and simple, they were giant in the non-fiction arena. But guess what? They get thousand of manuscripts submitted every year. Most of which get turned down. So my question to myself was “Okay, this is what I want to work with, this is what I want to roll with… how do I get my foot in your door?”
Part of this group’s offer is that they do seminars once a year for authors. These are really high level events where top selling authors come and speak and a lot of people show up. You normally have to pay good money to go to these. I have gone before as an attendee. But this year I decided to do something a little different.
I had been pursuing them for close to two years. Finally, I asked if they would let me volunteer as a staff member for one their events. I wanted to see If I could just support what they are doing. I had already registered as a paying attendee but I offered my services as a volunteer. I said “I am familiar with the seminar industry, do you want me to be on staff? I will hold clipboards, I will run water, I will work security at the door, I will sweep the floor if you want me to, whatever will support this event.” To my surprise, the manager approved and asked me to join them.
Throughout that process I got to be part of the team. I got to meet all the decision makers in the organization. I got to meet two main principles of the organization, had them laughing, and by the end of that weekend we were like family. At the very end of the weekend, I said “Oh, by the way, here is my book proposal.”
My proposal was approved within three weeks, one of the shortest approval periods in the history of the company. I have literally landed a book deal by volunteering. So whether it is a political fundraiser or the highest of high level events, you can volunteer and use your judgement right, and connect with people that will be a support to you. It is a great foot in the door and they are offering value up front.
Provide Value to Speakers
If there is a Keynote speaker or guest speaker at an event who really impresses you, be willing to approach them. Come up with something that would be a value proposition to get their attention. I did that years ago at an investment conference with a guy that I am really impressed with. I offered my services to him at no cost and the bottom line is three weeks later I was on a plane to San Francisco where they had me sit in on a three-day investment conference. I was able to help some of them raise millions of dollars and take part in a course for two days for a developmental oil drilling project they were doing.
All because I approached this gentlemen after he has spoken at one of his events. Most of these speakers are speaking in order to get their name out and connect with the right people. So why not be that right person, and introduce yourself after with something of value?
Look to Become the Speaker
Look to be the speaker at events. Become an authority and create credibility for yourself by finding opportunities to share your expertise. This takes constant learning and maintaining knowledge of your industry, but it’s definitely worth the effort.
If you’re working as an energy broker, put together a 45-minute presentation on efficiency or energy consumption or anything that you would want to talk about and find organizations that would be interested in hearing about that, whether at an event or just in their office. At this point I have given close to a thousand presentations and workshops and speeches. I can tell you first hand between a printed word and an in-person presentation, this is one of the best ways on the planet to develop credibility and authority as an expert in your area.
You would be amazed at how many quality leads and prospects you can create from that. One tip is to make sure you capture as many business cards as you can. You can have a free drawing, offer a free consultation, you can also have the organizer collect cards before you speak. Once you’ve collected these business cards you can reach out to them individually, as well as enter them into your own database for nurturing.
Look for Partnerships, Not Just Prospects
Whenever you go to networking events or meet people face-to-face, be creative about how you might be able to work with someone. Not everyone will become a customer, but a lot of people have something to offer that will lead you to more prospects. There are all kinds of examples of this that some of you may not even think about. For example, Locksmiths. I recently met a guy and he owns a locksmith company that I met in a networking event. Followed up on him immediately, and now we work together between our networks.
When it comes to energy sales, there are lots of groups you can reach out to. Construction companies, contractors, electricians, painters, people who were dealing with people who run facilities and make decisions regarding how they run. Building and maintenance supply companies, office supply companies, there are so many potential strategic relationships to create there.
A great example of this is I actually connected yesterday with a gentleman that I have been friends with for years. I had him in my database, and he replied to an email that I have sent out recently. We hadn’t spoken in a while because we are busy, but I learned he owns a catering company. I reached out to him to say “Hey, this is what I am up to. Maybe we can create a mutual and beneficial relationship around this.” He connected me to a restaurant group, a major restaurant group that oversees a lot of major restaurants around the area, which provided me a lot of value.
Networking events are some of the best places to meet new partners and prospects. With a little creativity and out-of-the-box thinking, you might be able to find some of the most beneficial relationships that can help you for a long time to come.