By Will Kintish, a leading authority on networking skills. He runs open seminars nationwide and in house workshops
There is nothing quite so comfortable and secure as sitting in your place of work all day waiting for more work to come in, it's a way of life for most businesses.
After all, it's so much more comfortable than hitting the road in search of new business or cultivating existing clients.
People usually say they are far too busy and that the effort outweighs the rewards. Why bother to hunt, they argue, if plenty of good referrals are coming in?
But in today’s competitive world and eroding business loyalties, is it really a good idea for us to simply sit and wait? After all, every day clients drip away.
They die, they retire, they sell or merge, they change their allegiances or the business fails. If you want to expand and flourish you need a constant transfusion of new business because this is your life-blood.
But if you feel successful and fulfilled, why bother to come out of your cave? On the other hand, if you can cope with more business, there's no excuse not to join the hunt.
Hunting - now called networking - is the fashionable and successful way to find new business. The dictionary definition of networking is: ‘The activity of a group of people who exchange information, contacts, and experiences for professional or social purposes.’
This all sounds rather dull - a bit like the dusty Old Boy Network.
Forget it. This is real hunting. Spot your quarry, thrill to the chase and develop a killer instinct. 'Too busy' or 'too time consuming' to join the hunt often translates as 'lack of confidence', the root cause of cave dwelling.
But if you accept the need to market, sell and promote, then look at the alternatives.
Advertising and PR - a scattergun approach and too expensive.
Direct mail - a disappointing 1% uptake and expensive.
Cold calling - time consuming and soul destroying.
There should never be a need for cold calling. Stop for a moment and consider how many people you know. It will run into hundreds - existing clients, other professional contacts, friends, family, people at the sports or social club, committee members you may work with.
And this is just for starters. Pool your resources with all the other key people in your professional life and you've got a big and valuable database. You don't necessarily want business from them but you can ask them the question: 'Who do you know who may be interested in….'
If you don’t ask the question, you don’t give the other person an opportunity to say yes.
See every invitation that lands on your desk as a business opportunity. Say to yourself: 'Aha, a chance to meet new contacts, to create new openings and increase my fees!'
Work the room enthusiastically, your confidence will build, you'll begin to enjoy these events and new business will flow.
Now don't get me wrong, working the room requires the courage of a lion and nerves of steel. If you feel a bit shy and nervous, don't worry. Most people feel exactly the same and only the most accomplished and regular networker will feel at ease.
What's the problem? On all the workshops and training programmes I run, people say the problem is Fear - fear of not knowing what to say, fear of saying the wrong thing or fear of meeting people for the first time. But probe a little deeper and their real fear is fear of rejection.
The well-known international motivational speaker Zig Ziglar says: 'Fear? …False Expectations Appearing Real is about right. How often have you been rejected at a business or social gathering?
When was the last time someone turned their back on you, ignored you or rejected your extended hand? No matter how many times I ask this question, the answer is always never.
So take a deep breath, approach someone new, introduce yourself and ask for their name. They will mentally hug you for approaching them, as they are probably more nervous than you.
Networking is like learning to drive or learning to touch type - it's always a bit uncomfortable at first. But how long does this feeling last? You'll soon feel just as comfortable about networking as you do behind the wheel of your car or at your word processor.
How do baby chicks survive after they’ve been born? They rely on their mother to fly the nest, and return after the hunt. If you simply rely on referrals and existing clients coming back for more I suggest you are leaving control of your business in other peoples’ hands.
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