Making professional connections – networking – is a big part of being a powerful marketer. Marketing never happens in a bubble, and marketers cannot exist in that bubble either. You need to feel connected to what is happening around you – the new trends and opportunities in the ever-changing environment. And while networking does require your time, it is not time wasted, but time invested. Because as a result, you will also gain access to new ideas, information and best practices. It can help you to acquire new business leads, job offers, business trends, and much more. And this will give you a crucial advantage in the market! But how to grow your network from zero as a marketer? That is what we discussed on our last week’s Powerful Marketer Talks live webinar! Watch the full recording at the end of the post!
Networking is a form of public speaking, as you need to go out there and introduce yourself to strangers. And of course, you can only create first impressions once. But the good news is that you don’t need to be an extrovert or a naturally gifted salesperson in order to be a great networker and get the best results from your Referral Marketing activities. To cultivate your network, you simply need to be good at following up! Networking is a process that can be followed, improved and mastered. And just like any other activity, it begins with the right intention and goal in mind.
Start with your Circle of Trust
Even if you think your network is nonexistent, it is simply not true. You have family members, friends, schoolmates, and other acquaintances, all of whom are professionals of some industry. When you think about all the people in your life, you can categorize them as following:
- The inner circle encompasses those with whom you have the closest relationship.
- Outside of that circle is another circle containing those people that you can trust, but that you are not as close to.
- Outside of that, you have people that you may know, but with whom you’ve only built little trust.
- And finally, there’s all the strangers. All the other people on the planet that you know nothing about, and who know nothing about you.
Now, which of these circles is more likely to support you on your way to success as a marketer? The answer is pretty obvious, even if you’ve never done any actual Referral Marketing. But if you ever have tried to get business referrals from someone, you know that that person has to trust you considerably before introducing you to a potential client. Because they’ve built trust with that person, and they might have years of past history with them. So, in their minds, for them to give you an introduction or a referral without knowing and trusting you would bring some unknown factors and insecurity into their relationship with that contact.
Once you categorize the people in your life and the industries they work in, you may notice that some key areas necessary for you and your business are not there. This is when you need to start building trust with people who either know you, but don’t yet trust you, and/or with people who don’t even know you yet. And the only way for them to start trusting you enough, is for you to take the initiative and build that trust before you ask for anything!
How to design your network?
When designing your network, bear in mind that it’s best to prepare for the future with abundance in mind. Because you don’t need the same things today that you needed five years ago: you’ve grown as a professional and as a human being. That means, what might have been valuable to you back then might be irrelevant now. And what you need today, you might not even have thought about a few years back, or even a few weeks back. So, you can either try to predict the future and your path of development, OR better yet, create a diverse network of multidisciplinary professionals who can and want to assist you in different fields. Furthermore, having a diverse network ensures that you able to give referrals to others, and being a great connector is valued in every industry.
How to get started? Well, creating a network starts by having simple, and yet meaningful conversations with the right people. Let’s say you want to design your network starting with the Legal sector. And to make things a bit more challenging, let’s assume you don’t know anyone in that sector. What can you do, then? A good first step could be to have a normal conversation with someone who works with many clients in legal services, and who doesn’t compete with you. This might be an accountant, or a bank manager. You could have a chat with that accountant or bank manager and casually ask them:
“Hey! Do you happen to know a couple of good lawyers? Because I’m working on this project and I am going to need someone good, so I’d like to have a few options.”
Only by using this simple blueprint for a conversation, you’ll usually get a couple of referrals for great professionals in whatever industry you are looking for.
The next step would be to set up a few conversations face to face. And yes, you COULD just give them a call, BUT: you’re looking to build relationships and trust. And that has to be built face to face, on authentic, human interaction. You can start a relationship with a connector online or by phone, but eventually, you WILL have to create a good experience for that person by interacting with him or her face-to-face. Right now, Zoom or another type of video call would be the best alternative.
Using the GAINSx framework in networking
Once you know with whom you want to connect, you want to make sure you’re prepared and know how to lead the conversation. The easiest is to use the GAINS profile, created by Dr. Ivan Misner. In the Powerful Marketer Program, we’ve expanded this a bit, and we’ve come up with an upgraded concept; GAINSx.
GAINSx is an acronym with six straightforward concepts:
- Goals: What kind of goals and ambitions do you have? Where do you want to be in 5 years?
- Achievements: What are you most proud of? What are the biggest wins you’ve had?
- Interests: What are your interests? What do you care about in business and in life?
- Networks: What does your network look like? What constitutes a great referral for you?
- Skills: What are you good at? What are your biggest strengths?
- X factor: Your Why and your Personality type: What is your why? What motivates you every day? What is your behavioral style?
Dr Misner encourages the use of the GAINS profile as a basis for one-to-one meetings with people in your network so you better understand how you can add value to each other. This is a great concept, for several reasons.
First, when you want to be more effective in understanding the people you network with, GAINS provides a common framework for you, so you’ll always know what to say, both when you’re out mingling with new potential contacts, and when you’re having regular meetings with those contacts.
Second, you can use the same framework both to generate a meaningful conversations, but also to share more valuable information about yourself to others. Because building a relationship always goes both ways: you need to open up for the other people to do the same.
There is hardly any other skill that’ll give you as much pleasure and as many opportunities as the skill of networking. In networking, you have a testing lab for most of your other skills. As you grow as a powerful communicator, meeting people and interacting with them nudges you out of your comfort zone and makes you test different approaches, conversation skills, and negotiation skills. Accept the challenge: never shy away from a networking opportunity again. This is your new you; a powerful networker, and therefore, a truly powerful marketer.
For a more detailed overview of this important subject, watch the full webinar recording below!
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