Beyond Networking with Iman Ighay
In order to have effective marketing on a shoestring budget, you must know when to leverage your connections. Find people with ties to an organization or access to other potential coaching clients. Don’t be afraid to ask your connections to promote and recommend your services, it’s an excellent way to build up your reputation.
There is a higher chance of building lasting relationships when you can conduct your business in person. This type of connection takes up less time while simultaneously introducing you to a new set of demographics.
When I am attempting to build a relationship via the internet, it can take me anywhere from 5 to 15 days. Compare this with developing a potential professional relationship in 15 to 30 minutes by having a face to face conversation with someone.
The Power of Networking
I believe in the power of networking from personal experience. When I arrived in Canada back in 2009, I had yet to speak any proper English. The guidance most people bestowed upon me was to start networking.
At this time, I had no idea what the word networking really entailed. I have a background in information technology, so to me, networking was literally connecting a RJ-45 cable to a network card. It took me a full 6 months to truly understand what this new type of networking meant. It was the type of networking which is all about foraging connections with people.
I was advised to start attending various networking events. But as an introvert, my natural inclination was to sit in the back of the room and observe. Worse, I was an introvert who could not speak English properly. While I love people, and connecting with them, I get my energy from being by myself. Despite all this, the real reason I was reluctant to speak with anyone was because I did not know how to introduce myself.
New and Determined
I was a new immigrant looking for work, but I wasn’t sure what type of job I wanted. I could have gone into a number of routes such as finance, I.T., or marketing thanks to my background, but I couldn’t properly introduce myself. When people approached me, I didn’t know what to say due to my limited English, which made conversations exceedingly awkward. This didn’t keep me from showing up to these events though. I didn’t give up. I just kept going until I learned how to do it.
The Best Way to Succeed
After 6 months of attending these events, one right after another, I was still not seeing any progress. This ran contrary to what everyone kept telling me: that networking is the best way to succeed in Canada. I wanted to succeed, so I forced myself out of my comfort zone. I kept attending every event. Eventually I started building relationships with people in the room.
As I sat in each of these networking events, I would ask myself: Who do you remember from the last meeting? I can remember names, and I can remember numbers; but remembering faces was something I had to accomplish through sheer effort. I’ve always had problems with engaging people in large crowds.
I remember sitting in the back of the room and not recalling anyone from prior meetings, with the exception of the organizers of the event. Although there were many amazing speakers, only 1 or 2 stood out to me. Then I realized that if I wanted networking to work for me and to get small business clients, I would have to become an organizer myself.
Thus, I became an organizer and started Vancouver Business Network. I started networking with a great deal of people which positioned me as a go-to expert and established my base as an influencer.
The day I started Vancouver Business Network for $12 per month as a Meet-up group, I went from being a non-English speaking web designer to having the titles founder and organizer instead.
It served as a credibility point when meeting with potential clients. I finally had clarity about what kind of career I was pursuing. By this time, my personal comfort level with networking had also increased, since my English had improved.
As a business coach, to get results from networking you must be clear about what
It is absolutely necessary to have a clear introduction of yourself. When someone asks you what you do, you should not have to think about it. For example: I simply tell people that I am the founder of Vancouver Business Network.
If I want to invite people to an event, I would not just say, “Would you like to join us?” Instead I would phrase the invite as: “My name is Iman and I’m the founder of Vancouver Business Network and we have weekly events for entrepreneurs.” If the person is interested and asks about more details, I’ve positioned myself as a credible source of information.
Keep your introduction about yourself, and your coaching, clear and simple.
Notice in this example how concise I am when I introduce myself. I did not say that I’m the founder of Vancouver Business Network; that I coach business owners; and that it’s a company. Too much information confuses people right off the bat. Remember that a confused mind never makes a decision.
If you want to network effectively, you will need to refrain yourself from listing all of the things you do. Take for example if you’re a communication specialist who has a blog and a radio show. Don’t stand up and say, “Hi, my name is Mr. X and I do communications consulting. I have a radio show and a blog.” People will get confused about what you do and why that should interest them.
Focus on one thing that will easily capture your small business owner’s attention.
Figure out what is easiest for you to talk about passionately. In this example, it would have been far better to say: “Hi, my name is Mr. X. and I have a daily radio show where I teach people how to communicate better,” or more simply, “I teach communication strategies.” This way, we have positioned ourselves as an expert in this particular field.
If you’re an introvert like myself, try preparing a simple sentence as a conversation starter beforehand. For instance, before I introduce myself, I allow the other person to give their introduction first. I might read the name from their name tag and then say, for example, “Hi Alex! My name is Iman, what do you do?”
Be cautious with what topic you choose as an ice breaker. I have heard that some people may get offended if you inquire about what they do for a living. If you’re worried about offending a person by asking them this, then think of something innocuous. Tell them your name and ask them what brings them to this event. It’s an easy way to start a conversation with almost anyone.
Use the 10K networking system
Make it your goal to create a potential of generating at least $10,000 for every event that you attend. Don’t become someone who attends event after event without making a dime or getting a coaching client. You can stop networking if it doesn’t work for you. But there is always the possible potential to generate $10,000 per event through referrals. Also, keep in mind, if you’re a growing business, you’re always looking for new talent. Meeting new people means that they can offer you their services.
This is what we can call a production partner. These are people that become a part of your team. They help to increase productivity and produce better products or services. Networking will help you find these important people who help build your success.
Before going to networking events, think about the type of people that can refer the most potential clients to you.
