There are many ways to build your network of connections when you own a small business or work independently (think realtor or financial planner). Only time and experience will show you which ones are most effective for you. Even if you’re shy or unsure of yourself, you need to network to grow your connections and develop the Board of Directors (BOD) that can be critical to your success.

The point of a Network Constellation is to help each other. You’ll provide leads and contacts to them, they return the favor. You find the right people who are willing to invest their time and energy in helping you develop your business, while you do the same for theirs.

Networking Beyond Networking

Networking can happen in any kind of event, whether that’s a business association, a chamber of commerce, or a group of people involved in the same industry. As we learned during the pandemic, networking groups need not be in person. In our Coaching for CEOs program, we have a Zoom call twice per month and several virtual BOD meetings.  

Networking need not happen just at “networking” groups. It can happen anywhere you meet people and have the opportunity to strike up a conversation. It could be after church, at your daughter’s Little League game, or when you chat with someone sitting next to you on a plane. You can start talking about business, the other person may too, and you find you’re a good match.  Most importantly, make sure that those you invite into your networking constellation understand that this is a reciprocal relationship.  

No Networking for the Sake of Networking

You can put together your Constellation through focused networking. It’s nice to meet new people and they may have interesting stories to tell, but your goal is to grow your business. When you network, your goals should be finding someone who may:

  • Directly or indirectly provide you a sale
  • Be a good fit for your BOD
  • Own a business that has a BOD that you might be a good fit for

Many events allow attendees time for “30-second elevator speeches.” They can help you reach those who interest you. Give each event a purpose by setting goals for phone calls you’ll make and meetings you’ll have after the event.

Once you get the ball rolling with BOD members, ask them who they think might be a good match for your business (or you for their business). This word of mouth can be much more effective and efficient than making the rounds of networking meetings and hoping to stumble upon someone, but it will take some time.

Which Stars Fit Your Constellation?

Who are your customers? Who do they do business with? Your stars are those with ongoing, well-developed relationships with people or businesses who are your customers. But it’s not that simple. They must also see the wisdom of being on your BOD and you joining theirs. These relationships can take time to develop and there may be bumps in the road. But if you stay the course, the help you get from your BOD can make growing your business easier and less time-consuming.

Investing the time and energy to create your Constellation should give you a great return on your investment in the future. Are you ready to do it?

Take the Next Step. Contact Coaches for CEOs

Your BOD can fuel your sales machine. They can champion your business while you do the same for theirs. Contact me to learn more about how working with others can grow your business. Fill out my contact form so we can talk about your company and how you can join a Zoom seminar to learn more.

Your board of directors is there to help you. Why not return the favor? They’re reaching out to those they know to find opportunities and business connections for you. Are you ready to do the same for them? You never know who you’ll meet, including the biggest customer one of your directors ever got – thanks to you.

Wait? A board of directors for your small business? Yes! We call it a BOD here at Coaching for CEOs. Your BOD is made up of business connections who make a deliberate intent to contribute to the bottom line of your business.  

As the pandemic (hopefully) winds down, friends, family, and other business people will be getting together for the first time in months. We’ll be enjoying that human connection many of us missed living behind our computer screens. What will you talk about?

Small talk is all about asking open-ended questions. Make the other person the focus of the conversation and actively listen to what they’re saying. They’ll probably appreciate the attention and think you’re really smart if you’re interested in them.

Your Board Members May Need Many Things. Might This Person Help?

Keep a mental list of what your partners do and what they’re looking for. Their priority may be increasing sales, finding a supplier, a contractor or investor, or filling job vacancies. Try to figure out how the one you’re talking to, or someone they know, might fill one of these needs.

Come up with questions you can ask those you meet to find details that can help a board member (maybe even more than one). Start very broadly, with open-ended questions, then get more specific. You might find out more about their social circles, who they work for, and whether they might be someone your board members are looking for.

Once you have narrowed down which board member this person might help, they may open up more if you state you are asking for a friend, not for yourself: someone you are connected with who helps you with your business does _____ and is looking for help with _____.

Ask Specific Questions If You Think the Person Might Be a Good Fit

If the person recently got married, got a divorce, had a child, bought a house, or is heavily involved in a charity, your board member-attorney-friend who does estate planning would probably like you to ask if they have a will. If so, you could ask if it’s been updated to reflect their current goals, like making sure their assets will help their child or support that nonprofit. If not, creating one would be a good idea.

