by CJ McClanahan
Recently, I was speaking to a group of entrepreneurs and sales professionals who were attending an educational event with the hopes of learning something new and making a few connections. As I often do in this setting, I asked the audience to raise their hand if they had met someone new that day. All hands went up.
Next, I told the group to keep their hands up if they had met more than 100 people during the past 12 months. 95% of the hands stayed in the air.
Chances are good that you would have been one of those who kept your hands in the air. In fact, my unscientific research shows that most networking/entrepreneur/sales professionals meet at least 200 new people a year.
So, let's assume you're one of these people. What happens every time that you make a connection and capture that valuable business card (aka – contact information)? If you're like most, you run back to the office and send them a LinkedIn invite (or maybe Facebook friend request). The next thing you know, you are connected to their entire LinkedIn database and according to the LinkedIn math, you are officially associated to ½ the planet.
All you need to do is sit and wait for all these connections to start sending you the leads. Your marketing efforts are complete.
As much as I love technology and connecting with the world, the truth is that people still do business with people. I'll go a step further and remind you that it's unlikely that someone will give you business or refer you a prospect until they like and trust you. This type of connection is difficult to build over the internet.
But, you're in luck. You can master a handful of fundamentals that will ensure that you are able to build the kind of meaningful and trusting relationships that lead to new business. It's as simple as impress, vet and follow up.
First, you need to make a great impression. It doesn't require a great opening line or witty banter. Here's my advice – smile and listen. In a "me first" world filled with non-stop interruptions, people love to spend time with someone who is genuinely interested in learning more about them. Be that person.
Next, after meeting one of your 200 in 2012, quickly determine if this person is someone who is either a good fit for your product/service or a strategic partner who could refer business. If you are selling software to fortune 500 companies, do not schedule a breakfast meeting with a residential mortgage broker just to be nice. Remember, if everything is important then nothing is important.
Finally, follow up. Before you say "no kidding", let me define follow up. It is a hand written note, highlighting part of your conversation that is put in the mail within 48 hours. An email, Facebook friend request or LinkedIn message do not count. Be different.
As with most things in life, intellectually speaking this is easy. All you need to do is choose to execute.
*CJ will be speaking at the Indy Chamber's Business Growth Conference on August 23. To learn more about CJ's expertise in building a strategic referral network and other important business strategies, please visit http://indychamber.com/551/events/educational-events.aspx.
CJ McClanahan is an executive coach and nationally recognized speaker on sales and leadership. To learn more about his services visit www.goreachmore.com.