For this illustration, let’s say we have a coaching client that owns a software company that works with non-profit organizations with approximately 200 to 250 potential clients. If they’re thinking of networking with non-profit organizations instead of building relationships with individual people from these non-profit organizations, it would be better to build a relationship with the software company. That software company is better able to connect them with multiple organizations.
Build Relationships not Sell
Look for a person that is connected to other people with a wide professional or social network. Many people go to networking events to try and sell a product. This is a mistake. You, nor your clients, should go to a networking event to sell something; you go to these events in order to build relationships.
Clarity over Curiosity
There is a school of thought that encourages people to create a curiosity-grabber. The rationale being that if you can capture someone’s curiosity, they’re more likely to inquire about you. But in all honesty, most people are not going to be compelled to do something just because of curiosity alone. Most people prefer to engage with someone who is clear about what they do – people who are concise and to the point about their desires.
For example, I could say, “My name is Iman. I work with non-profit organizations and I help them with fundraising.” If there is a person there from a non-profit organization who needs forslag til dugnad, you have suddenly grabbed their attention.
The curiosity-grabber way of doing this is by saying, “Hi my name is Doug. I work with non-profit organizations and we help them with fundraising. We have a very good program that can help them with fundraising…” Make it clear from beginning to end.
Finding the Right People
If you’re asking for one specific type of person, try to avoid something like: “I’m looking for a software company that works with non-profit organizations.” There is a very slim chance that someone in the room works with a software company that works with nonprofit organizations. Instead of that, try: “Please raise your hand if you know a person who works for a software company that has worked with a non-profit organization.” This is far more likely to give you some connections.
A networking event is about finding people that you can talk to during break-time and introduce yourself to. In this illustration, find the people who raised their hand to your question.
Tell them that you have connections with a software company that works with non-profit organizations. Then ask them if they own, work with, or know anyone from the company. If the person says yes to any of these questions, ask them if there is any chance that they could talk to one of the managers of this company.
If they say yes to this, ask them if they could send an introductory email to introduce you to their contact in order to have 15 minutes of this person’s time; just to buy them a coffee and to talk to them about an opportunity that you have. Whether you get introduced to the manager or not, it’s just an introductory email.
A Goal of Three
After every networking event, you should have at least three connections with people who are able to refer clients to you. On average, the money you could make from every client is around $6000. If the connections you have established refer another 5 clients to you in the next year; than effectively you have created the potential for generating $30,000 within the next year.
Sometimes you will end up with a person who might have friends as clients for you, which was exactly what happened to me. When I went to Toronto on a business expansion trip, I only found one person that could refer clients to me. I spent 4 days in Toronto and I attended one networking event. From that one networking event, I went to 4 coffee meetings. One of them referred clients to me. However, that one person ended up referring 70 clients to me.
Include your unique selling proposition every time you say something during a networking event.
A unique selling proposition is something that differentiates a business. For this example, our coaching client’s unique selling proposition will be designing websites to increase customer sales. In this instance, the script would probably follow pretty closely to this: “Hi my name is Iman and I design websites that can increase your sales. I’m looking for organizers of business networks; if you know of anyone who fits this description, please raise your hand.”
Among the hundreds of people there, we might see only 3 to 5 hands go up. I would be sure to make a mental note of where they’re sitting. During the break or a lull in the program, I will go over to introduce myself and very directly tell them why I’m speaking with them. If this person is someone that would be a valuable networking partner, I will ask if I can buy them a coffee and talk for 15 minutes or so. Most people will agree to this. If they say that they’re busy, I will try to arrange a short phone conversation instead. You want to pre-book. You want to get some sort of commitment to a potential client.
Make the Appointment
Before you let them go, make sure you have some sort of appointment to speak with them again. Make sure to book something today, if you want to see them next week. If your potential client is unable or unwilling to schedule with you immediately, be proactive. Tell them that you can call them at a certain time the next day to make an arrangement with them. This can sound like: “I’d love to call you tomorrow at 11 a.m. so we can schedule the appointment.”
This is absolutely essential: never let a client leave your sight without making the next appointment.
It’s your responsibility to follow up with your connections. Don’t be the coach who goes to networking events passing out business cards and expecting others to be coming to you. You must put yourself out there to get the right connections.
Alternative advantages to networking
You and your clients may also forge connections by bringing on production partners. A production partner is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a person who is a right fit for your business, a partner that can help you to achieve your goals.
I will give you a personal example; I was working with a pension loan company that was looking for a person who could design websites. I put up a job posting and received around 400 resumes. It took me 2 months to go through all the resumes, narrowing down my search to 10 people before contacting them. Only 3 of these people got back to me.
In the end, I did not interview any of them because their portfolios were sub-par. I was starting to get desperate for a web designer. One of my friends wisely told me to accompany him to a networking event and ask around for designers there. I did exactly that. Eight people in that room approached me, but I felt a real connection with one of them.
We went to the nearest coffee shop, and by the end of that coffee, I hired that person. He started working with me the next day, and continued to do so for the next year and a half. Be the person who is clear about what you’re seeking. When you’re clear about what your needs are, you find the right person.
The point of networking is that some of these people are connected to who you’re looking for.
If there are 20 people sitting in the room, realize that each of them have numerous connections. It’s not about the physical bodies in the room; it’s about the connections those people have outside that room.
If you find a connection, that person is going to change your business forever. Every single event can help you find all sorts of potential partners to grow your brand and your business.
About Iman Aghay
Iman Aghay has been on stage over 800 times and has more than 4000 hours of coaching experience. He’s the creator of ‘Ultimate Course Formula’ training series and the founder of one of the largest information marketing academies in the world, Success Road Academy.