The Networking Recipe For Success

Barbara Spagnola - Monday, August 10, 2015

by Omaid Homayun

As I approached the park I could see the sun beaming between the trees, there were patches of grass and the dirt looked clay-like. The lot was full and the air was smoky from the dust which meant most of the cars had just parked. I was attending my first networking event at a local chamber mixer, and to be honest I was terrified. My wing-woman was my girlfriend. She lit up every room she walked into and her personality was magnetic, if you ask me we were quite the opposites. People loved talking to her, and for the next 60 minutes I was going to follow her lead.

I handed her a glass of wine as she introduced me to a few people. In one pocket was my trusted BlackBerry and in the other a stack of crisp business cards. I wasn’t sure how many I needed so I made sure to bring extra. During that hour I met small business owners, attorneys, and other professionals I would have never met if it wasn’t for this event. Initially I kept close to my girlfriend like a puppy following his owner, but after observing her approach I felt more comfortable with every interaction.

The sun was setting as we walked back to the car; I was confused initially and felt my girlfriend wanted to throw me to the lions, and then she explained the lesson. “It’s not about attending one event. You have to come regularly so people know your name and they’ll think of you when there’s a need for your business.” I nodded my head to convey that I understood.

This lesson was invaluable but I wanted to learn the secrets of networking. I decided to reach out to my friends and networking experts Ron Nash and Jenna Lynch, who met 15 years ago through, you guessed it, networking! Both work together on different projects but if I had to sum up what they do, they help people “connect.” Ron has worked with thousands of individuals and organizations to help them leverage LinkedIn as a business and career networking tool, including the likes of Deepak Chopra, Cesar Milan, and Eckhart Tolle. He’s the author of Jump Start Your Career with LinkedIn and founder of Jump Start Revolution, where job seekers and businesses learn how to incorporate his strategies through his online courses. Jenna is a seasoned Human Resources Executive and a Consultant who coaches and trains individuals and corporations in the areas of leadership development, talent management, and personal and internal branding.

It was my mistake to attend the networking event for the purpose of making a sale, or for my own personal gain. Ron and Jenna explain that networking effectively is like creating the perfect cocktail. You need the right ingredients, and you need the right amount of each ingredient. Ron explains, “Networking is the sharing of information and building of relationships, the best networkers are “givers” because they genuinely want to help others. Most individuals are “takers” and dread trying to “fit in” because their p

Like my nerve-wrecking experience, networking has a negative connotation. Ron says, “If we take the fear out of the exercise we can mutually reap the rewards.” We often have heightened expectations, like when a friend suggests a movie they rave about, and when the outcome isn’t what we expected we feel let down. He explains, “Next time you’re networking, making a new friend should be your main intent,” which is the first ingredient in the networking recipe. It sounds so simplistic, but if you don’t succeed it’s not a big deal and you can move onto making another friend.

Jenna explains the second ingredient, “It’s important to use networking as a means of an intelligent activity that produces results, versus an activity that causes distraction.” I’ve personally struggled where I’ve felt tethered to my iPhone constantly checking social media during my few minutes of downtime. Ron’s remedy to make time for networking is that he schedules specific times of the day where he reads, responds, and posts new content. He also uses apps to help manage some of this. The new LinkedIn app, Connected, provides relevant updates about the people you know. It lets you engage with them in an easy way to foster and strengthen your relationships.

Jenna explains that the beauty of modern technology is that people can be social in any way that is most comfortable to them, whether it be online or at an event. She suggests that if you’re attending an event you should target individuals to meet in advance. For example, you can send them a message with something along the lines of:

“I noticed you completed the XYZ program at your company and were very successful. I would love to connect at the upcoming XYZ conference and swap ideas if you’ll be there?”

Network with purpose and put thought into who you’d like to meet because it will accelerate the conversation rather than having the traditional “What do you do?” type of dialogue. Most importantly (and the third ingredient), add  the person on LinkedIn or exchange information because expanding your network is about having open lines of future communication. Six months from now, an article or an event may trigger a reason to reach back out to that person.

I took Ron and Jenna’s networking recipe and applied it over the next few days. To summarize:

  • Being a Giver and making a new friend you should be your main intent
  • Use networking as a means of activity to produce a result
  • Keep open lines of future communication

How To Turn Your Networking Efforts Into Business Revenue

Barbara Spagnola - Monday, August 10, 2015

by Alison Coleman

To a lot of business people networking means one thing; putting in a lot of of time and money for what seems like little reward. Maybe they’re going about it in the wrong way?

There are plenty of ‘How to’ articles, practical tips, dos and don’ts out there, but many seem to focus more on networking niceties and etiquette rather than cutting to the chase and getting a business return on your investment of time. So I asked a couple of entrepreneurs who’ve done it, how they did it.

Lorraine Ashover, director of school procurement consultancy Minerva Procurement, turned a £250 ticket to an awards dinner into £12,000 of revenue for her business.

“I was on a table with nine other people, so I worked my way around the table, speaking to each one to find out more about them and their businesses and to see if there were any opportunities for Minerva,” she says.

One of them was the chairman of trustees of a learning trust, who during the course of their chat, let slip that their first foray into collaborative procurement, specifically around payroll and HR admin services, hadn’t gone well. “The key variables are ‘sector, size of business, and seniority of attendee’, and the more you know, the better prepared you can be,” he says.

With that information in hand, a recent evening networking event aimed at bringing different businesses together, brought Leighton in contact with someone from a finance firm and ultimately to a contract to supply a marketing consultant for a specific piece of work.As a result the 28 school business managers in the group were now extremely sceptical of the benefits.

“The services provider was a competitor of mine, and based on my knowledge of their business model, I knew exactly why the project hadn’t worked,” said Ashover.

But instead of focusing on that, she went on to described a major success that Minerva had achieved with a larger group of 34 schools, for the exact same budget and category of payroll and HR admin. Interest piqued, the chairman asked her to email him some details, which she did the next day.

From there Ashover was asked to attend a conference call with the leader of the trust and then present to the 28 school business managers, who agreed to try Minerva for one project.  

The result

Almost £12,500 of revenue generated from the first project, and discussions underway for a second. Potential revenue could exceed £50,000 over the duration of the relationship.  

The clincher

Having a relevant case study success to share, a consistent follow up and being patient that a large group decision like that doesn’t happen overnight.

The advice

“Be prepared to kiss frogs to get to your Prince!” Ashover spoke to eight other people that evening before meeting the chairman of trustees.

Another key element of a winning networking game plan is to find out in advance who your fellow attendees will be, a strategy that has worked for Chris Leighton, director of a flexible work solutions provider Availexe.

As he points out, a targeted approach to networking also requires a swift follow up technique.

“I always follow up with new connections within 24 hours, either through LinkedIn LNKD +0.00%, or if we discussed a specific opportunity by email to confirm what we discussed, says Leighton.

In this particular case the two met twice after the networking event to agree the scope for the project, signing the contract at the second meeting just two weeks later.

The result

The initial contract was worth around £5,000. However this is a new client, and Leighton estimates that the customer lifetime value is 10 or 20 times that figure.

The clincher

Hitting it off with the target contact from the outset, listening to their current work issues and offering a solution there and then.

The advice

Get an attendee list, and even if you don’t get to meet who you want to at the event, follow up quickly with an introductory e-mail afterwards.