I’ll admit it, I was always more than a little shy. The one who would rather read a book than talk to a stranger… Several years of working as an outside sales rep helped me get over a lot of that. Having something to sell gave me talking points which helped me know what to say when words would have otherwise failed me.
When I started my marketing company nearly five years ago, I once again found myself in a sales role of sorts. I had to sell my services, and I certainly had my talking points… but I didn’t have a prospect list the way that I had when I was an account executive. Sure, I had more former clients and random businesses that I had relationships with — which was great for the first couple of years — but I needed to increase my prospect pool.
I was invited to join a networking and referral group. I quickly learned that it’s not just about being in a group, it’s about being in the right group. This group was NOT the right group. I stuck it out for the year that I paid for, then I dropped out. This time, I made sure that I spent some time finding the right group and I auditioned several groups, auditing their meetings and talking with their members. It was really worth the time and effort of finding the right group.
Getting involved with a dynamic group of folks who own small to medium sized businesses (my target) with a few sales and management level folks mixed in, has been the perfect fit for me. Not only have I built relationships with the folks who have trusted me with their marketing, but I have a great network of businesses that I feel confident recommending to others. And, for me, that’s equally important. I want to know that the businesses I recommend do business the same way I do business — because they are a reflection on my brand when I’ve recommend them.
My business has grown tremendously over the past two years — in fact, revenue has increased nearly 400% — and I credit a lot of the new opportunities to the relationships that I’ve built through the networking and referral group that I carefully selected. I’ve learned that it’s just as important to interview a networking & referral group as it is to interview prospective clients… I always view my first client meeting like a date where we are getting to know one another to see if we want to go steady and now, I view networking groups the same way.