Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Things I picked up at inside919.ning.com

So I went to the inside919 coffee meeting a few Tuesdays back and gleaned some ideas from Pat and the other attendees. I figured I would remind myself of them.

Pat discourages business cards, or rather the futzing around that inevitably follows from focusing on them. Not needed, except perhaps for other people to hand to others for you. Otherwise they waste your time. There are meaningful ways to connect with people; trading cards is not one of those ways.

What you should be after is building relationships. People tend to form opinions about you over a handful of interactions; Pat's suggestion is to be deliberate and form a strategy for making those interactions happen in a positive, but not an agenda driven manner. Send an anniversary card for the client's business. Deliver donuts and leave. Just show up, drop by with a hello. Send an email of a recent article or a newsletter with opt-in. Just help people.

Elevator speeches are for drawing in investors, but aren't really suitable for small business. Pat spoke of the ROI approach, which mirrors what I have seen in the dialog of others skilled at networking. The pattern

you know when (there is this obvious problem _____)? Well I (perform this function to address the problem _____)!
is one format suggested. Connect to the listener's problem-but only try to touch on one area, not everything you can do. People simply cannot handle the overload of explanation and will close down. You cannot convey information if the speaker is overwhelmed by the volume of details in what you say.

Also, leading off with a role-based description puts you in a pigeon-hole. Inviting people to form such conclusions about you before rapport is established, hinders your ability to establishes that rapport.

Most small businesses get income from a small geographic radius... 25 miles or so. And only about 100 clients - so as a small business a reasonable strategy is to work on getting the first couple of dozen clients. The theory is that if you can form customer relationships with that many people, your client network will build itself.
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