Your board member selling life insurance would also probably love to chat with that same person. Someone going through major life changes should review their existing coverage or buy a policy. Proceeds could pay off a mortgage, support a child, or benefit a charity. Tell them a friend sells insurance, and it is something they should think about.

Mortgage interest rates are at historic lows. If your board member works for a mortgage lender, and if the person owns a home, you could ask if they’ve refinanced their mortgage recently. That board member, or the one who is a real estate agent, would like you to ask if they plan on selling their home to buy a new one.

Both those industries are having record years. Maybe these board members need help keeping up and are looking to hire new employees. If you meet someone who doesn’t sound happy with their current job or is actively looking for work, they might be a good fit. Tell them you know someone who is hiring and offer to connect them to your board member.

Speak Up for Your Board Members

Your board members need help too, and reaching on their behalf is a great way to do it. Not only might they link you with possible clients or customers, but they are also a valuable resource who can answer questions or give advice. When you join Coaching for CEOs, you create business connections and have access to business partners who will help you build reciprocal relationships.

Want to learn more about how to leverage your relationships and grow your business? Fill out my contact form and attend one of my online seminars. Let’s start the conversation about how we can help ourselves and others.

We all live in our own environment. It’s where we live, socialize, do business, attend religious services, and shop. We’re in a bubble that bounces into and sometimes merges with other bubbles as we live our lives. You can create your own economy by finding and leveraging the bubbles of future clients and customers.

You must target those who may buy your product or service. It’s like being a private detective, researching someone you need to know more about so you can enter their bubble, be a part of their world directly or through your connections.

To get a sale you could try a direct approach. You may get lucky with a cold call or by introducing yourself at a networking event. But most of these “frontal assaults” fail, so investing time and energy in a more stealthy approach may work better. You won’t pop up out of nowhere, you’ll be connected by someone your future customer knows and trusts.

To create your own economy, you must find out…

Who is Your Ideal Client?

Depending on your business, you may have a few clients who make big purchases or many smaller ones with lower budgets. Who are they? Where are they? Is contacting them in person or through your connections the best route, or must you take another route because they’re too far away?

If there are many possible ideal clients nearby, how should you prioritize your sales efforts? You can focus on a big fish that may be more difficult to catch, but the rewards are bigger. Or, you could go after the smaller, easier-to-catch fish first.

Your track record of success and happy but smaller customers may make it easier to hook the big fish. Though they may not generate the same income, your more numerous customers may provide you with more connections, more possible partners, leading to more sales with more accounts (and maybe a big fish).

What Other Types of Businesses Interact With Your Ideal Client?

Imagine yourself in your ideal client’s bubble.

  • Who might have access to your ideal client?
  • What businesses is he or she working with?
  • Who are they buying from or selling to?
  • What relationships might this person or business have?

These businesses can have a connection on a personal level. They can be the person’s realtor, hairstylist, or landscaper. It could also be business-based, like a supplier, a contractor, an insurance broker, or a banker. Ideally, all these people should have your business card handy in case they want to connect you with someone.

Create Partnerships With Those Businesses

Connect with those connected to your ideal client. They may be people who have no need for your product or service, but they need connections too. You’re offering a relationship that doesn’t cost anything to them (they’re not paying you for anything, though they are using time and energy to promote your business) but offers potential rewards (benefits from your efforts making connections for them). They should, when the time is right, mention you to your ideal client or make an introduction.

These partnerships can be made in person or generated through LinkedIn (which is also an excellent place to research ideal clients and potential partners), content marketing including blogs, and instructional videos posted on your website and social media.

If you want to learn more about how to leverage your relationships, create your own economy, and grow your business, fill out my contact form and attend one of my online seminars. Let’s start the conversation about how we can help ourselves and others.

In our personal and professional lives, we all purchase goods and services from others. We give them something of value (usually money) and we get something of value in return. We may get a used car, paint, or a repaired lawnmower. These are ongoing relationships that can mean so much more with a little extra effort.

Some of our relationships can include our:

  • Insurance Agent
  • Accountant
  • Banker
  • Lawyer
  • Dentist
  • Hairdresser
  • Plumber
  • Landscaper
  • Mechanic  

You probably maintain these relationships because you’re happy with the service or product. You might also like the person and refer business to them. If you’re thinking of them and taking the time to talk to others about their business, you’re engaged in some of the most valuable marketing and sales they could possibly get – word of mouth or social proof. 

