With strategic networking, you can make some initial decisions about who you think you’d like to target. Then it’s a matter of saying, “okay, where do these people congregate?” Identifying exactly where they are. Are they online? Are they offline? Most likely they’re doing both. But if they are online, where’s the best place to find them? And a lot of times, particularly with social media, we just end up interacting with whoever we happen to be connected with. But if that part of it isn’t strategic, if we’re not connected with the people that we could actually potentially do business with, then we’re wasting our ammunition.

David: Hi, and welcome to the podcast. In today’s episode co host Jay McFarland and I will be discussing the power of strategic networking. Welcome back, Jay.

Jay: Hey, thank you so much, David. I’m really glad we’re talking about this because I think, you know, sometimes I think I’m great at networking, but there’s not really any plan. There’s not really any, like even down to storing information and how I’m going to follow up on it. I would not use the strategic word in what I’m doing.

David: Okay. And I think you’re not alone. I know that I have struggled with exactly the same thing. And even when we were thinking in terms of topics for today’s podcast, The Power of Strategic Networking. What does it even mean? Right? What does strategic networking even mean? And the way that I’m looking at it is basically that strategic networking means, not just anyone, right?

You’re not just looking for anyone who can fog a mirror. You’re looking for the people who are going to be best suited to you and what you have to offer.

I think a lot of us tend to stumble into networking situations, whether it’s with a chamber of commerce or BNI group or online in different situations, we’re online, we’re interacting with people.

We consider it networking. But is it networking or is it just schmoozing? Is it just interacting with other people, or is it designed to get a positive result from a business standpoint? So I think if we start with that, the idea of strategic networking being that we’re doing it for a specific result, which is to meet and interact with the type of people that we can ultimately do business with, then it becomes a whole different thing than just talking to people.

Jay: Yeah. Again, this is so important because we’re always talking about maximizing your time, focusing on the things that only you should be doing. And if you’re just out there collecting business cards and now you have to follow up on each one of those. individuals, you’re going to be spinning your wheels a lot and that’s going to cost you money and time in the short term and long term.

David: Yeah, especially if you’re not quite sure what to do with those business cards. In other words, if you’re just thinking, okay, I’m going to meet people, collect business cards, gather information, and then follow up with them. It’s too generic. I mean, what does that even mean in terms of follow up? What does that even mean?

And so for our clients, one of the things that we stress a lot is the idea of getting them qualified in or out as quickly as possible.

I know so many salespeople who have engaged in networking that was you meet someone, you exchange business cards, and then you keep contacting them. You try to schedule an appointment to meet with them, to try to find out what they need and all that sort of thing without ever bothering to try to find out whether or not they’re even a decent prospect for the products and services you offer.

And it can be a huge waste of time if, in fact, they are not.

Jay: Yeah, absolutely. We talk about time wasting and I think that even applies to thinking about it before you go into a situation where you want to employ marketing. Like in my particular use case, just walking into a room full of business owners doesn’t cut it because I have a very niche product.

And so I have to be really careful ahead of time so that I’m not wasting time.

David: Yeah. And when you have a very specific defined niche, it’s actually quite a bit easier, as long as you take that into consideration and say, okay, well, who are these people? And where do these people gather and how can I best interact with them?

What do I need to say? How do I need to say it in a way that’s going to generate results? And. I think that’s what brings the strategic element to it. That’s what brings the strategy to it, is just thinking in those terms. And I know in previous podcasts, we’ve talked a lot about the MVPs of marketing and sales.

What’s the message I want to communicate? Which combination of marketing vehicles will I use to communicate the message? And then who are the people or prospects that I need to reach.

So if we think in those terms, then. The strategic part of it comes about from making sure that those three things line up.

Jay: Yeah. Talk a little bit more. So I’ve been strategic about how to get these leads. What would you suggest? I still have a stack of business cards. How do I prioritize them? How do I weed them out at that point?

David: Well, I think that really boils down to making sure that you’ve got a really good solid lead qualification procedure in place. And I tend to take the opposite approach of what most people do. I tend to try not to say, okay, it’s my job now to sell everybody whose business card I’ve collected. I look at it from the other standpoint, which is to say, how many of these can I discard as quickly as possible?

How many of these people can I get disqualified as quickly as possible? Either they’re not in my market as you talked about, if you’ve got a very specific market, it’s easy to say, okay, well, this person doesn’t fit in. I’m not going to follow up with this person. But if they are in your market, do they have the need, the desire, the money, the budget, the willingness to spend?

Do they have the personality type that you even want to engage with? Because some people are just obnoxious, right? They’re just awful. And Sometimes we even recognize this in a networking scenario and we follow up anyway. And I did that in the early stages and I’m like, why am I doing this? Because if they’re bad now when they don’t owe me money, how are they going to be when they do owe me money?

It’s not going to be better.

Jay: Yeah. And I think a huge part of this is tracking, right? Because you’re not going to know right off the bat. You can’t just go into business and say, I’m going to know perfectly what type of lead I want. That takes time. That takes effort, whether it’s keyword marketing or, you know, some kind of thing where in the conversation that you’ve had, you need to track those things so that you can get better and better at being strategic.

