netWORKing – an interview Betsy Wuebker

Betsy thanks for your comments and feedback on my blog "there is work in NetWORKing", tell me why do you think people don't follow up when they have made the initial effort to network?

I think there are a variety of reasons:  disorganization, lack of prioritization.  It's hard for people to toot their horn.  Folks are also insecure they think they couldn't possibly have anything valuable to offer, and don't want to intrude.  Following up is barely warmer than a cold call, especially if the encounter fell short in ways one could re-engage with the person.  Good face to face is just as much of an art.  People try, but they don't study and practice how to network successfully.

So Betsy, what are some of your own experiences of networking?

They've run the gamut.  I've had success, and I've failed to follow-up myself.  I've assessed potential inappropriately, and I'm sure I've missed opportunities.  I've built great relationships from one chance encounter, and I've tried to make things happen that never had a prayer.  The critical element for me has been my approachability, and the match in potential with my products and services with the venue and the other participants.

That's a great point matching potental, I never feel you should sell too aggressively at a network event, what tips and advice would you pass on to budding networkers?

Find an association or venue that fits.  Have a plan.  Study up on how to work a room.  Don't hang at the food table or the bar.  Move around and look to join conversation.  Don't be afraid to make the first move.  Don't overshare, or overstay your welcome in a conversation.  Look to meet an interesting person or two, not to sell something.  Think of networking as developing relationships over a longer term.  There's no such thing as an immediate payout.

Bestsy, its been a pleasure getting the benefit of your experience, good luck and good networking on and off line!

You can find Betsy networking and blogging at:

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There is work in netWORKing – the prologue

Charlotte Chamber of Commerce holds a monthly "after hours" network meeting great to meet loads of people, outside of normal working hours and not eating into prime time.

In my last blog,  point number 6,  I suggested following up with people you meet regardless of how valuable a contact they seem.

At an "after hours" last week an attendee, who was a grant writer, was there looking for work.  They had no business cards and a hefty resume, that did not reflect what skills they had,  a copy of which I declined to take sorry I am not hiring, not a recruiter and I did have a lot to carry already.

BUT  I did spend time with the person what's 10 minutes between new acquaintances and I was not entirely sure what a grant writer did so I learned something.

After a few minutes I asked "are you on Linkedin" response "no".  I continued "are you using any social networking media response "no".

My reply "OK, drop me an email with your details and I will keep an eye out for you".  For those of you that know me this was not an idle promise.

Well, I have heard nothing.  No email, no follow up, no "thanks for your time".  Guess what, I have found someone that wants ............. you got it .............. a grant writer.  But I have no way to contact the "networker".

The lesson from this story don't waste your time networking if you are not going to get prepared, not going to make it easy for people to network with you, not going to follow up OR if you are expecting instant results.

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There is work in netWORKing

I am a real fan of face to face networking as a business development tool to compliment your Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Myspace social media network strategy.  Chambers of Commerce, local and national, and business community groups can be great places to network.  But you only get out of a network what you put in.

So here are 6 tips  some of these are a BGO but they are good reminders:

1.  Get a list of people attending in advance, scan the list to identify people who could be useful contacts.  Go with a plan. Work out what you could say to them that might get their attention or be of interest to them.  I target new small business owners, especially new franchises.  I always say "Welcome to town, great business idea, what made you pick that one?"

2.  If you can't get a list in advance get there a little early and ask the organziser for a look at the list, identify the people who are likely to be decision makers especially new members or first times attendees.  Go and make them welcome.  Ask open questions to get the conversation going.

3.  Take plenty of business cards and something small to write on.  OK, OK, OK so no one  would go networking without business cards right?  Wrong, also take enough!  I always have a little pocket note pad with me (about 2" x 3" nice and discreet) for when the contact I want to get info on has not bought cards, has run out or, as happened this week, I am given a 3rd party to contact.

4.  Don't be afraid to move on, even when you have found a good contact and you want to exploit the opportunity you need to make more contacts so does the other person!  They won't thank your for keeping them talking and reducing THEIR networking time.

5.  Don't blatantly sell or inadvertently badger and pester, that's not what networking is for.  Make contacts sell later.  Yes sow seeds, mention ideas, give out (brief) information but no hard sells.

6.  Follow up regardless.  No contact is wasted, everyone WILL know someone who can use what you sell, even if they can't.  So its only courtesy and it keeps you in their thoughts (and database) to send a quick email to EVERYONE you meet "I was pleased to have the opportunity to learn more  about your business at the network event, I look forward to meeting you again, in the meantime here are my contact details".

People buy from people, NOTHING beats face to face networking as a component in your marketing mix and it gets you off that keyboard for a couple of hours too!  There is a lot more I could add about networking but remember you only get out what you put in.

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Is your sales message falling on deaf ears?