Social Proof is a Powerful Tool if You Know How to Use It

Social proof is a marketing and psychological term. When we need a product or service, we want to do it right. The top priority for many of us is finding someone trustworthy (especially if we’re buying something important or expensive). If we don’t know who that is, we could take a lot of time and energy, and investigate who’s available, credible, and provides a good value. We could also use trial and error. We might pick someone at random. It might be a good result or it may be a disaster.

Or we can avoid that risk, time, and energy by asking someone else for a suggestion. We will assume that if someone else had a good experience, we probably will too. Social proof is so powerful it’s spawned a whole online industry. It’s why there’s Yelp, Angie’s List, and Avvo. It’s why Amazon product listings include reviews and why there are testimonials about how a candidate is such a great person on political ads.

Ask and Ye Shall Receive

Your social proof helps build their businesses. Are they helping build your business too? Are they working hard to refer others to you? Probably not:

  • They may not know what you do. You may not have invested the time to fully introduce yourself and explain what you do, the problems you solve, and the types of clients and customers you seek.
  • Did you ask them for help? They may be happy help you, but unless you ask, they may not think about it.

It shouldn’t be a hard request to make, especially if the other person owns or runs a business. They should be willing to exchange the value you’re providing them (payment for their goods and services plus positive word of mouth) with value to you. Ideally, your contacts should have a sense of fair play. It’s only fair they help you if you’re helping them.

Another big reason for them to refer you to others is another psychological issue, reciprocity. Generally, we hate feeling indebted to others. We will go out of our way to do something for someone who did, or just offers to do, something for us. If you tell your accountant or mechanic that you’re actively telling people about them, they’ll feel indebted to you, even if no one you talked to came to them. To relieve themselves of that debt, they’re likely to “pay you back” by talking up your business. 

Help Others Help You

If you want to learn more about how to leverage your relationships and grow your business, call me at (856)905-7040 or fill out my contact form, and attend one of my online seminars. Let’s start the conversation about how we can help ourselves and others.

“If I’m bringing you business, you should do the same for me – end of story.” That’s the philosophy of C.E.O. We don’t just network, we contribute to each other’s bottom line by committing to sending business to each other. But you’re already spending money with a wide variety of service providers. Because they’re getting your business, these “providers” should be converted into “partners” to help you grow your business, as well. 

Who’s making money off of you?

Think about who is in your personal and professional network. Since you already have a relationship with these people, they’re the most logical ones to reach out to in order to begin to develop a powerful network of business partners. Make a list, including your:

  • Accountant
  • Financial advisor
  • Insurance agent
  • Doctor
  • Dentist
  • Real estate agent
  • Lawyer
  • Travel agent
  • Equipment or car rental company
  • Advertising agent
  • Auto repair shop
  • Banker

How to turn them into partners

Once you have a list of people who get your money, start calling them. Start with the ones you have the best relationships with and are most likely to have contacts that would need your products or services. 

Remember that this isn’t just about you. It’s a win-win. You want to show them how you can be of benefit to them as well. Reach out and ask to schedule a call to learn more about each other’s offerings to see how you can mutually support each other. Most people would be intrigued by this idea.

Some subjects to discuss:

  • Ask them about all their business services 
  • Ask them about their ideal clients
  • Tell them about all your services or offerings
  • Think about who you know right now who can use their services and ask them if they also know someone who could benefit from what you offer
  • Ask them: Are you willing to contribute to the bottom line of my business as I contribute to yours? 

What if they aren’t interested?

By this time in your conversation, if the person you’re speaking to is serious about growing his or her business, you have probably inspired the person and you are well on the way to creating a business partner. Swap with them the names and contact information of people you think could benefit each other and see how it goes from there.

However, if the person is not really interested and cannot see the value in your offer, walk away. If the initial name-swap does not lead to ongoing business from the person, walk away. There are plenty of other lawyers/financial advisors/bankers out there who have the foresight and the vision to jump at partnering with you. Some of them are in C.E.O.

When you talk about your business, be purposeful. Be strategic. Always think about positioning yourself in order to financially benefit from the connection. This sounds completely selfish. It’s not—it’s business.

Obviously, we all need people in our lives who fulfill our need for companionship, love, and friendship. But these aren’t your business connections, and they aren’t people whom you’re paying for a product or service. That said, you shouldn’t neglect them when talking about your business, even though they’re seemingly not in any position to affect your bottom line.

Does everyone in your network know what you do?

