This is the time of year that I think about where I am and where I’m going. With this in mind, I have a question for you. Think about the most successful people you know. What do they have in common? Probably this: They have built a network of contacts that provide support, information, and business referrals. They have mastered the art and science of networking, and business flows their way almost as a matter of course.
I started thinking about how many times I have gone to a networking event, met a bunch of good people, then leave and never talk to them again? How many times have you done this? Too often, right? And it’s not because you don’t like them or ever want to see them again, but because you are a busy, busy person with so much going on that you can’t even remember what you had for breakfast, let alone reconnect with individuals you just met.
It’s a shame because such new contacts are where future business is born.
Don’t be misled; it’s not the number of contacts you make that’s important—it’s the ones you turn into lasting relationships. There’s quite a difference. Try making ten cold calls and introducing yourself. Okay, how well did that go? Didn’t go well? Then try my simple plan for networking success that I discuss below. By the way, in full disclosure, I pulled this from my bestseller, Networking Like a Pro. This book would make a great New Year’s gift for the busy entrepreneurs in your life.
So, here is a simple little plan for 2013. To get started, create a list of 25 new clients you are targeting for 2013. I’m in the process of doing this myself.
Now, try calling ten people you already know and tell them you’re putting together a marketing plan for the coming year, and you would appreciate any help they could provide in the form of either a referral or new business. Better results than the ten cold calls, right? Of course. You already have a relationship with these folks, and depending upon how deep it is, most of them should be glad to help you. So here’s the question: How can you deepen the relationships with people you already know to the point where they might be willing to help you out in the future? Here are four quick steps to get you moving in the right direction. Don’t fall into the “nobody does anything” over the holidays rut. It is a great time to set yourself up for the New Year by doing the following:
1. Give your clients a personal call. Find out how things went with the project you were involved in. Ask if there’s anything else you can do to help.
2. Make personal calls to all the people who have helped you or referred business to you in the past year. Ask them how things are going. Try to learn more about their current activities so you can refer business to them.
3. Put together a hit list of 50 people you’d like to stay in touch with this year. Include anyone who has given you business in the last 12 months (from steps 1 and 2) as well as any other prospects you’ve connected with recently. Send them a new years card. Very few people do this.
4. Two weeks after you’ve sent them cards, call them and see what’s going on. If they’re past clients or people you’ve talked to before, now is the perfect time to ask for a referral. If they’re prospects, perhaps you can set up an appointment to have coffee and find out if their plans might include using your services.
See how easy that was? After a few weeks, you’ll have more than enough social capital and business to tap into for the rest of the year.
Social capital is the international currency of networking, especially business networking. If you take as much care in raising and investing your social capital as you do your financial capital, you’ll find the benefits that flow from these intangible investments not only will be rewarding in themselves but will multiply your material returns many times over.