Are you making these mistakes when networking online?

As my friends Stacy and Robin – the founders of Interconnections for Women  – are fond networkof saying, “you gotta network to get work”.

And as much as you may tell yourself that’s true, I wonder if you’re not actually treating your networking like flossing.

You know you NEED to do it and you SHOULD do it, but you don’t always get around to it and when you do you might not give it your all.

While we tend to think of networking as something that only happens at a conference or mixer, networking is something we do whenever we come into contact with other people.

Networking has a ton of benefits, but the biggest one is you can directly control the message you’re sending and help make sure people truly understand what you do.

That’s critical if you hope to generate more referrals.

Yes, you have a website, you speak, you write blog posts…but business is still a personal experience that’s built on an emotional connection.

And that’s really the heart of what networking involves.
And in today’s world, we don’t just network at events. We also do it online.

Online networking is something that’s still in its infancy (“social networking” is an incredibly young concept) but it’s apparent how we’ve embraced it when you consider that as of May 1, 2014 300 million people use LinkedIn, and Facebook hit 1 billion users way back in 2012.

Networking online may seem easy to do but it’s fraught with problems and can easily damage your reputation if you’re not careful.

Make mistakes and you’ve damaged your reputation and your personal brand. Do it right, and both your reputation and your reach grow.

Here are the top 5 mistakes people make when networking online so you can avoid them.

1. Traveling incognito. Unless you’re the Lone Ranger or Spiderman, people need to see who you are. Use a photo that’s appropriate to the forum. Professional pictures are a must on a site like LinkedIn. You don’t have to pay a pro for a headshot (although it helps) but be sure your image communicates that you’re a competent professional. Leave the party pictures for Facebook. On second thought…eliminate them from there too since people are checking you out and looking at your overall web presence.

2. Making seeming random connections. Several people have named this as a mistake specifically on LinkedIn – sending someone a connection request without explaining why you want to connect with them or reminding them how you met. One person equated it with trying to kiss a stranger. We’d all like to think we’re memorable but keep in mind the other person has met a zillion other people the same week and therefore you’re one of a crowd. Remind them where you met, or mention that you have mutual friends and you’d like to learn more about them. Dan Muchnok, COO of Opticom Consulting is probably speaking for lots of others when he says a request from an unknown person – especially one with 500+ connections – feels like spam. LinkedIn is much more personal than Facebook in many ways so take the time to personalize the connection request and don’t take it personally if someone doesn’t want to connect with you there. I’m more open on Facebook than I am on LinkedIn but if you explain where and how we met and why LinkedIn is where you’d like to connect I’m likely to accept.

3. Becoming one of “those” people.” Val Neighbors, an elder care advocate and business coach for home healthcare providers, andW endy Terwelp, the Networking Coach, both expressed revulsion at the tendency for some new connections to go into sales mode way too quickly. As tempting as it is to start sharing your fabulous offering or to ask that expert you just got connected to for a referral, please resist the temptation. It comes across as desperate. You have to take steps to raise your KLT-Q – your Know-Like-Trust Quotient – first.

4. Not being active in the platform(s) you register with. Networking is not a fast solution to growing a business. It’s like farming. You plant seeds…fertilize them…water them….care for them…and then you harvest the bounty once they grow. Not being active on a platform conveys you’re not really interested in relationship building, but instead are just out to promote yourself. That completely flies in the face of the concept of networking.

5. Relying on social networks as your online home. The popular blog, Copyblogger, posted an article decrying “digital sharecropping”  and the danger of “building your business on someone else’s land”. We entrepreneurs are famous for bootstrapping our way to success but as soon as possible you’ve got to build your online headquarters as the hub of your web presence. You can’t let Facebook, LinkedIn, or any other site control your online identity. You can start a site for as little as $100. It’ll be basic, but it’s yours. Get a custom site done as soon as you can. It’s money well spent and critical to your business development efforts because it’s marketing – and networking — for you all day, every day.

Online Networking is becoming an increasingly more important way to build your reputation as an expert and attract referral partners as well as potential clients. The challenge is in presenting yourself effectively and clearly distinguishing yourself from the rest of the others in your professional category.

Be careful to stay current with the best practices in this area and be sure to balance relationship building with selling.