Have you been purposeful in informing everyone you know about what you have to offer? Think about everyone you come in contact with, both casually and intimately: friends and family; neighbors; people who go to your church; people you say hi to at the gym. Take a week or two just to notice where you run into people and how you could create opportunities to share your business.

Then brainstorm everyone who makes money off of you. Don’t just think “big” like your banker, lawyer, financial planner, accountant; think about people you may not pay a lot of money to but who may have many contacts: your pool guy, lawn guy, hairdresser, laundromat owner. My philosophy is, if they’re making money off of me, I should be making money off of them.

 What services do you offer?

When speaking about your business, what really matters to people is not what you do, but what problems you fix. So lead with your benefit – how your product or service can make their lives better. Don’t say, “I help new homeowners organize their finances so they can plan for the future.” Say, “Being a new homeowner is scary. Owners often worry about missing a payment or damaging their credit scores. I provide peace of mind by helping new buyers, and really anyone, develop budgets and financial plans that work.”

When you lead with the problem then show how you solve it, people listen – and they may immediately think of someone who needs what you offer.

Do you know how to turn a contact into a partner?

Once you’ve intrigued someone about what you offer, ask about that person’s products or services. Really show interest and think about how your services can support theirs and vice versa. When you see a connection, propose a partnership.

If the person is interested in discussing the partnership, you can go into greater detail about your business: your target audience, monthly transactions or production goals, the kinds of clients you have who may want the other person’s services. He or she should reciprocate with business details and possible new clients for you, as well.

Ask the person directly, “Are you willing to make the commitment that you will contribute to my bottom line and I will contribute to yours?” If you get a yes, start sharing referrals. If the person is not interested or does not have good referrals that bring you business, find someone else offering his or her services who will partner with you. Everyone who gets your money should be your business partner.

Change how you talk about your business, change who you talk to about your business, and change your expectations for business partnerships rather than just business “networking.” Follow this strategy and your business will grow exponentially. I know, because it happens every day at C.E.O.

Do an online search for articles on “how to business network” and they’ll all give you pretty much the same advice, all of which is a waste of time and almost never works. And I’ll tell you why.

 Networking That Doesn’t Work

They’ll tell you to attend business card exchanges to meet new people. They’ll tell you to go with goals in mind – hand your card to X number of people; make at least one new connection to follow up with; make notes on business cards about your discussion so you can follow up.

Some people even get clever – and deceptive. One person wrote that he makes a mark on the back of every business card so the person thinks he’s going to be remembered. If the person is meaningless to him and he’s going to throw out the card when he gets back to his office, he makes a smiley face on the card, which the other person will obviously think is good. If he wants to get back to the person, he will jot a real note about the conversation.

This example highlights something obvious that most people miss – the vast majority of people you meet at networking events and business card exchanges you’ll never speak to again – which means you’ve wasted your time.

But what about the people you do follow up with? Conventional wisdom tells you to “do lunch” or “grab a cup of coffee together” or “get together to pick your brain.” Again, a total waste of time and money – unless your meal was delicious enough to cost double since you’re paying for your own and your new “contact’s” meal. These meetings may give you another nice or interesting person in your life, but the odds are very low that they will affect your bottom line.

Then there are “exclusive” networking groups that expect you to come to a meeting with a lead for someone, then sit and listen to someone talking at you about what he or she has to offer. Though these groups have a little better handle on effective networking, they only go halfway, and if you only go halfway, you never reach your goal.

Networking That Works

So what is your goal? Networking to affect your bottom line, every time. This is the C.E.O. model. Time is a commodity that you can’t get back once you’ve wasted it. We don’t waste time, money, or energy on ineffective networking. We see every meeting as an opportunity to positively affect our businesses, thus our name – Celebrating Every Opportunity.

C.E.O. is a new approach to networking, in which members commit to contributing to the bottom line of other members. Our goal is to provide recurring income sources for each other, and to do this consistently.

In reality, we don’t “network” – we build partnerships. We don’t limit the group to one person in each profession, as some networking groups do. There’s enough business out there to have multiple accountants or real estate agents or web designers.

We put the Law of Reciprocity into action with every business interaction. If others are making money off of you, you should be making money off of them. Your accountant should be bringing you money. Your real estate agent should be bringing you money. Your hairdresser should be bringing you money.

This is networking that works. C.E.O. offers twice-monthly sessions to help members refine their networking style and sales techniques to make the most of every opportunity. And because of the training and strategic partnership-building, members see their businesses explode.