5 Ways to Network Online to Get More Leads the Right Way

5 Ways to Network Online to Get More Leads the Right Way

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Raise your hand if you LOVE attending network meetings! 

What? No One? Oh wait, there's one in the back of the room. 

Any serious business builder has attended numerous meetings to grow their professional network.. I know you. You search on Meetup and Eventbrite. You join the Chamber of Commerce and attend after-hours mixers. 

Almost every day is an opportunity for over-priced lunches. Unfortunately, a lot of those meetings are frequented by the same people each week, and invariably  those 2 or 3 people who are drive-by card pushers. You know the ones...they don't care what you do, as long as they can get you to listen to them about what they do.

I know not all meetings are that way. In fact, I created a vibrant, serving community called The Christian Women Entrepreneur's Group in Fort Worth, Texas that was incredible. We lost our offline connection due to the fact that when I moved the local meeting stopped. But, I'm proud to say that many of the women who attended have continued to be deeply connected on social media. We've continued to grow our connections online in our Facebook group.

So, let's talk about some of the BEST ways to network for your business, and how you can use turn those offline skills into a strategy to craft a successful online lead funnel - right from your chair. 

Networking Best Practices

Whether in person, or online, there are a handful of best practices every professional entrepreneur needs to master. In a nutshell they are:

  • You only need to connect with 1 or 2 people at each meeting. 
  • Your job is to listen and learn.
  • Take the connection to the next level.
  • Offer your services only if they make sense.
  • Be ready to reciprocate.

First of all, let's talk about how this looks in the offline world. Then at the end, we'll talk about how to take it offline. I promise at the end of this article are tactics you can use TODAY.

How NOT to Network

Let's think about those drive-by card pushers for a minute. They are like little gnats circling the crowd.

They drop down into a group of chatting members. Say, "Hi my name is.... I'm a ... Here's my card if you need anything." This type of networking critter grabs your card and then buzzes off to annoy another group of people.

And just like gnats, all we want is to slap them away. They haven't served anyone. They wonder why no one ever calls. In fact, they tell themselves, their boss, or their upline that they go to meetings all the time and it just doesn't work for them. Hmmm.

How Networking SHOULD Work

When you attend an in person network event, say a genuine hi/hello to everyone you can. Get their name (and use it) and engage in light-hearted conversation. Learn about them personally - their day to day life, not just the business-face.

During the "meeting part" listen intently to what each person says and decide who you can best serve . After the program and presentation, stay a few minutes to make a deeper connection with the one or two you think might be a good fit professionally.

Go to the Next-Level

Don't try to close a business deal at the meeting. Rather, invite them for an off-site conversation to get to know each other better. It can be at a coffee shop or happy hour. In some instances, a telephone call, Skype or Zoom chat would be better.

(I learned in a metropolitan area that miles can make the difference. If you're close neighbors, by all means meet in person, but don't let that stop you from meeting one way or another.)

Often the person you meet isn't your ideal customer, but because you LISTENED, you know they are connected to the people with whom you want to connect. In this instance, the new connection becomes a business Power Partner. Sometimes, a Power Partner is better than five new leads at one event.

Truly Serve

It's okay to admit it. When you meet someone new and the conversation is about business, you are on your guard. Invariably, we are waiting for "the pitch". Surprise! So is the person you are meeting.

Undoubtedly, there's nothing worse when the person you've just met tries to convince you they have exactly what you need.

No my darling. What you (and they) are seeking is what they WANT. If they and you can answer one of the WANTS, eventually the needs can be addressed.

For instance, who wants to be told their hair looks like a frizzy bird's nest?

Huh-uh. What they WANT is silky-smooth modelesque hair. You know your entire hair care system is what they NEED. However, if you listen to them, they'll tell you what they want. And you can meet that want with class and flair. Eventually, you can propose your system, because now they trust you have their best interests at heart.

