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Making Your Network Work


Networking is one of the most profitable marketing strategies that sales professionals can employ, but all too often we confuse networking with simple glad-handing. Like any marketing strategy, networking must be properly planned and targeted to maximize your results.

To paraphrase John F. Kennedy, Ask not what your network can do for you, but what you can do for your network. Following that advice is the best way to profit from your networking efforts.

If you plan to give of yourself and your company, your networks will return the favour. The most successful networkers, online and in person, are not constantly trying to sell. Instead, using the guidelines below, they create an environment where their network approaches them to buy.

1. Begin with informal networks. Practice your networking skills with people you share a common interest with, and never fake that interest. Having a common passion is a great ice-breaker. Boaters love talking to fellow boaters, and golfers are quick to share their golf stories. Once youve broken the ice and established a common bond, your new contact will eventually ask you what you do.

2.Formal networks. Strategically select at least one industry or business network and one charitable organization you can help and benefit from. Be a leader in those groups and become known for what you know, and for what you do for them.

3. Budget and ROI. Establish a budget for memberships, time, and promotion, and establish clear goals and targets for a return on your investment. For online networking in blogs, social media sites, or emails, budget time to create useful/helpful content and reply to your network every day.

4. Be sincere and honest. The best way to build trust and relationships is to plan to do something for your network before you ask them to return the favor. Maybe you can offer your stations resources to promote a fundraising event, be a guest speaker, or offer a small campaign as a door prize.

5. Look for exclusivity. It is easier to become known for what you do in groups where you have no competitors or peers than to win the allegiance of groups where a long-standing member has already secured their loyalty. Too many broadcast reps all attend the same functions and belong to the same clubs, reducing their odds of capturing the dominant share of that networks allegiance.

6. Develop your 20-second elevator pitch. Practice outlining how your contacts can benefit from doing business with you, and why you are the best at itin less than 50 words. When your new prospect is ready to buy, theyll ask you for more information. If they are not ready to buy, youll just annoy them with a lengthy spiel.

7. Learn to listen. You will learn much more about customer needs and perceptions by listening, than you will by opening a conversation with your "pitch." Ask new contacts: What do you do?" and be genuinely interested in them. Eventually theyll ask you: What do you do? and the door will be open for your presentation.

8. Dont just sign up. Just having your name on a roster wont help you win hearts and minds. More formal or organized networks or clubs resent "joiners" who dont contribute to the cause. Always be a proactive resource for your network.

9. Buy first. Give your contacts the opportunity to sell to you and send them referrals when possible. Make sure you take credit for the referrals, and use your buying experience to learn more about the prospects business.

10. Ask for referrals. Once you have built your relationships, dont be afraid to ask for referrals. Always have plenty of business cards and give them out freely. If possible, print a special offer or incentive on the back of your card that you can extend to your new friends, to make them feel special. And always have share buttons on your online messages.

11. Lighten up. Have fun and be fun. Enjoy the group, learn, participate, and smile. No one likes to be sold, everyone loves to buy. You wont have to stick your foot in the door of people who like you; they will gladly open the door for you.

12. Work the room. Avoid becoming part of a clique. Break out of your comfort zone and sit with people or groups you have not met before. Ask for business cards from every contact and follow up with a note or email saying what a pleasure it was to meet them. Welcome, and respond to, all online comments from your network.

Its a small world. Everyone you meet can benefit your business. If they never buy from you, or dont own a business, they can still give you referrals or leads if over time theyve come to know who you are and what you stand for.

Wayne Ens is the president of ENS Media Inc. and producer of SoundADvice, the radio e-marketing system and advertiser seminar that is persuading local advertisers across North America to drop their print advertising in favor of a radio-Internet media mix. He can be reached at 

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