Do you work in a profession where you wondered to yourself where will my next client come from? I think if you’re in business for yourself or in sales for others you have had that thought more than once! Most businesses today, especially those in their first three years of operation, are looking for more opportunities. I’m not a native of this area, I moved here roughly six years ago while thriving in another field in the corporate world. It was a great career but it took me on the road all the time away from my family and kept me from building the relationships I had enjoyed in other places where I was home more frequently. That loss of time with family and friends was one of the key points that made it easier to transition to dedicating myself solely to my photography business. My entire world now exists around creating memories for others to enjoy with their family and friends, allows me to build new relationships, and the bonus is I get to spend time at home with my family every day.
However, I’m now a one woman show, so I had to figure out what made the most sense for my business that would allow me to reach, meet, and expose people to what I have to offer. My clients tell me all the time that the type of photography that I offer is unique to this area, but if no one knows about me it won’t matter. The biggest way I’ve been able to increase my exposure to new clientele, but also make new friends is to network. Working in outside sales and management for most of my past career made this a no brainer for me. I love to meet new people and I also enjoy collaborating to figure out how we can work together to provide services that will allow our clients to have even better experiences with us.
One of the groups I found to be successful with this is BNI. For those not familiar, BNI (http://www.bni.com/) is an international networking group. I joined over the summer and have found a wonderful group of people all around my area. This group is structured very similarly to what I have been used to in my past corporate experience, they work together in teams known as “chapters” to expand everyone’s reach because you get to know everyone and their businesses very well each week. It was a natural fit for me once I learned more about them.
I wanted to get to get some feedback from the top of our local organization to hear her suggestions on how to be a great networker, so my spotlight today is Jana Cardona, BNI Executive Director for the Mid-South which includes West Tennessee and North Mississippi. This is the link to the group that Jana oversees: (http://www.bnimidsouth.com)
I started by asking Jana how to go about being a good networker. She shared that networking is not a sales tool, it’s about building relationships. You can see why I was attracted to this group! To be a successful networker, she recommended that you sit down and think about your business. Make yourself a list of the following things:
If you’re like me, a sole proprietor, you can’t go everywhere. So next Jana recommends that once you have your target market defined you’ll want to then make the following list about yourself and your business:
Next step is to put together what is commonly known as an elevator pitch. Most often when you meet new people they will ask you what you do. When given this opportunity you want understand how to say what you do in an impactful way.
But first, to be a good networker, if given the opportunity Jana recommends that you always ask about the other person first. The BNI philosophy is called “Givers Gain”. When you give to others they seek to return that to you. This is just a nice thing in general; we’ve all talked to that person that could only talk about themselves. If they ask you first about yourself, you can simply say “I can do that, but let me find out about you first.” It’s much easier to talk to people about what you do once you know what they do. For example, if they tell you that they work with a local jeweler designing pieces for women and you’re a photographer that shoots women, your conversation will flow a little easier!
Once they’ve talked about themselves if they are good networkers they will ask about you too. Knowing what to say that highlights what you offer in your business, in a way that addresses a need that others may have, now becomes essential. I’ve thought about this a lot and for me it is “I am a portrait photographer. I shoot men and women but I specialize in women because most women are generally extremely critical of themselves. I give my clients a uniquely crafted experience that allows them to forget about what they think is wrong with them and come away with beautiful images to celebrate who they are.”
I hope if you’re reading this you have learned a few tips that will allow you to have better success networking. Even if it’s not for your business, hopefully it has given you some thoughts about ways to begin new relationships with others.
Jana has a rich background in not only networking but also speaking to groups about network marketing and sales. If you’re interested in having her come to your group or organization, feel free to reach out to her via email here: firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’re interested in finding out more about BNI anywhere in the Memphis area you can reach out to me directly for more information.
(Jana shown leading a discussion at a BNI Leadership meeting, standing top right corner)