What Are Networking Leads?
Networking leads are possible new customers that you generate through referrals and recommendations by people in your social or professional business networks.
With networking leads, you are essentially leveraging the relationships you have built through your LinkedIn and the connections you have made through conferences and events you have attended to gain new customers for your business.
Why Networking Leads Can Be So Powerful
For lead generation, networking is a good way to set the foundation for getting more sales while spending less time and effort. It allows you to get more business leads through people you have genuine relationships with and should be utilized if you want to generate more sales.
When you come up with a networking strategy, it allows you to reach people that you may never have met and also acquire leads while you develop solid relationships.
But you will need some sure-fire strategies in order to be successful at networking.
Your main objective for successful networking is connecting with the right people. You need to ask yourself the following questions to come up with the right strategies. :
- What can I give and offer to others?
- How can I help others to be successful?
- How can I start and continue friendly conversations?
- How can I put others at ease?
- How can I best express my sincerity and generosity?
- How can I listen attentively to recognize the needs and desires of others?
- How can I fully express myself so I can make genuine connections with others?
The next set of questions you should ask when it comes to networking is where you should go. Bear in mind that the most useful places to look while networking is volunteering, your local place of commerce, industry conventions, and social media.
Lastly, you must resist the urge to sell to your networking contacts. Rather, let them know what you do and tell them briefly about your products and services.
Your goal is to get others to look out for you when they hear of a business opportunity for you just as you are expected to do the same for them.
Eventually, you will be known as someone who looks for ways to connect with other people. And your reputation will earn you more lead generation and respect among your peers.
Once you get your networking process in play, you will have a system that will become a virtual lead generating machine. The next step will be to keep your contact information organized and call or email your prospects regularly so as to keep in touch.
12 Steps to Create a System for Generating Networking Leads
Step 1: Set a goal
Create a list of your best networking opportunities based on criteria. If you intend to sign up for a conference, make sure to first run through your criteria, then write down some achievable goals related to the event. Afterward, take out at least one hour of time after the event when you’re back at your office/computer to follow up with people you have met.
Step 2: Build broad networks
If you observe the highly successful people in business and you will notice they have a vast and diverse network.
When you network across age, industry, and geographical spheres your lead generation results won’t be limited.
Step 3: Acknowledge that everyone is a sphere of influence
Professional networkers know that irrespective of pedigree, status, or role, everyone has a network where they have influence.
Your best client can in fact come from many places and influence a lot of referrals.
Step 4: Establish only genuine connections
Make sure you are always fully present in the moment of any communication and always speak from the heart.
Also, make sure you acknowledge others when they express themselves to you.
When you make this a habit, others will respond because they know they’re being heard and acknowledged.
Step 5: Address people by their real name
The best way to make people acknowledged and feel regarded is to remember and use a person’s name during conversations.
It shows respect and earns you their respect in return. But, make sure not to overdo this. Because calling someone by their name in every other sentence is creepy and totally off-putting.
Step 6: Cross-network with your competitors
In a situation whereby a client isn’t quite right for you, or when you are totally booked out.
Try to recommend a rival or competitor. This goodwill should eventually be returned to you in kind someday.
Step 7: Become a problem solver
Helping others by sharing information or by referring a resource in order to solve a problem, in turn, builds and adds to your reputation.
Step 8: Income generating vs income building
Income generation basically pays the bills while income building helps you create a full pipeline.
Effective lead generation begins with networking and then it proceeds up to nurturing contacts. So, by investing your time every day in income building activities you will sustain and grow your business into the future.
Step 9: Strategic advertising and networking
By strategically networking at well-chosen functions and events, you will grow the number of referral sources you have.
Adoption of advertising, like Pay-Per-Click campaigns, will also play a supportive role in promoting your business.
Step 10: Use revenue enhancement to generate loyalty
By making revenue for your clients and referrals sources, you are building and maintaining loyalty.
This strategy ultimately earns you the right to do business again and again.
Step 11: Follow up
Always scan business cards, make phone calls, and send emails while the event or topics of conversations are still fresh.
Design an effective follow-up process in such a way that the next step is obvious and routine.
Make sure you add those contacts to a database, update the records and message your clients/customers from time to time. And when an event comes around again, send them a quick email, or give them a call, to see if they’ll be around again.
Step 12: Don’t be complacent
Now that your lead generation pipeline is booming, never ever be tempted to take a break from networking. Nope. You must be consistent as this will reduce the typical peaks and valleys of business development.
4 Strategies For Expanding Your Business and Making New Connections Through Networking
While all leads are valuable, some leads are likely to grow into customers or even a professional collaborator than others.
When you successfully establish a personal connection with a business contact, you open the door to building a more meaningful business relationship with such persons and even more
And those relationships in turn play a tremendous role in helping you expand your business and taking things to the next level.
But what are the pros and cons of effective networking? How can you leverage your efforts to get qualified leads for your business? And, how can you establish and build relationships and transform those leads into more opportunities, customers, and revenue for your organization?
Before delving into networking, it is very important to have a working strategy. And you must ensure that the strategy is aligned with your ultimate business goals.
