How to network like a champ
You’re headed for Europe on a vacation. Should you (a) get a good guidebook, (b) brush up on your romance languages, or (c) make a plan to meet people for your downline? Sure, vacations are supposed to be relaxing, but top distributors explore every avenue they can. Georganne Goldblum even got in touch with Henry Kissinger’s oƒce before her trip abroad, and she was hooked up with an ambassador. Unfortunately the ambassador wasn’t interested, but, as Goldblum puts it, “You never know.” Long shots like Goldblum’s don’t often hit their mark, but taking every opportunity to meet new people is essential to success in direct selling. For most people, learning how to meet and talk with strangers isn’t easy. “Good networking is so simple, but a lot of people don’t know how,” says sales consultant Andrea Nierenberg, president of the Nierenberg Group in New York. “It’s a skill as well as an art,” she explains. To get you started, we asked leading MLM experts and distributors to share their tips on how to find, approach, and speak to new people. TAP YOUR AFFILIATIONS The first place to scout for prospects is the organizations you already belong to. Don’t limit yourself to professional associations. Goldblum, for example, consults her alumni-association directories to locate potential clients. These listings have been especially helpful for making contacts abroad. PUBLICIZE Yes, that means spending money up front. But advertising may provide a cost-effective way to recruit. Mark Lindsey, 37, of Financial Independence Network Limited (FINL) in Boscobel, Wis., places ads that cost $9 to $20 in neighborhood papers. “Every time I’ve placed one, I’ve gotten three to five calls and closed about 90 percent,” claims Lindsey. He also produces video ads to broadcast on local cable channels. “I can get a spot produced, shot, and out on the air for under $500,” Lindsey says. Local cable stations generally charge from $1.50 to $22 for 30 to 60 seconds and from $11 to $300 for 30 minutes. JOIN THE CLUB Another way to expand your contact base is to join organizations where networking is encouraged. Many of them, such as Kiwanis International and your local chamber of commerce, hold business fairs and networking events. “People expect to exchange cards and meet new people at gatherings like these,” Goldblum says, “so it’s an easy start.” Mel Kaufmann, 77, networking guru and author of The Link (1997), a book about community networking, suggests a more targeted search. First, identify a prominent businessman whose connections would be valuable to your business: “Then call his oƒce, and ask his assistant what civic or charitable organizations he belongs to.” After that, join them yourself. Your chances of meeting both him and similarly influential people are significantly better than they would be if you just made a cold call. GO SOLO When attending a networking meeting, go by yourself, and don’t get stuck talking with people you already know. Although it may be more comfortable to have someone there with you, focus on why you came: to enlarge your circle of contacts. “Your friends and colleagues already know what you have to say, and you don’t need their business cards,” says Kaufmann. Also, your being alone encourages people to approach you and makes you appear less threatening when you initiate conversations. SUBTLETY RULES When you start up a conversation with someone you’ve just met, stay away from the hard sell. “It’s the worst,” says Nierenberg. “Don’t try to sell; try to build relationships.” Everyone with whom you develop a friendship can be valuable, she notes, because even if a person is not interested, he may know someone who is. Goldblum agrees. “I take a journalistic approach,” she says. “I ask a lot of questions so I can [better relate to] them and learn about their needs. Then, if it makes sense to bring up the business, I’ll talk about it.” PERSONAL TESTIMONY When a conversation Þnally turns to business, concentrate on how you’ve personally benefited from the product you’re selling. Norman Rebsamen, a distributor of nutritional supplements for Life Plus International, recommends this tactic. “I tell people they can feel as good as I do by using this product,” he says. “I believe I’m offering them a service.” MAKE IT LAST Finally, follow up, thank those who refer you, and never miss an opportunity to make a referral for someone else. “It will all come back around,” Goldblum asserts.