The 3 things you’re asking clients to do — other than pay you

I hear from all sorts of solo professionals — whether they’re independent consultants and coaches or they run a small firm — that sales cycles (the time it takes to go from the “getting to know you” stage to the signed agreement) continue to take “too long”.

In their mind that is.

In the mind of the buyer, the sales  process takes as long as it needs to take.

In this 6-minute video I explain the 3 things you’re asking your Suspects to do. These things are what they have to feel good about doing or they’ll never make the purchase.

What do you do to make it easier for your Suspects to decide to buy?

Help your potential client get past price

One of the challenges all consultants and coaches face at some point is dealing with what appear to be price-driven Suspects.

(Keep in mind, a Suspect is someone you aren’t working with yet but who looks and sounds like a possible fit for your offerings.)

It’s easy to blame the recession, inflation, and every other thing that’s going on in the economy; but the truth is – especially when it comes to services – the people you’re talking to are confused and afraid.

Your Suspects are afraid of:

  • being taken advantage of
  • paying too much for the service you offer
  • not getting a relatively quick return on their investment to recoup what they spend with you
  • making a decision that’s irreversible
  • how their business or life would be different by working with you
  • you not fulfilling the promises you make

They’re confused because…

  • they just flat-out don’t know if your offer is a good value
  • there’s so much inconsistency in pricing among those who are in your category
  • they may have no frame of reference for your price if they’ve never hired anyone like you before

When you get to the point in the conversation that deals with price, your Suspect takes in this information and compares it to existing information in the filing cabinet that is their brain.

They start comparing that price to things they’ve bought before – whether they’re products or services.

The reason they’re comparing price and not your offering is price is an easier thing to compare because it’s fairly black and white (in their mind anyway). And the brain is always looking for a reason to dismiss something new so it can remain focused and ready for the really hard stuff of living.

So you may quote $1997 for an offering and feel you’re giving the Suspect the bargain of the century.

But if the Suspect has never engaged a professional service provider like you before or has never bought a service like yours or never made an investment in herself or her business like the one you presented her, she could be completely mystified about whether to say yes or not.

And then there’s the inner conflict – “Should I or shouldn’t I?”, “Nothing I’ve invested in has worked; will this be different?”, “Is this the right program and the right person for our company?”.

If she doesn’t know what to base a decision on, the easiest thing to look at is your price and compare it to what’s in her bank account.

If she’s underestimated what you would charge and she’s embarrassed by that, she doesn’t want to insult you (or embarrass herself further) so she just says “I can’t afford it” or “that’s outside my budget”. (And if you asked her what her budget was at the beginning she probably said she didn’t know.)

And then there’s her decision making personality. There’s…

Commitment-phobic Connie – she wonders if you’ll be a good fit for her and if there’s someone else who can do the job better, faster, cheaper.  She may want to have multiple conversations and email exchanges looking for some magic words

Terrified Teresa – she longs to make a difference in the world and has great offerings, but she’s secretly afraid of playing bigger, being seen, and the impact that would have on her life and relationships.

Rejected Rhonda – she’s got a big need to be liked and wrestles with feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem. She knows not everyone will want to or is ready to work with her but she’s afraid of rejection and hasn’t mastered being detached from the outcome of selling her services.

Tapped-Out Tina – Tina has been following every guru out there, investing in every program offered. She understands the value of working privately with an expert but got sucked into the promises made on their expertly crafted sales pages. She’s now in debt and feeling the weight of those monthly bills. She’s afraid to invest in anything else or believe in anyone else.

Fearful Fran – She works in a growing organization and reports to a big cheese. Other people have made mistakes and they’ve been punished for them. The punishments have ranged from just the usual personal embarrassment to being labeled a “bad decision maker” to actually being fired. She struggles with understanding her boss and is secretly afraid she’ll lose her job over some dumb mistake.

Indecisive Isabelle – Isabelle has many of the traits of the other ladies in this circle. Her problem – that she can’t make a decision – is rooted in fear.  She’s afraid to make a mistake…afraid to lose or waste money…afraid she won’t get results…and since she really doesn’t trust herself she’s always looking for guidance about what to do. She’s wracked with self-doubt and second-guesses herself constantly.

