ICS Magazine

The Least Expensive, Most Valuable, Life- and Business-Changing Marketing Strategy Ever!

January 7, 2008

It’s 2008 and you have resolved to do better in your business this year. Right? Good, because after reading this article, you will want to add something else to your list of New Year’s Resolutions.

I want to share a strategy that has absolutely changed my life. It is at the foundation of all that I do in marketing and in business. This simple but overlooked and misunderstood “marketing” strategy can do more for your business than perhaps anything else. This concept is something you already know about, but are probably misusing and underutilizing like most small-business owners.

What is this all-important strategy and skill? Networking.

Yes, networking. Now, before you tune me out and turn to another page because you think you already know how to network, let me challenge your conventional thinking by offering the following test:

If you think networking is meeting people to get business, you’re wrong. Keep reading. If you think networking is going to Chamber of Commerce or breakfast club meetings and passing out cards, you’re wrong. Keep reading. If you think networking doesn’t bring in massive amounts of business, you’re wrong.

If you want to understand how networking can do wonders for your business and your life, and you want to correct the huge mistakes you are already making, then read on.

Let’s start out with what networking really is. My definition of networking is “the process of building relationships with the mutual desire and intent to connect to others.” In other words, it’s about building relationships; it’s not about getting jobs. However, many jobs will be the natural fruit of doing networking right. And I do stress right. When networking is done right, both parties should understand that it is a mutually beneficial relationship. Too many people approach networking with the “gimme some jobs” attitude. And that, my friend, is a big mistake.

So, here are your first 2 lessons in networking.

Lesson No. 1: Become an Asset to Others Before They Become an Asset to You
In his best-selling book Relationship Selling, Jim Cathcart shares that the old way of selling was to get a prospect’s attention, build desire, and close the sale. Transactional business. No relationship. Transactional business is all about what you can get, without considering the truth of “give and it will be given back to you, pressed down, shaken together and running over.” This principle is ignored today more than ever before.

Jim spells out how, in relationship selling, you look for ways to become an “asset to others before they become an asset to you.” Here’s how that works: when you meet someone that may be a networking partner, instead of thinking about how you can teach them about what you do, be thinking about how you can be an asset to them first.

Use Dale Carnegie’s “emphatic listening” technique. Be very interested in what they do, how they do it, their family life (without getting too personal), their hobbies, interests, etc. Practice asking with interest as many questions as you can think of.

People love to talk about themselves! Have you ever noticed that? So keep them talking about themselves as long as you possibly can, all the while looking for ways you can be an asset to them, their clients, their members, their community, their church, their kids, their pets, their networking group, their home, or whatever.

After taking interest in them, and asking lots of questions (refraining from saying anything about yourself), they will eventually realize that they are just talking about themselves and that they haven’t given you your due time. Believe me, it takes some longer than others as you can imagine. The bigger the ego and the less they understand the “mutually beneficial” part of networking, the longer they will talk about themselves. You can learn a great deal about a person with this simple technique alone.

My wife is a master at this. She can be next to someone in line at the grocery store and know their underwear size before she checks out! Included in the package is a phone number, where they work, how many kids and pets they have, how many times they have been married, and what problems they have! It’s amazing and she is amazing.

So, once they finally realize that they are doing all the talking, and you are doing all the listening, something magical happens: they ask, “So what do you do?”

There is nothing unique in getting asked this question, but the circumstance and the timing in which it is asked is incredibly important and powerful. There is something called The Law of Reciprocity, which I am sure you have heard of. The Law of Reciprocity causes people to feel that they need to “reciprocate,” or give back, when they have been given something. You have just given them one of the most cherished gifts of all – an interested, listening ear.

Now and only now are they ready to receive your valuable message. They are much more interested now. Why? Because you showed interest in them.

Lesson No. 2: My “Multi-Million Dollar” Networking Phrase
Now that you have their full attention, you want to keep your goal in mind. Remember, you want to be an asset to them. You have collected enough information to see how you can help them, but here’s the catch: if you just begin telling them how you can help them, you’ve pulled another psychological trigger. Without realizing it, their emotion immediately says, “There’s a catch. What is it?” and they won’t act. Internally, we know that noting is really “free” and, if someone wants to help us, there is a cost somewhere, somehow.

So, here’s what to do:

Let the person know that you have some ways that you can “help each other.” Now the contact’s mind and emotions will be congruent and they will be eager to take you up on that opportunity. After sharing what you do (more on that later – another humongous mistake people make is introducing themselves the wrong way), hone in on one of the possible “become an asset” items:

“One way that we could help each other is…”

Example: Let’s say that they have a client list filled with perfect clients for you. “I could give you some information that would be very helpful to your clients, and it would make you look really good. That would help you and of course as your clients learn about me, that can in turn help me as well.”

A mutually beneficial project that is a win-win-win. You may not even go that far when you first meet someone. Instead, say, “Why don’t we meet for coffee and see how we can help each other?” They will say yes, and you follow with “Great, when is the best time to contact you?” Now you have permission to follow up!

The reason I call this my “multi-million dollar networking phrase” is because I have literally made millions of dollars with it. It works. So stop just going up to people and spewing out all the services you provide, and start listening intently for how you can “help each other” and you will find the “gold” in networking.