Some customers and prospects are very receptive to your ideas, questions and sales pitch some are not.  Have you ever wondered why?

Four stages of learning
There are four stages of competence we go through when we learn something:

Stage 1. unconsciously incompetent
Stage 2. consciously incompetent
Stage 3. consciously competent
Stage 4. unconsciously competent

Learning to drive
Stage 1.  Your teenager is reaching driving age, they look at your car with envy, "no more walking, no more rides from mom and dad I'll be free!"  At this point in time they don't know, they don't know how to drive.

Stage 2.  They get in the car, can't get the engine going, they are badly coordinated, they stall the engine at this point they get a rude awakening now they know, they don't know how to drive.

Stage 3.  You pay for learner ed, they pass the test and, although lacking experience, the teenager knows they know how to drive.

Stage 4.  Have you ever got to the office in the morning, sat at your desk and suddenly thought "Gee, which route did I come this morning, did I run the red lights at the intersection?"  You don't know, that you know, how to drive.  You are on auto pilot, driving is second nature, almost instinct.

Competence, Comprehension and Acceptance
So what has this analogy got to do with selling well, you try telling a teenager, especially a boy, that he does not know how to drive your message is falling on deaf ears, try and tell an experienced driver who has never even had a parking ticket, they could be a better driver deaf ears again.

At Stage 1 and Stage 4 human nature makes people unwilling to be receptive they don't see the need to be.

Communicating your sales message
Identifying what stage the customer is at is critical.  Your first sales job is to create some sort of motivation, reason or "disturbance" to move the customer forward to Stage 2 or backward to Stage 3.  At Stage 2 and Stage 3 people are more willing to be receptive.

Once you have got the customer receptive its down to you, but at least you have got a their ear!

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Effective business development demands presenting proposals not sending quotes!

Are you really presenting proposals or in reality are you sending your prospects and customers a glorified quote that is titled a proposal?

A quote tells the buyer the price.  A proposal sells the benefits, explains you know the prospect's business and details why they should go with your solution, product or service.  A proposal explains the cost as an investment, it details why your prospect can't afford not to do business with you.

So why don't sales people write proposals?  They think they have to be long, fully detailed works of art and they often do not get enough information on the sales call about the prospect's needs,  They probably don't have the facts and figures for a valid ROI argument either.  So a quote gets delivered, but on the front cover it says "A proposal for.........."

A proposal does not have to be a long diatribe, it does not have to be a glossy, four color, spiral bound masterpiece.  In some circumstances even one page will do!

A proposal is about substance not volume and should include:

1.  An introduction
2.  The prospect's needs
3.  Your solution
4.  The investment and ROI
5.  Why your solution
6.  Appendices (terms, specs, warranty etc.)

Frequently a proposal will go on one or two pages and can be a simple Word template (ask for an example).  Don't forget if it is a long proposal then you do need an executive summary and a really usable contents page.

With prospects and sellers alike being so busy these days, we are even using PowerPoint slides with short sharp bullet points to present proposals.  We then export the slides into a .pdf and give it to the customer they love it!

Last point don't forget, if a proposal is worth writing, its worth taking in person.

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Are you really dealing with the decsion maker?

In the current economic climate the ability of the "decision maker" to actually make a decision has to be seriously questioned by the seller.  When the cash is flowing the decision making moves down the organisation to management and even operation levels, when funds are tight decision making moves back up the organisation to the executive suite.

In lean times, even with companies not necessarily experiencing financial difficulties, there is less latitude to waste, or even risk wasting, hard earned revenues.  So an edict comes down from the top "all expenditure to be sanctioned by the board".  Suddenly your contact shifts from being the decision maker to being a decision influencer as their purchasing ability is discreetly removed.

The problem for you is that in the majority of cases pride takes over and your contact does not tell you they have lost their power they just come up withreasons as to why "they" are delaying "their" decision.

If you are working on a deal and the decision is not forthcoming, especially from a contact who has given you orders in the past, then double check the decision making dynamics.  Its a tough call but you may need to go around your contact and go to a higher authority.

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Sale stalled? Is it a real deal?

Closing skills the number one request we get for sales training and coaching.  We engage with the client's sales people and quickly discover closing is not the problem.  The deals the sales people are trying to close are not "real deals"

The sales person has created a need for the product, service or solution and has probably discussed time-scales for a decision with the prospect.  Great, but what's the business driver (something happening in the business that is forcing change or action) that is creating the need for the product.

What is the compelling event (the date or deadline for the change or action demanded by the business driver) that is behind the time-scale?

Think about it this way:

Need + time-scale = nice to have.

Business driver + compelling event = must have!

Its tough to admit but ask yourself "are you selling to someone who has a real need or are you trying to sell to someone who has listened to you, and thought it would be "nice to have" what you sell, but its not a necessity".

Maybe you need some new prospects?

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