Short-Attention Span Sally — She’s not going to read all the information you’re sharing with her. She probably thinks a 5-minute video is the Gone With the Wind of marketing. The big challenge with her is to get her attention and help her to focus on the pain she’s in and the solution you’re offering her.

I know you’re thinking “Hey, my Ideal Client loves what I do, makes fast decisions, and pays me what I’m worth.”

That’s true. That’s your Ideal Client.

Unless your dance card is completely filled with Ideal Ida, I’m going to bet even the most fun clients you’ve worked with have exhibited some of the traits of the ladies I’ve mentioned.

Heck, I’ve seen people display all of these personalities as if they’re the next star of a remake of Sybil.

But we’ve all had moments in our lives when we’ve had split personalities haven’t we? When we’ve shared the thoughts and emotions of these women?

So how do you help them move past the issues they wrestle with?

  1. Understand that decision making is emotional at its core. Even the most logical of decision makers will have some emotions at play in the process. Understand the dominant emotions your Prime Suspects and Ideal Clients have and what helps them decide. Ask your favorites what made them decide to take action at each point in the buying process. Also understand that even that isn’t a fool proof process because we don’t understand ourselves very well. But It’s better than just guessing.
  2. Commit to only talking to Prime Suspects and only working with Ideal Clients.  Then you can focus on understanding their motivations, emotions, wants, and needs along with where they are in both the online and offline worlds.
  3. Getting clients is a numbers game combined with practice. Most people hate sales conversations so much that they only engage in them when it counts – when they talk to a potential client. So when you don’t get the sale you see it as failure rather than as a learning experience. But every other performer and professional has some sort of practice to be great at their craft when it’s time to perform for real. Get a coach, find a colleague, do something to practice and get feedback on your process and your conversations.
  4. PreSell yourself and your offerings.  PreSelling involves creating a process that acknowledges the research people do prior to engaging with a “sales person”.  By building your brand as an expert and the go-to person for the results your Clients want along with creating a process that educates them and treats them with respect, you help them recognize your genius and develop trust in you.

Remember when people voice questions and concerns it’s actually a good thing. They’re asking you to help them make a decision. They’re doing their due diligence. Give them the tools they need to make a good decision because buying is a demonstration of trust.

What’s your strategy to help someone move passed price?

5 Powerful, Emotionally-based Positioning Strategies

One of the most important elements of your marketing strategy and sales process is clearly and powerfully positioning yourself so you’re are differentiated from your competition. The more crowded your industry segment, the more important your positioning is.

In this video I explain the 5 positioning strategies that are emotion-based. Use one or more of these strategies to clearly position yourself and attract more of your ideal clients without being pushy or salesy.

Identifying a niche makes selling easier — Here’s why

You’ve heard it before — focusing on a specific niche is important. It’s the number one thing clients resist and I resisted it myself. I made myself crazy trying to be all things to all people. But as soon as I started to really zero in on who I most enjoy working with, getting clients became even easier. It’s something my clients have discovered as well.

This video explains why and gives you things to consider as you identify your own niche or target market.

http://youtu.be/h4ugj_LtRmY

The role of trust in the selling process

Trust –like the great Billy Joel said — is just a matter of trust.

In this video I explain the role trust plays in the entire sales process and how fears and concerns on the part of your potential client translate to not enough trust in you or your solution.

Buying is risky and the more your prospect has at stake in the process the bigger the issue of trust becomes.

http://youtu.be/h4ugj_LtRmY

7 Conventional Ways to Position Yourself

If you’re a service professional like a coach, consultant, healer, or other service provider, I’ll bet you’re working way too hard to get clients and you probably feel like you’re overwhelmed and frustrated with chasing after people. One very big reason for this is you’re not clearly positioned — you’re not clearly differentiated — from your competition so people don’t understand why they should buy from you rather than you’re competitor.

In this video, I explain 7 conventional ways to position your service business so you stand out from the competition and make it easier for ideal clients to recognize why they should work with or hire you over your competition. To receive updates when Winnie posts more videos designed to take the mystery out of selling your services, subscribe to this channel. And for more information about Winnie and how she solves sales mysteries for clients, visit her website at http://WinnieAnderson.com