There are a few different networking strategies you can use to achieve your business goals, including
Visibility-driven networking requires that you get your name and your business out there to the right people so as to increase visibility and establish yourself as a leader in your industry.
This strategy includes speaking at industry events or creating content for well-known outlets in your industry.
2 Lead generation
If your main business target is to acquire customers and to generate leads, then you must build your networking strategy around connecting with as many new customers as possible.
You can as well achieve this by doing things like setting up a booth at an event that’s likely to draw customers and hosting a live stream with your social media followers to connect in real time.
3 Team building
If your goal is to get new employees, then you have to network in a way that helps you connect with top talents in your industry.
4 Business Insights
Make sure you establish a good connection with other successful business owners like yourself.
Professional development groups are a great way to network with other business owners and build relationships that can ultimately help you gain insights into the business world, and grow as a business owner.
How to Identify Business Networking Opportunities
Now that you know the process for generating networking leads, the next thing is to learn how to find networking opportunities for your business.
Here are some great places to look to find a variety of networking opportunities both online and offline.
Online Networking Opportunities
- Facebook Groups
- Your business’ social media platforms
In-person Networking Opportunities
Conferences: Conferences can introduce you to a wide network of people when you are on the schedule as a speaker.
When you speak at conferences, attendees will actively seek you out to talk about your presentation or expertise, which can help you make new connections.
And if you can present them a link or form, and sign up as an attendee, this can also be a great opportunity to network.
Trade shows: Trade shows are opportunities to network, connect, and drive new business.
“ A survey from Oxford Economics revealed that more than half of business travelers said that 5 to 20% of their company’s new customers were a direct result of their participation in trade shows.”
Professional Organizations: Professional organizations are a great way to connect with other people in your industry and other business owners and top talent to recruit for your company.
Referral Clubs: For your networking efforts to actually lead to new business, you should try a referral club, where members refer clients to each other’s businesses. This will help you drive a higher number of referrals than a standard professional organization.
Depending on the kind of club, some may be open to any business owners in your local area e.g, Rotary International. Some may limit membership to one member per industry.
Create Your Own Opportunity If You Don’t Find The Right One
In case you’re not finding the right opportunity for your business to generate networking leads, you should create your own.
Hosting your own event whether it is an in-person or virtual event can be a great way to build out your professional contacts and help meet your business goals.
How to Make Effective Use of Business Networking
1 Be Prepared
You obviously wouldn’t lead a board meeting or pitch a client with major potential without doing the necessary preparation work. Therefore, if you want to get the best results from your networking efforts either online or offline, you will need to prepare.
In order to make the most out of your networking opportunities, you should also make sure to:
As earlier stated, you also wouldn’t walk into a potential client’s office and pitch them without doing your research. The more knowledge you have about who they are, what they need, and how your company can provide a solution, the better prepared you are to close the deal.
It is the same idea as networking. If you want to be successful in generating networking leads, you need to do your research and find out who you’re networking with, the issues they’re struggling with, and how you can better provide them with some sort of support or solution.
3 Build Relationships
Despite the fact that your goal with business networking is to grow your business, whether your efforts ultimately lead to growth all comes down to your ability to build meaningful relationships.
Instead of focusing only on your end goal (whether it is to land a new customer or to get a better deal with a vendor), you must focus on building those relationships.
When you’re networking in person, do not go into the conversation with a mindset about what you can get from it; instead, take a genuine interest in the person you’re connecting with.
Use the 80/20 rule and spend most of your time listening to your new connection versus talking about yourself or your company.
When it is your turn to talk, make sure to avoid aggressive sales pitches and instead, talk about your business from a place of passion and authenticity.
By approaching networking from this angle won’t necessarily lead to instant results (eg., you aren’t probably going to sell anything or get a fellow business owner to agree to a joint marketing venture with you).
But this strategy will build trust and rapport and set the foundation for a long-lasting relationship
4 Track your networking leads
If you truly want to maximize your networking efforts, you need to understand what works, what’s not working, and what’s leading to the most and the highest quality leads.
And the best way way to do that is by tracking your networking efforts.
Anytime you make a connection, you’ll want to collect as much data about the connection as you can, which includes.
- Where you made the connection,
- What kind of connection it is (potential customer, potential employee, potential partnership, etc.)
- When and how often you follow up,
- Any business outcome that comes from your efforts (e.g., after two follow-ups, did that potential employee schedule an interview—and ultimately accept an offer at your company?)
When you travel keep track of all of this data, it will help you get a better understanding of where to focus your networking efforts and how to maximize them in the future.
For example, you might discover that a huge percentage of your new customers in a quarter came from a single trade show which means that, moving forward, you want to make that trade show a priority.
Generating Networking Leads is a Long Game Strategy, But it Works
Just as growing a network, in general, isn’t something you can hope to accomplish over one event you attend, networking leads take time to build. You have to build solid mutual relationships first before you expect your connections to start sending leads your way.
To succeed in generating leads through your network, don’t go into it with the sole purpose of generating leads because people will see right through you. Aim to build solid relationships that you can then leverage for lead generation. When you do it this way, networking leads won’t seem that hard to generate.
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