Or consider this: you know you need life insurance, but you have a thousand other financial priorities. You don't need that insurance broker you just met to make you feel like a selfish narcissist, intent on leaving your family out to dry if the worst happens. You already feel cruddy. What you want is someone to show you HOW you can start out with a small policy you can afford and how to gradually build up to a more substantial financial property.

How can you SERVE? You'll never know unless you ask questions and listen to the answers.

Give and It Shall Be Given

Simply put...if you want someone to purchase from you, you need to be ready to purchase from them.

Of course, even if you aren't their ideal client, be ready to provide an invitation to someone who is. In fact, if you ARE their ideal client, be ready to provide a quality referral, too. 

It's what you'd want. Right? So don't be tacky. Give as good as you'd like to get.

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Once you are familiar with the simple steps to becoming a welcome guest at all offline networking events, you can easily transfer them to online opportunities.

Of course, you might know these network events better by their common names: Facebook Groups, LinkedIn Groups, and Forums. Think of these groups as a traditional offline meeting. The fabulous thing is there are 50 to 5000 people all in one location. You don't have to drive all over town, or isolate your business to your neighborhood.

Group Etiquette

Firstly, if you aren't the group owner, and you offer a similar service as the group owner, don't try to sell your products and services within the community. It's just not nice.

Secondarily, don't spam the group with your products and services. (similar to the drive-by card pusher)

Finally, the group isn't your personal sales playground (even if you own it.) Others in the group may have that attitude but you are a professional. Act like it. You don't want to be kicked out, blocked or get a reputation as a spammer. Ick.

And if it is YOUR group, you want people to be glad to be part of your community, not hop right back out. But, that is another article, yes?

How to Make an Impact the Right Way

Choose one or two groups per day to give your attention. Make it your aim to "attend" a network event each day. How do you do that, you ask? Easy! Start by scrolling through the posts with curiosity and intention. After that, here's 5 easy ways to network and find more qualified leads the right way:

  • 1
    Welcome newcomers with a genuine hello. Look over their public profile to see what you have in common. If they look like a good fit for you, create an extended warm welcome to them. For instance, I'm from Texas. So, if I see someone who also lives in Texas I say something like, "Howdy from a fellow Texan" or something corny like that.
  • 2
    Scroll through the posts to see if there is anyone you can help in a non-intrusive sort of way. Do you have an area of expertise? This is your chance to give a taste of what you do. NICELY. This is also your opportunity to "take it out of the group." Let them know you'll send them a friend request so you can chat privately. If it isn't your area of expertise, but you know someone in the group who is an expert, be a power partner for them and tag them in a comment to draw their attention.
  • 3
    When they respond to your friend/connection request, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE don't spam them with your products and services. Give genuine appreciation for their friend/connection request approval. Ask them about the situation they mentioned and converse back and forth just a bit.
  • 4
    Ask them if they would be open to a phone call or a visual chat. Explain you like to (hear their voice - see their face) when you have a conversation.
  • 5
    LISTEN LISTEN LISTEN before you offer any remedy. Remember, they are super leery of you. Help them to know you are there to serve. And, be ready to direct them to people they can serve, too.

Long-Term Benefits

Ideally, invest up to 2 hours per day, 5 days per week, with your online networking efforts. GASP! you say!!! 10 Hours???? Look at it this way, when you attend one local event per week, you are likely investing 4 or 5 hours just to get to one meeting. A lot of serial-networkers attend 2 or more groups per week.

Become known as a person who helps and gives, rather than a shark who swims around looking for prey, or a gnat seeking a group to pester. Your authority factor will go through the roof. When you are a person who becomes known as a giver- your influence and impact will soar!

Expect that this is a process, rather than a one-stop shop event. Eventually, you will identify a handful of online networking locations where you are truly making a huge difference. Not only do you want to shine, you want to create opportunities for your new connections to shine, too.

Over the long-term, you can make thousands of new connections in a very short time. Remember my rule, you don't have to serve everyone, you just have to serve a few. When you can create a community of 100 raving fans, you will generate more business, and thus income, than you've ever imagined.

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