Following on from Agostino’s Contractor Series Part 1 - Top 4 Tips on Building a Successful Contracting Business, he is taking us on the journey on just how to do that – networking.
The following 20 contractor networking strategies are designed to help you make the most of your networking opportunities.
1. Set a revenue target for your networking activity
Contractor networking is a marketing activity capable of generating as much business as you'd like. As with all business tasks, it's usually only done if there is an attached revenue objective and time set aside to achieve it.
2. Schedule time for contractor networking
What you do with the time you invest in your business determines whether or not you'll achieve your financial objective. Once you've set a revenue target for business networking, you'll need to set aside time for the activity of networking.
3. Know who your best referral sources are
80% of a person's referrals tend to come from 20% of his/her contacts. You can use this rule of thumb to greatly increase the referrals you get by identifying people who meet your clients before you do, and building relationships with them.
4. Identify where you can meet your referral sources
Some business networking events may attract large numbers of the very people you'd like to meet. Once you know who you'd like to meet, start looking around for events aimed at those people. You might even consider conducting such events yourself.
5. Be ready to give first
Networking is a two-way street. People who don't contribute to others tend not to get given referrals. Developing a business networking strategy that ensures you're always able to give value to others will increase the value you get back.
6. Who do you know?
Create a list of people you know that can provide, buy and/or generate referrals for the people you'd like to network with. Reconnect with people from your past.Who did you once know that could benefit by reconnecting with you? And who in your current network would benefit? Reconnecting with people from your past is rewarding in multiple ways.
7. Identify ready-made networks
Business networking organisations such as BNI, provide a pre-existing network you can join. Within that network there will almost certainly be people who meet your clients before you do. People you now have an opportunity to meet and develop a relationship with.
8. Form alliances and create power teams
When a group of committed people join forces to pursue an objective they're more likely to achieve more than they would if they worked alone. For example, the BNI Power Team concept makes it easier for like-minded groups to forge alliances and generate more income with less effort.
9. Offer added value to your network
Business networking isn't just about referrals. Find other ways to contribute to others, especially those who you're less likely to generate referrals for. It might be as simple as being helpful.
10. Contribute to your group's meetings
Be willing to get involved in the day-to-day running of your networking group. This isn't just about becoming known to others in the group. It's about being responsible for those factors that make the group fun (to yourself and others) by injecting enthusiasm, friendliness and liveliness.
11. Join an Internet business networking group
Online networking requires the same skills as face-to-face. The only difference is the medium itself (i.e. the web) which allows you to network free of the limitations imposed by geography.
12. Give written/video testimonials & Request written/video testimonials
When someone has provided you with good service (business or otherwise), provide him/her with a written or video testimonial. Do this without being asked. When you provide someone with good service (business or otherwise), ask for a written or video testimonial (if you have a website).
13. Don't wait – ask for referrals
In the networking meetings you attend, ask to be referred to someone specific. Or to someone who knows that person. There's a good chance someone in the room will be able to help you connect. When you discover someone knows a person you'd like to meet, ask to be introduced.
14. Improve your visibility within your network
Others can't refer people to you unless they know who you are. The first step in building a strong business networking relationship is becoming more visible.
15. Develop your personal credibility to the people in your network
Always go the extra mile to do what you said you would, deliver it on time and be trustworthy. Your credibility within the group will grow over time, and that's a crucial part of becoming referable (i.e. by others).
16. Understand your business mission
Gain a deep understanding of the reasons why you're in business. Get to grips with your passion for what you do. Being able to express this succinctly helps you communicate enthusiasm to others.
17. Know who you want to sell to
If you can easily and quickly explain who you'd like to meet, it makes it much easier for others to generate good quality referrals. Over the years, this will save you a lot of time and make you more money.
18. Understand your strategic proposition
Every business has a key proposition that positions it relative to its competitors. If you can express yours in simple terms it helps your network get the right people interested in you. And that improves the odds you'll get high quality referrals. To ensure this happens, your business networking strategy must line up with your business strategy.
19. Make it easy for others to refer you
Other people spend a fraction of their time focussing on you and your business. Reinforce what you do, who you do it for and why it's good as often as you can. Make frequent use of one-to-one meetings, and plan ahead to ensure you have something of value for the person you're meeting.
20. The law of reciprocation
When you do somebody a favour, there is a natural human tendency to want to reciprocate. Almost everyone has this built-in drive, and it's why it always pays to be generous with your transferable skills.
For contracting opportunities, please contact Alice Thompson-Seagrave at The source on (03) 9650 6665 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about becoming a successful contractor, connect with Agostino Carrideo via LinkedIn or email him directly on email@example.com.
Look out for Part 3 of the Contractor Series in the June 2014 eNews edition!