We love networking, it’s critical to the small business owner. We want to share some networking strategy to help you understand how to network successfully. To do this, we’re going to relate the similarities between networking and a tree. Hopefully, you read our Shine Consulting: Who We Are article, but even if you didn’t, we feel this blog is really helpful to have your network successfully like a pro would!
Why is it So Important to Network Successfully?
Networking is a powerful way to grow your business. Word of Mouth Marketing (WOMM) is one of the oldest and most successful forms of marketing. We always tell our clients that branding has a lot to do with what your clients say about you when you’re not in the room. Networking is a big part of what your business community will brand you as. What speaks more volumes about a product or service for you? Reading about it. Trying a sample. Or having someone you know, like, and trust recommend it. For most consumers, it’s the latter of the options. Your network of connections is your extended sales force. They’re a part of your brand. They’re your marketing ally. You are the same for them, or at least you should be. Building up a good, solid network of the right connections, you can significantly grow your business. What’s significant? Depends on your business.
Our founder was in a BNI chapter and referred out over $150,000 of business to follow members. Sure, it was split among about a dozen folks, but that’s pretty significant referrals just from one other member. Imagine having a solid network of 5 people. 25 people. 60 people. How much more could your business make? If you network successfully, the answer it a lot. The lot could be $50,000, or $200,000, or $1,000,000. Are you a web developer? A lawyer? A real estate agent? A car salesman? The revenue may vary based on what’s “a lot” for you but you’ll definitely get what you’re looking for when you network successfully.
Caveat! The network successfully, you must be patient. It doesn’t come overnight. Your connections need to develop trust with you and your products and/or services. They also need you to return the favor. You don’t network to sell, you network to help others first, and educate on your business second. It is not free, there is a lot of time involved. Here’s the best sentence to remember to network successfully, this is out of the mouth of our founder:
“Divine Wisdom is in having one mouth and two ears, listen twice as much as you talk when networking!” Crystal D. Smith, President, Shine Consulting, LLC.
Networking is a Tree
To network successfully, it’s best to think of networking in the best way to understand how it works, and that’s like a tree. Yes, network marketing is very similar to the way a tree survives and how a tree affects its environment. We’re going to break this down and explain the three main parts of a tree and discuss how, and why, it’s like networking. We promise you that if you keep these things in mind, your networking success will improve. You will be able to give, and get, more leads and of better quality. Of course, you will need to really know your target market but hey, let’s not get carried away!
The roots of a tree are generally underground, you can’t always see them but you know they’re there in order for the tree to survive. Most people know that a tree’s roots gather nutrients and water from the soil, so they’re extremely critical for a tree’s survival. Roots also anchor the tree. Ever wonder how trees can live so long through so many weather conditions? Roots keep the tree stable and anchored deep into the earth until it can thrive. We like to compare these roots to your network of connections. These connections are not seen as your team members though they are out there speaking positively on your behalf. They are helping you soak up exposure and bring in leads. They are keeping your reputation stable. Your network connections are critical to WOMM. Old school networkers may call their connections “SneakerNet”, this was before the World Wide Web days.
Remember that you have to water a tree to keep it alive when it doesn’t rain enough. You have to ‘water’ your networking connections too. We don’t mean feed them, we mean help their business grow. When it’s not raining a lot, they need you to water them. What this means is they need leads and referrals from you to keep that ‘nutrition’ coming in. It’s the health of their business. The health of your business. The health of a tree. Without a good root system, a tree becomes weak and risks dying. We’re not saying you can’t have a business without network marketing, but networking successfully can help you avoid this risk. It’s an added insurance to ensure your business stays healthy. Now, note that if you don’t try to help people, or you develop a negative reputation, your roots will be damaged. Your own personal brand should match your business brand and vice versa. What this basically means to you is that you need to be a helpful, kind, genuine, positive person, who genuinely wants to help others, to network successfully.
The trunk of a tree has many layers. The bark, or outer most layer, protects it from insects and insulates it from extreme temperatures. There a layer of cells that forms a pipeline to carry sugars from the leaves to the tree to distribute the nutrition. There’s another pipeline that carries water and nutrients to the leaves. The trunk not only helps protect the tree but ensures the tree’s nutrients are where they need to be. If a tree wore clothes, the trunk would be its sweater. The trunk is related to the marketing and branding of your business. These things help distribute the message of your products/services to the audience who are candidates for them. Do you know what else the trunk is? Your team of employees. If your marketing is the pipeline going from roots to leaves (distributing nutrition), your team is the opposite pipeline (transporting sugars from leaves to roots for energy.) This is because once your marketing and branding have done their job, now you need a sales and customer service team. They bring close the sales and continue the relationship with the customer. This is important because as your networking connections are out there promoting you, you need to have the right branding and reputation to match what they are saying, this is why the trunk of your business is so important.
The trunk can be affected by a variety of environmental factors. Insects. Weather. Deforestation. Your trunk can be affected by negative feedback from you, your team, your products, your services. You need to not only build up a great reputation but keep it there. It’s hard, but it’s critical. If your connections here negative feedback about you enough, you won’t have many roots left to keep your trunk in good health. Your trunk is also the toolset your connections need. They need collateral to present on your behalf. They show off your website. Talk about your value. They need to use your brand as a tool to sell you. You have to make sure they have that branding. Make it easy for them to show you off and talk about you. Teach them how to do this and how to help close a sale for you. Don’t just ask them to give your number out, ask them to set up a meeting so you all can meet together for coffee. Ask them to give you the lead’s number and tell them when you’ll be calling. Teach them what to look and listen for to recognize a good referral. It’s your job to let them teach you how to be their roots; you, in turn, have to teach them how to be your roots.
The crown is the upper part of a tree with branches and foliage, The needles or leaves make energy, you know, photosynthesis mate. Branches have tiny holes called stomates that control the airflow that enters the leaves. The foliage is the main component to store carbon dioxide. As the tree grows, that tree keeps removing this gas from the atmosphere and stores it as wood fiber. This is later converted into clear water and oxygen for us as humans to breath. The crown of trees has an incredibly symbiotic relationship with people. It’s not just the process of giving us air but giving us sources of food, shade, beauty. The crown acts as a mechanical support to ensure access to the sun’s energy and it’s also responsible to spread seeds, promoting the lifecycle of the species. The crown is the fruits of your networking labor. When you network successfully, you get good referrals and those referrals lead to business. That business (hopefully) leads to profits. The crown is your reaping of the rewards. The increase in revenue. The growth of your company.
Like all parts of a tree, the crown can be affected by lack of water, lack of sun, extreme weather. Without the roots and trunk working in harmony, without the right environmental factors, the crown can wither. It can lose the ability to bear fruit. It can stop producing enough sugar to provide energy. This is where your business sees no growth, or worse, a loss. You want to keep your fruit basket full by ensuring the healthy crowns on the networking trees of your connections. Don’t take and take without giving, because your crown will stop producing. Leaves are green and so is money, we aren’t sure if it’s a coincidence or not. Take care of your fellow networking connection’s crowns and they, in turn, will take care of yours. You reap what you sow, cliched but true. Reap with the intent of providing for others and they will provide for you. If we all lived on farms and there were no customers, we could just tend to our own gardens, but that’s not the case. We need to be actively selling on behalf of others. Take care of those who can help take care of you. You, and your crown will be happy you did.