Networking Meetings, Business Leads And Delicious Sirloin Burgers
Business Leads Are Everything In Business, Real Life Networking Is Still The Best Way To Get Them
B & I Stands For Business And Industry, But You Probably Already Knew That! But Did You Know...
Recently I had the pleasure of attending two business networking meetings with a local successful entrepreneur and small business owner. I quickly witnessed how these semi-casual semi-formal meetings generate business leads for savvy business owners.
Before I delve further into the meetings themselves, I thought I would add a quick caveat about how you can learn from my business mistakes. The first rule any successful entrepreneur will tell you, is to always have a business plan. I had several vague sketches about my former business approaches, but no concrete plan. Get one. Regardless of whether you are just starting out or established, a small or large business owner, you need a business plan to take your business where you want it to go, which I imagine for most is into the profitable margins of your bottom line!
B & I meetings come in all shapes and sizes. One of the networks I attended was organized by a group called "Connections" and the other was the historic "Lions Club". I was disappointed that I was unable to attend a Freemasons meeting, as I have been practicing my secret handshake for many years. Alas that paranoid moment will have to wait. My point is, you will have to start out finding your business leads by going to your local business Chamber of Commerce or by searching Google for business networking or business and industry networking in your area. They go by many different names but they are all essentially the same: business clubs where the proprietors pay dues to attend the meetings.
Why bother? You ask. I don't particularly like people, that's why I went into business for myself so I wouldn't have to deal with everyone else's hang ups and bad habits!
I feel you on that point. The thing is, you have to deal with people on some level to become successful in your business. You have to fraternize at least a little to generate business leads, sales leads and to market your product or service. To join some of these meetings, you may need to be a registered business owner. Some of them allow you to sit in as a guest, this is a valuable gift from these groups to outreach to entrepreneurs. You can gain a wealth of knowledge about where to go with your new business at this point.
If you are already established, or on your way, or ready to start spending your budget, consider this: there are usually more than one business in your area playing your service or product, insurance, printing, massage therapy, what have you. When you join one of these groups, they only allow one proprietor from that type of business into the group. In this way you don't out compete each other within the same network. One hand washes the other, or less romantically, one person learns another's assets in the business community. As business owners (or substitutes for business owners if you send your top guy to the meetings) do a bit of quid pro quo and find out what you can exchange with one another, sometimes for profit, other times for rapport. Both exchanges are good for your business, your bank account and your blood pressure.
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What To Expect From A "B & I" Meeting & How To Get Business Leads
Once you have settled in on a particular group to join, you will find that there most likely is some due, annual or monthly, that needs to be paid. Usually this is to offset the cost of having a meeting place, such as a conference room at a hotel. Either way, from what I gathered, the cost is low.
You can expect to do some public speaking. I spoke with one business owner who said he joined in part to gain more business leads, but also in place of joining Toastmasters, so that he would get better at public speaking. He also told me the nervousness goes away after you get to know everyone. So it sounds like it's the first meeting that is a bit nerve racking.
You will introduce yourself, and your business. Then you sit back and listen to the other 10-15 business owners do the same while they add more recent sales or other events. You will also here anecdotes about successful business owners who received referrals from someone in a prior meeting. In this way one business advocates another by example. These recommendations are where the real money gets made eventually. Small tidbits of information about other going's on also can be pitched here for community and rapport such as fund raising or other charitable events.
From what I saw all size business' were welcome here. There was a plumber who was the owner and the entire staff! There were also sales reps from various large insurance companies and also business owners from mid-sized companies as well. There seemed to be someone from just about every angle in business there. During the meeting sometimes people requested business cards, or if you waited to the very end, people exchanged ideas and contacts more privately at that time.
I am someone who enjoys public speaking although it does make me nervous. I'm also someone who enjoys meeting new people, but I also value my privacy immensely. I believe you can balance both at a business network meeting. This is far and away the most valuable way to make "warm" as opposed to "cold" sales calls. If you have a business there is no better way to get business leads. I invite you to attend a "B & I" meeting and see for yourself how a little out going marketing of your company can go a long way to building more business and a better community.
One last bit I would like to add, if you have lunch at the Lion's Club order a burger! They had the best hamburger I believe I've ever had in my life! Maybe this can be a down-to-earth conversation piece for you at the meeting, don't take my word for it! Give the meeting and the burger a try!