Tips Provided For Networking
How do you find opportunity? Smart professionals know it is by
networking and leveraging your personal and business contacts.
In fact, it’s safe to say that to succeed as a kitchen/bath
retailer, you need to network with your peers, and be aware of
trends and issues in your community and industry. You need to
network with reps, distributors and manufacturers as well as
support professionals like attorneys, accountants and insurance
agents. And, you need to network with prospects, clients and
suspects to get referrals.
But, there’s more to networking than collecting business cards
or filling a Palm Pilot with names, according to the American
Management Association. The Association has published a new book
that can help you get the most out of your everyday contacts with
people. Make Your Contacts Count: Networking Know-How for Cash,
Clients and Career Success, by Anne Baber and Lynne Waymon, can
help you build, maintain and optimize returns on literally every
interaction you have with others.
There are a number of places where kitchen and bath industry
professionals will wish to network. For example, there are
organizations, such as the National Kitchen & Bath Association
chapter or your local Remodelors Council. There are community
groups, such as your local Chamber of Commerce. There are civic and
service groups, such as the Rotary, Lions’ Clubs, and the like.
There are casual and personal organizations, such as church groups,
hobby groups, health clubs and school organizations.
There are also customer-common groups that you may wish to join
or start yourself. These are made up of businesses that have
customers in common. For example, as a kitchen/bath retailer, you
may wish to interact in your market area with a lawn-care
professional, a chimney sweep, a real-estate agent, an interior
designer, a housewares store and others.
Often, conversations at these groups end up meaningless. As an
alternative, Baber and Waymon suggest, you should plan a “success
story,” using the letters in the word “success” as your guide.
To be specific:
S = Strategic. Think about what you want out of the encounter. What
do you want this person to know about you or your business? Build
your story around that point.
U = Unique. Point out what makes you stand out. If you are speaking
to a prospect, don’t say, “I sell lots of kitchens.” Talk about a
specific exciting sale.
C = Clear. Don’t use jargon or technical terms.
C = Concrete. Give details to help the other person see a vivid
picture. To you, they’re not just “wood” cabinets; they’re “natural
finish birds-eye maple” cabinets.
E = Exciting. Let your enthusiasm show through. Use vivid language,
an upbeat tone of voice, and a quick delivery. Make it
S = Short and Succinct. Make your story no longer than three
S = Service-Oriented. Be sure that your story tells how well you
serviced the client, solved the problem or saved the day.
Here’s some other tips from Baber and Waymon on making the most
of a networking encounter:
- Listen for cliches and know how to handle them. When someone
asks a question like “Tell me about yourself?” make the response
unexpected, fun and energetic.
- Be curious about other people. If someone remarks about the
weather, change the topic by asking questions like, “Have you ever
lived anywhere where the weather was better (or worse)?” Suppose
someone says he is busy. Ask, “What does a busy day entail for
- Encourage dialogue by watching for “iceberg” remarks. When
someone says, “I’ve been busy this week,” only the tip of that is
above the water. Don’t respond by saying “Me too.” Explore the part
below the water by asking, “What’s kept you so busy?”
- Avoid dead-end questions that can be answered yes or no, such
as “Do you like this countertop?” Open ended questions, such as
“What do you think about this sort of countertop?” will provoke a
more lengthy response.
- Share the air. Talk only about 50% of the time, and make your
“air time” count. Don’t do hard sells. The goal of networking,
after all, is to build trust.