‘Real’ Networking: Your New BFF in a Bad Economy
As a salon owner or independent contractor you grow your salon or spa business by bringing new clients into your fold. Local personal networking is a powerful tool to do that … if you do it right!
Networking Has To Be ‘Real’ To Be Right!
OK, I admit it. Even though I’m a publicist, I’ve never been big on networking gatherings and cool, chic mix-and-mingling events (all right … I hate them!). These ‘get-togethers’ always feel so contrived, put together so complete strangers can ‘act friendly’ (as if they really care) to manipulate you into listening tirelessly about their business and taking their business card (circular file time). Blah, blah, blah, I tell you – it’s unnatural!
However, this networking-naysayer may have been ‘saved’. I discovered how ‘real’ networking can work, where the conversations get real, the people get real, and the results are real … and in many cases the other evening, immediate.
I think I’m now a supporter of the ‘new school’ of networking. The premise remains the same – to make new contacts that will benefit your business, but how you do it makes the total difference in making more lasting people connections of more mutual benefit.
Making ‘Mixing’ a New Mission!
What turned me around was a recent ‘mega-mixer’ Alex and I attended in Los Angeles, co-hosted by two terrific beauty industry organizations working together to change the face of ‘the same old boring pseudo-networking event’; Beauty Industry West (BIW) (www.beautyindustrywest.org) and Southern California Health & Beauty Professionals. This evening the guest speaker was networking ‘queen’ Kathleen Ronald (More on Kathleen in a moment).
During the evening’s “mega-mixer on a mission”, Kathleen made it clear that in these difficult economic times, we all really need each other’s help, and we need to openly and honestly reach out with earnest energy to learn about each other’s business, to listen to the specific needs of others, and to sincerely offer a helping hand on the spot in the areas we were able. Remarkably, the group truly responded to Kathleen’s call for caring, openness and sincerity and the dialogue went both ways. We could really feel ‘caring returned’. Kathleen set the stage that night and her call to action played a key role in the success of the event for us and many others.
Are You Like Me?
I wouldn’t be caught dead admitting that my business (or I) needed help from complete strangers – let alone ‘baring my soul’ and letting them know ‘my most important need’ in my business today? Can you believe I started out saying ‘I need to be more organized’ and changed my tune (gotta be honest) to ‘I need more clients!”
For those of you who know me, let’s face it … going beyond ‘everything is just fine’ is like confessing a mortal sin back in my Catholic childhood – just mortifying! But that evening, spurred by the knowledge that we are all facing a difficult economy, with the mission of honesty and helping each other, I have to admit that I walked away with new client leads, wonderful new contacts and business resources, and the brand new slant on professional life that ‘networking can be your friend – In fact, your ‘best friend forever’ (BFF). No matter what business or industry we’re in, this kind of this business-building tool can help us survive even the worst of economic times together.
What Alex and I Learned.
Kathleen Ronald (www.speaktacular.com) is a self-described, “cross between the Mother Theresa of Networking, and a Chatty Cathy doll”. She drove home that it’s how you network that makes the time and effort worthwhile, not the fact that you do it. There is no doubt that if you are already out there and mixing it up in public, you may want to evaluate what you’re doing right … and perhaps wrong.
When we heard Kathleen Ronald’s, “Seven Deadly Sins of Networking”, we immediately recognized why we had always disliked networking events.
KATHLEEN RONALD’S “SEVEN DEADLY SINS OF NETWORKING
- Sin #1: Not Understanding ‘Who Is Your Perfect, Right Client?” — Unless you know who your perfect ‘right client’ is, you don’t know where to go to meet them. Where do they hang out? Where should you go to network to find them? How long should you plan on being there? What do you need to bring? Do you have a plan in mind? Those who just show up without a plan Kathleen calls ‘drive by’ networkers … just stopping by to take a shot in the dark.
- Sin #2: Making a Poor First Impression — Everyone meeting you for the first time ‘has a dialogue in their head’ about you within the first five seconds. It’s either a good or bad dialogue. What you look like, how you’re eating … all the obvious and subtle details about how you come across. As a beauty and fashion image authority yourself, you are certainly the experts in how to make that first impression a great one on your own behalf and shouldn’t worry too much about this sin.
- Sin #3: Badge-Lookers — Kathleen reminds us all that when we meet someone, we’d better look straight into their eyes and not keep staring at their badge during the conversation. Don’t you hate it when you’re talking to someone for the first time and they keep staring at your name badge? Also, don’t treat people with any more or less importance according to the badge they’re wearing. Everyone gets equal treatment … and everyone is a VIP.
- Sin #4: It’s All About Me, Me, and Me! — You know what we mean. Mr. or Ms. Blah, blah, blah. People love a good listener. When you listen well, ask questions, and give the other person the floor, to take in their business, their needs, their points, you make an impression. Nothing turns people off faster than self-centered yakkers. Focus on ‘Tell Me about You” and the people you want to meet will be sure to ask, “Well, tell me about you”.
- Sin #5: Card Sharks — Of course remember your business cards and always keep them handy for a moment’s notice BUT, don’t look desperate to hand out all 200 cards you brought that night. It’s the quality of the connection – not the quantity of the cards that you manage to exchange. You are building the foundation of a relationship with the start of each conversation. A super-sonic card exchange at warp speed doesn’t serve.
- Sin #6: Poor Follow Up! — Kathleen is most EMPHATIC about taking the time within 24 hours to follow up with those who you meet during your networking experience. She stresses that, “the fortune is in the follow-up’ when it comes to getting the full value of networking”. Carve out half an hour the next day to find some way to connecting with these newest influences on your future business (e.g. e-mail, phone call, personal handwritten note, flowers, whatever is appropriate for the person and occasion). As a salon or spa owner, it certainly would be appropriate to invite a prospective client in for a tour, perhaps for a consultation … something complimentary and non-committal on their part. If it’s another type of connection for your business, there’s nothing like inviting someone out to breakfast or lunch to start the ball rolling.
- Sin #7: Not Keeping Your Word – Integrity! — In our busy lives, it is easy to over-commit ourselves and as a result, not be able to do something we said we would do for someone. Since ‘Our Integrity Is Our Word’, we have to make the supreme conscious effort to ‘say it – do it’ with all of those we meet. Kathleen’s own life philosophy is to ‘Be My Word’ and advises us all to stick strongly to that belief and not self-sabotage. (Factoid: It takes 12 positive happenings to undo 1 negative behavior. Moral: Keep Your Word.
No wonder I hated networking. There are so many people out there doing it badly. I’m looking for the good guys.
What have your networking experiences been?
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