Networking Like a Madman: Backfilling Your Pipeline

Jeff Naeem

We are inundated with people trying to contact us, and with so many choices we want to know the company and the person’s background before we consider doing business with them. That’s why referrals are so powerful. They are implied endorsements of someone’s quality and credibility.

I always knew networking was a great avenue to develop business, but I never thought it could be nearly your entire sales strategy. By committing to networking in my chamber as a full-time objective, I was able over the next six months, to go from zero referrals to an average monthly pull of eight to 10 referrals and six to seven closed pieces of business – and it has only gone up from there.

There are four main commandments of networking that I utilize effectively. No praying necessary; just follow ’em!

1. Find strategic centers of influence and connectors

Center of Influence – Someone who regularly comes across people who can use our service and therefore can put us in touch with them.

Connector – Someone who is not necessarily related to our business at all, but knows how to bring people together for their mutual benefit.

At one point, I realized that if I had 20 contacts who referred me just one lead a month I could make an entire business with just 20 people. Centers of Influence are basically your sales force. If you build an army of strategic alliances then you will never have to worry about getting business in again.

I maintain a hyper focus on networking strategically by joining groups where my key centers of influence hang out. Like all marketing, you have to be targeted. When I go to these events I always go in with a clear goal. I want to get at least two to four one-to-one meetings with a potential strategic center of influence. Just like with your task list, you have to prioritize who you spend your time with, including how you spend your time following up with people as well. By prioritizing your contacts according to their referral potential, you will have more results from networking.

2. Commit more time to a few groups.

Meeting 10 people 10 times will prove more valuable than meeting 100 people one time. At one point, I visited 17 different BNI chapter meetings in one month, all of which met at 7 a.m. I was networking like a madman, and even though it was efficient, it wasn’t effective. Networking is farming, not hunting. Relationships are like crops to be cultivated, not animals to be slain. It’s all about creating powerful strategic partnerships where you regularly help each other’s businesses succeed.

You have to stay on people’s radar. People forget you easily. You have to stay top of mind, and regular touches deepen the relationship. Consistency: pick one event and never miss it. Become a household name in that particular networking event. The chamber I belong to holds 10 events per month. However, I usually go to only one or two, and despite that I’m one of the top people being referred because I never miss those particular meetings or any of the follow up one-to-one meetings.

3. Nothing happens at networking events.

You go in, shake a lot of hands and nothing comes of it. When you meet a new person you’re excited to see them and get to know them better. Later on you’re confused when nothing happens. Almost nothing happens the first time you meet someone at a networking event. It’s like a first date! No one gets married on the first date. (Unless this is Vegas) The magic happens after the event. When you get a chance to do face-to-face, one-to-one meetings, you can do a deep dive and find the treasure. Get to know about the other person’s interests and even get to know them as a person. Setting up those  meetings is what builds the connections that will actually make networking work. When you go to the events, you’re really just there to find more people to get the opportunity to get to know, and reinforcing your relationship with people you already met with.

4. Give as much as possible, and you will get back tenfold.

This last point is by far the most important one. There is hardly anything that people hate more than being pitched (accept maybe death – or maybe root canal). The act of giving unselfishly has an inverse effect because it creates a feeling of reciprocity whereby the other person feels the need to give back. It is one of the most satisfying feelings, being able to connect two people without expecting anything and seeing them better off than where they were before. The weakest way is to just give someone a name and a number and give them permission to use your name. A second, more powerful way is to make the introduction yourself, either by speaking with them over the phone or an email introduction where you directly and strongly endorse and recommend this person you want to help. The ultimate way to make an introduction is to bring the two people together in person and introduce them while you’re there. It paves the way to make a truly meaningful connection and bypass any hesitation, plus you get to reconnect with your contact as well.

Every holiday season I go through the list of business partners to give gifts to. I am continually amazed by how many people are added each year to our multi-referral partners list. Many of these people were strangers the previous year and now fill our pipeline with jobs. Much of that started with me thinking of them first and asking a very simple question: “How can I help you?” That is one of the most important questions in business – and hands down, the No. 1 question to be a networking pro.

Jeff Naeem is the owner of Junk-A-Haulics. His year-over-year sales have increased 50 to 70 percent. The above article is excerpted from his new book entitled “Stupid Enough to Succeed; THE Millennial Entrepreneur's Guide to Achieving Business Hypergrowth.”