David: Yes. And I think what that means initially is, deciding who you want, having a reasonable idea of the types of prospects and clients you want. And you can break that out by, you know, what industry are they in? What level of business are they doing? What size business are they? How many employees do they have?

That type of thing. So you can make some initial decisions about who you think you’d like to target. Then it’s a matter of saying, okay, well, where do these people congregate? Identifying exactly where they are. Are they online? Are they offline? Most likely they’re doing both.

But if they are online, where’s the best place to find them? And a lot of times, particularly with social media, we just end up interacting with whoever we happen to be connected with. But if that part of it isn’t strategic, if we’re not connected with the people that we could actually potentially do business with, then we’re wasting our ammunition. We’re putting out content to people who have absolutely no ability to utilize it to be able to potentially conduct business.

Jay: Yeah, such a great point. I think that especially when you’re starting out, there’s a fear that you might miss a potential sale, right? So it’s kind of like some FOMO and I think it’s important, you talked about having a good customer management system.

I think it’s important to note you don’t necessarily have to discard these people. You can just put them in a different category, like in a drip program or something like that. So you don’t have to worry about the FOMO. They’re still there. They’re still getting contact from you, but you’re not picking up the phone every time.

David: That’s true. And even when there are people who you don’t want to follow up with, I recommend keeping them in your contact management system as well. So you don’t inadvertently go back to them. We’ve got notes in our system from people that we talked to who were just brutal They were absolutely awful. And in the past, we would discard people like that.

But then if they happen to wander back into your orbit and you don’t have the notes on it, you could end up having more conversations with them. You’re going like, this seems familiar. I don’t really like what’s going on here. But when you know that, when you’ve identified it, and somebody happens to try to come back and you look at the notes and you say, oh, okay, yeah, this person was really problematic before.

You can then decide how much energy and time and effort you want to put into trying to reestablish or. renew that relationship.

Jay: Yeah, I had this exact thing happen to me earlier today. I got a call from somebody who I had spoken to three months ago. At that time, I thought, oh, they’re not interested.

They’re not the ideal candidate. So I mark them as a long term drip, so that my system is constantly reaching out. She called me this morning and said, “I’m ready to move forward.”

I’m like, oh no, I don’t remember her name, but I went into my system, I had all the notes and information, and I closed the deal this morning.

So, even somebody who I didn’t think was going to be a client three months ago, today they are.

David: Absolutely. And at the time you made the determination that you wanted to keep her involved in that campaign to be able to continue to reach out to her. So you didn’t make a decision three months ago that no, I don’t want to do business with this person, but sometimes we have to do that as well.

We make determinations based on our contacts with them about whether or not we want to do something and move forward. So if you had had notes in there that said that this person was really problematic in some way or another, if she had reached out to you again today, you could also then make the decision of, okay, I don’t know if this is going to be a good fit.

I don’t know if I even wanna pursue that with this person.

Jay: Yeah, that’s exactly right. And I’ll give you another example. We have determined, right or wrong, that people who ask for a discount mm-Hmm. are some of the most demanding, unreasonable customers. And you would think it was just the opposite.

So we’re like, no, we don’t offer discounts on our services. And that has saved us a lot of time and effort.

David: Yeah, I agree. We had a situation recently where one of our reps was talking to someone, and they talked about getting a discount. And we explained to them our policy in terms of pricing and everything like that.

And the person said, well, they didn’t want to do anything now. They wanted to come back in a couple of months and do it. And they said, but you’ll do a discount. Everybody discounts. And I thought you got us wrong, man. You know, that is not happening.

I mean, if we’re having some sort of special promotion, like sometimes we will incentivize people who are willing to make important decisions quickly, right?

We might provide some sort of preferential pricing for somebody who is like, yes, I’m all in. I want to move forward on this. Let’s do it. But that’s not going to apply six months later because that completely defeats the purpose of what it was that we were trying to incentivize to begin with. So I think it’s important for every business to decide what you will tolerate and what you will not tolerate from the prospects and clients that you want to interact with.

Jay: Yeah, I totally agree. Personally, this has saved us so much time and I think part of it, and this may be the subject for another podcast. At first, it was hard for me because I was still figuring out whether or not we were providing a great service, and also figuring out, what our competitors were doing.

And now I’m so confident that we can provide such an incredible product. I’m like, no, there’s not discounts. We’re the industry leader. You’re going to get the best possible service here. And I’m not apologetic for wanting what we’re worth for that service.

David: Right. And everybody gets to make that decision for themselves in their own businesses based on what their priorities are.

I mean, not everybody can be the Walmart of their industry and not everybody should be because ultimately there can really only be one. There’s one low cost leader and you have to do a whole lot of things right to make that work. Otherwise you’re out of business. So I think that is one of the most difficult business models to make work. Because when you are the low cost leader, you’re very often the low profit person in your market, unless you’ve got some very extenuating circumstances.

Jay: Yeah, such an important conversation. How do people find out more?

David: Well, you can go to TopSecrets.com/call, schedule a call with myself or my team. If you’re interested in being more strategic about your networking, about your marketing in general, about your sales approach, whether it’s your messaging, your first contact, your outreach, your follow up.

We’d love to have a conversation with you. So just go to TopSecrets.com/call and we’ll see how we can help.

Jay: All right. Thank you so much, David.

David: Thank you, Jay.

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