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Finding the Right “Who” By Knowing “Where”: Networking At Meetups
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If you’re an aspiring entrepreneur, the one skill that you should start honing (if you’re not already an aficionado at it) is being a great people-person. Not to say that introverts can’t be incredibly successful entrepreneurs – because they can – or that you have to learn to like everyone – because you won’t – but it’s helpful in every aspect of starting a business to develop a strong network of human beings. I don’t recommend going up to every stranger on the block to chat them up but I suggest that you make an effort to take an hour a week and go to a meetup, social, startup gathering etc. and meet one new individual who you can potentially add to your professional network. Knowing people who know the right people can help you to find customers, co-founders, resources, investments, contacts and much more. Here are the three best places to get your networking started:

1. Use Online to Get Offline

Every couple of days the tool Meetup, sends me reminders of potential events in my area that I’d be interested in. If I’m feeling brave I’ll even do a search for meetups that are specifically catered to wannabe startup founders and the like but more often than not I’ll attend a meetup if someone I know is hosting, there’s someone I know who’s speaking or if the startup event has a very compelling agenda (Business Plan 101 or Coding for Beginners). I’ve learned a lot and met many great people who have since ended up working with me, buying my product or recommended my offering to an “investor friend.” Take a pal with you if you’re attending a meetup for the first time because it can be daunting to walk into a room full of new people. But if you’re a smart entrepreneur, you won’t think of a gathering of strangers as a reason to run and a hide but an opportunity to show and tell. Other great tools to find meetups are Facebook Events, LinkedIn Events, and Eventbrite.

2. Volunteer Your Time

Last summer a friend mentioned to me that she wanted to quit her uninspiring desk job in corporate advertising and fulfill her dream to work for the environment. Unfortunately she had no idea what she wanted to do or, as a resident of NYC, how to get into the industry. I suggested that she go volunteer at a rooftop organic garden in Brooklyn and literally “get her hands dirty.” Once she started nobody could stop her. Over a short span of a few months she was gaining invaluable experience in the industry she wanted to work in and she was meeting all the right kind of people – from environmental studies majors with cutting-edge ideas to growers, farmers, local food vendors etc. If you’re looking to meet like-minded people in the field you want to break into, I recommend that you go and volunteer on the weekends; you’ll expand your network in no time.

3. Mix Pleasure with Business

The one thing that brings people together is food, or baseball or cult films. What I’m saying is that you don’t have to do your business networking in only professional settings. Everyone, even the most industrious, blackberry-touting, skyping-colleagues-on-the-run, businessperson has a hobby. If you can attend fun social events but still meet people who would later be a great company contact, all the more better for you. For example: if you have a friend who knows someone that you’d potentially like to work with, ask your friend to host a small potluck where you can meet them.

Bryan JaneczkoFounder, Wicked Start
Bryan has successfully launched multiple startups. His latest venture, Wicked Start, provides tools to plan, fund, and launch a new business. Also author of WickedStart: Guide to Starting a New Venture with Passion and Purpose, Bryan is committed to helping small businesses grow and succeed.
www.wickedstart.com | Facebook | @WickedStart | LinkedIn | More from Bryan

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Discussion (4) Comment


  1. neil lichtVisitor

    Neil Licht • How do you proactively work a network event so you acquire great prospects? Its not done with a “here’s what I do” product pitch.

    The personal one to one chance meeting at networking events, industry shows or on purpose can be one of the best opportunities to gain prospects & recommenders. The success key is all in how you initiate & manage those conversations.

    Use A 30 second commercial? – Yes but done with 3 objectives:

    • to qualify re application value, need
    • gain a strong interest
    • gain an appointment to explore the concept in depth & how it could be beneficial, discover possibilities, value proposition, process for eval, adoption & get a sales process going that can indeed lead to a sale.

    Its absolutely not a “here’s what I do”- product pitch.

    Why this approach? – Consider this:

    Why sell when you have no idea if the need exists or if the person even cares. You can’t possibly sell in that short conversation because you don’t know the “buyer’s” needs, authority, or direct involvement with the areas that you can fix or solve. In fact, its not an opportunity for a sales pitch at all.

    What’s the formula for a 30 second commercial that can work?
    Its purpose is to create a link between what the person you meet faces & must solve & what you have that can help. Its objective is to qualify probable need & value for a solution that gets the issue solved or minimized & then get an appointment to discuss the issues & how you may be able to solve them, that’s all.

    It must get that precise connection made, get interest in what you have that can solve that issue & get the calendars out so you get an appointment to discuss it deeper with the person that you are talking with.

    So how do I use the 30 second commercial to work in that way for me at networking events?

    Here’s an approach that seems to work:

    A. Your elevator pitch, aka 30 second commercial used to open and manage the conversation has to get a shared mutual connection going in a very casual, non threatening conversational way. Its not a sales pitch at all in that sense.

    Starting with asking “What do you do” is great because its always good to know what the person does before you spend time pitching.

    B. Based on knowing that, pick a known problem or challenges that the prospect, because of what they do, always has to grapple with. Say “You know how people in your position always seem to have to face xx and the issues it creates?” or say “you know how we always face xxxx”.

    They say yes!

    C. You say “my company helps deal with those problems”, throw out a very quick example & say ” I’ve got time on Tues or thurs of next week to discuss how we can do this for you. Which is best for you and I to spend about an hour-Tuesday or Thursday of next week?”

    You will get an appointment and then the selling starts – in the first meeting, not the elevator pitch.

    I have found that this kind of 30 second commercial approach is useful in connecting in person and one to one conversations & gaining “qualified” prospects who want to talk with you.

    It works well at:

    * groups

    * casual conversation

    * reach out phone calls ( it gets calls back because of the message you leave)

    * reach out cold calls

    * lead follow-up,

    * the local chamber of commerce meetings,

    * social events

    * you can strike up a conversation because it can manage a that conversation into an appointment to discuss your ideas ( ideas sounds a lot better than product or solution) .

    Neil Licht, CEO and Chief Adviser, HereWeAre – Managing Change Group
    * How to Re Tool messaging and sales approaches to Capture Business in our “everything’s a commodity” mentality Market Place

    callhereweare@verizon.net http://www.wix.com/ndlicht/hereweare


  2. Bryan JaneczkoAuthor

    Hi Ashok,

    Will definitely have shorter sentences in my next blog post. Thanks for the great feedback. I need it!

    Al – thanks for the reminder about LinkedIn Events. The tool Lanyrd which is a conference-focused social service tool with LinkedIn integration is pitted to be LinkedIn Event’s replacement. What do you think about this?

    Best,
    Bryan


  3. Ashok KumarVisitor

    Hi Bryan,

    Thanks for taking up a very important topic.
    And also for the useful and doable tips.

    Regards

    Ashok

    PS: For dummies like me, would be great if you could shorten the sentences :)


  4. Al SmithVisitor

    LinkedIn will be shutting off the LinkedIn Events application effective November 26, 2012

 

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