“This article was originally published by the International Coach Federation”
As a person who travels the country talking about networking and word-of-mouth marketing, I’ve come to realize a very simple truth: As entrepreneurs, we all live in the age of The Relationship Economy.
In other words, what you know is not nearly as important as who you know and, even more importantly, who knows you! Meaning, if you’re looking to build a referral-based, “word-of-mouth” coaching practice, then getting (and staying) connected to people in the business community is absolutely essential.
So how do you do that?
Here are some ways to get started.
1. GO OUT AND NETWORK!
Networking at local business functions is a great first step for connecting with others and generating more word-of-mouth business. Not only do you get to meet new folks, it also puts you in a great position for generating referrals from people who might know others.
However, I’ve also seen networking done the wrong way, which can be counterproductive for your practice. So let’s go over some “do’s and don’ts” to ensure you’re networking like a pro!
- Do ask the person what kind of business they’re in (and listen for understanding).
- Don’t immediately hand out your business card to everyone you see.
- Do have a concise “elevator pitch” for introducing yourself (see “Create a strong elevator pitch,” at right).
- Don’t try to “work the room” and talk to as many people as possible.
- Do follow up with contacts afterwards.
A mistake I see a lot is people thinking that “networking” is all about handing out business cards to everyone they meet. Or, in an effort not to seem like a used car salesman, they do the exact opposite: They don’t hand out their cards and just hope business comes their way as a result of attending the event.
Neither approach works.
However, when you’re networking like a pro, you understand that networking is less about “working the room,” and more about creating a connection that has the potential to be mutually beneficial for both parties.
And by engaging in some of the “do’s” on this list, you’ll be well on your way toward that goal.
2. CREATE A STRONG ELEVATOR PITCH.
An elevator pitch is a concise (20–30 seconds) introduction to who you are and the exact benefit you provide. A strong elevator pitch is absolutely essential if you’re looking to create a connection, because it gives people an idea as to why they should talk to you in the first place.
At networking events, one of the first questions people ask is, “So, what do you do?” Often, I see coaches respond with a meandering, roundabout answer that does nothing to spark a potential connection.
Conversely, when people ask me what I do, I say, “I help busy entrepreneurs market their business in less than 90 days.” And, depending on the situation, that response can prompt the following question: “Oh really, so how do you do that?”
And off I go talking about my business and making a potential referral connection, all because I had an elevator pitch that prompted their interest in the first place.
3. FOLLOW UP.
When it comes to connecting, nothing is more important than following up with people so you can stay connected. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve met good people while at a networking event, only to have them not follow up with me later.
Here are some options I like for staying in touch:
- Inviting them to a one-on-one “coffee connection,” where you both spend about 20 minutes each talking about your respective businesses and potential ways you could help each other out.
- Inviting them to another networking event you’re attending.
- Including them on your online newsletter (but only if you’ve gotten their permission first).
Prospective clients and referrals are everywhere, but you won’t attract them automatically. However, by following the three steps outlined here, you can begin building fruitful connections and get more referrals from everyone you meet!