There is nothing more vital to the survival and success of any business than its ability to obtain clients. Yet many business owners unfortunately believe that if they have the right product or service, clients will seek them out to buy it. This couldn’t be further from the truth: year after year, decade after decade, I watch sadly as great businesses with amazing products and services close their doors while others, often not nearly as good, flourish and grow.
This problem is exacerbated by the fact that the most commonly sought out resource for assistance— the trusted business coach—is, in many cases, not equipped to help. In fact, I’ve worked with thousands of coaches and can go so far as to say that for many, obtaining new clients is their own number one problem. That is why it is so vital for the health and prosperity of our businesses and those of our clients that we learn and develop this critical skill.
In my 31 years I have been fortunate enough to have created five multi-million dollar successes and led countless clients to similar success. This reputation for growth has earned me the nickname “The Rapid Growth Guy.” As a result, my friends and colleagues continually ask me about my “secret” for accomplishing so much so quickly.
My answer unfortunately leads to more questions, since my “secret” is my ability to network. When I tell people this, they commonly say that they never gained anything from networking, and that I must have developed a network from an early age, therefore my advice simply isn’t applicable to them.
In early 2014, for the love of an amazing woman, I was forced to put this assertion to the test. I moved from Melbourne, Australia, where I had a vast network of colleagues, supporters, and media connections to Austin, Texas, leaving everything I knew and everyone who knew me well behind. I moved quite literally to the other side of the world, where apart from my lovely girlfriend, who was new to Austin herself, I didn’t know a soul.
Now, fewer than eighteen months later, I am invited to some of the city’s most prestigious events, citing my status as, “one of the most highly connected individuals in Austin” as the reason. I don’t share this with you to brag, only to highlight that you have no excuse: the reason you are not connected is because you currently don’t do what I will prescribe for you below.
Now I know the idea of networking may seem daunting to some, but don’t worry: it is not as intimidating as it seems, and a few actionable steps can have you networking successfully and landing both clients and opportunities in no time.
1. Get in the Right Room
In June, Judy Robinett, a close personal friend and author of the best-selling book, How to Be a Power Connector, was a guest on my podcast Better Business Coach. During our talk she said, “The number one problem is that people are usually in the wrong room,” and she couldn’t be more correct. Think about the last few networking events you have been to: if you’re a coach, were you drawn to events where like-minded coaches were in attendance? Unfortunately, other coaches are not your customers; you will struggle to find clients when you only attend events that cater to your peers. Ultimately, you want to develop relationships with people who are either going to help you and/or who will hire you, and for that you need to get out of your comfort zone. I suggest going to one new and different networking event or function each week. When deciding the ideal location, consider where your clients and best supporters would hang out; whether they’re at a coffee club on Thursday morning, the opera on Friday night, or on the golf course every Sunday, your potential clients and supporters are out there.
2. Give Credit
.. and Glowing Recommendations—To Your Network When You Can – Trying to start a business can feel like scaling Mount Everest, so it’s a relief in those moments when you don’t have to climb on your own. Having a small group of people that refer and support you can be a critical help in this endeavor. Just as I cited Judy Robinett’s amazing insights on my podcast, you should look for opportunities to give credit to your network. A single selfless act can propel a stagnant network into a powerful team that works together for the success of each member. It can also have the nice side effect of helping you come across as generous, unselfish, and exhibiting qualities a client wants to see in all potential partners.
3. Identify the Sharers Vs. the Takers
Unfortunately there are many people in the world that will take advantage of a sharing and helpful you if you’re not careful. You want to avoid this because you’ll find that it makes you question every person’s intensions and causes you to become closed off to even the most fantastic opportunities. So, you need to create some rules for separating the sharers from the takers, such as:
- I See Returns – Some people in my network are in the position to do a huge amount to propel me forward while others can offer very little, but that doesn’t mean I treat them any differently. I have a close friend whom I help with motivation and introductions because I believe in him and what he does. Though amazingly talented, he currently doesn’t have many ways to reciprocate; however, every opportunity he gets he goes out of his way to try. For instance, I recently invited him to sit in on a mastermind group I was involved in; I later discovered that he had taken tremendous notes and shared them with everyone in the group. This is the type of person whom you want on your team, and they exist at all levels of connection and celebrity. Some people feel the need to reciprocate while others never realize that they should. You must be open to every new entrant into your network but learn to identify the difference and either form a close bond, or a firm boundary, quickly.
- They Keep Commitments – Many people tell me they can do amazing things for me, and I like to stay open to everything; after all, not trusting anyone cuts you off from opportunity altogether. Learn to stay open-minded and grateful to each opportunity that comes your way; however, if you’re let down by someone early on, you must be willing to forget the energies you have invested in the relationship and quickly part ways.
4. Get Involved Strategically
You will learn that getting involved in the community is easy, but, if you’re not careful, it can consume all your time without providing anything in return. Recently, I spoke at the largest meet-up group here in Austin and was surprised to see a colleague of mine acting as the MC for this monthly event. Afterward, a few people whom I soon turned into paying clients came to speak with me. Seeing this my colleague was surprised; she told me that she had acted as MC for this event for months, and had yet to land a single client from it. She went on to say that people come to her for help, but they never seem to have money or expect the help for FREE. I asked her why she MC’ed the event regularly rather than speaking once, to which she replied, “Because they asked.”
The difference between my very talented colleague and I is that I utilize my networking time strategically. By speaking once I gained credibility, got my message across, showed high value, and gave people a way to engage with me further. Conversely, by volunteering to MC every month, she sent the message that she liked to help and was available to do so.
I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t help the community; but rather, that you do so separately from building your business. I personally donate time every month to mentoring remote startup businesses that typically get no assistance. When I’m there, I don’t get upset that I don’t obtain clients; I’ve set aside this time to help, and if people do express interest in becoming a paying client, I tell them they are welcome to contact me about it later but now is not the time – I’m here to help. When I mean to volunteer, I do so without trying to build my business; the rest of the time, I’m strategically generating customers and connections.
5. Be Genuine
Remember that when you’re connecting with potential peers, it’s important to be authentic. If you do need assistance, be honest about your struggles rather than simply listing your successes: it’s the easiest way to get help. The things you’re doing well are probably clear, anyway; be just as clear regarding what you need.
Also, don’t forget the basics of social encounters: give sincere complements, and when asking questions, truly listen to the answers. Being authentic and truly interested will help you establish a connection with the other person as an individual, and will make them far more receptive when you do finally begin to talk about what you do.
This is certainly a lot of information to absorb, so focus on mastering one new skill at a time. Soon you’ll find yourself creating long lasting partnerships with individuals that will drive your success, and converting willing to buy customers with ease. If you’d like to learn more about mastering the art of networking, you’ll find plenty more great advice on my iTunes top-rated podcast Better Business Coach. So get off the sidelines and start networking your way to success today!
About the Author: Matthew Pollard is the Rapid Growth Guy! With five multi-million-dollar business success stories to his name, and a prestigious Young Achiever Award, he has been characterized as a true differentiation, niche marketing, and sales systemization powerhouse. Find Matthew on Twitter!