Three-Way Street - AvNetwork.com

Three-Way Street

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Most professionals recognize that they have to network to build business, find opportunities, and move forward in their career. They also recognized that effective networking is not walking into a hospitality suite at a trade show, grabbing a drink, and talking about last night’s game with the people they already know.

On the other hand, if they are trying to reach out to new people, they often see networking as a one-way street: “What can this person do for me? Can he steer me to a new customer or a new opportunity?”

But, the most effective networking approach is not one-way. It’s not even two-way. It’s a three-way street that leads to the land of win-win-win.

EFFECTIVE NETWORKING
The first step in effective networking is introducing yourself to new people, which is not necessarily an easy step for everyone. A simple, painless introduction includes your name and the reason you’re at an event, followed by the question, “Why are you here?” To take networking to the highest level, after introducing yourself, you then need to get answers to two questions: What is this person good at and what does this person need?

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That extra step is what makes this type of networking valuable. As you wander around the room talking with people at the hospitality suite (or wander through life meeting people), you will very likely find someone who is good at something that someone else you know needs. You then take that person and introduce them to the other person. The result is that you have generated goodwill and added value to your relationship with these two individuals. They will certainly be more likely to remember you and do business with you in the future.

STRATEGICALLY IMPORTANT PARTNERS
Every AV integrator has a network of Strategically Important Partners. Customers are of course the most important partners, since they pay the invoices to keep the doors open. Your top vendors are also extremely important partners. But, the next time you attend a major project progress meeting, look around the table. Everyone there is a strategically important partner: the general contractor, the architect, the interior designer, the electrical contractor, the sub-contractors, and the consultants. Other strategic partners include trade associations, local press, and industry magazines.

BUSINESS NETWORKING
To get ahead of the competition in 2010, you need to maximize the value that you are providing to your strategic partners by knowing them well enough to answer the two networking questions: What are they good at, and what do they need? Then, when you see a partner who has a need that can be satisfied by another partner, bring them together, preferably in a meeting where you are present so you maximize the value you are adding.

For example, suppose one of your top vendors wants to discuss a new product with an end-user. Be sure that you are the integrator bringing the vendor and customer together. How about an architect who wants to tour a facility to see how technology is being installed? The local business magazine that wants to talk to someone using high-definition videoconferencing? A vendor who wants to get his product recommended by an AV consultant?

Don’t wait until they call you asking for assistance. Be proactive about bringing together your partners.

The thing to remember is that networking your strategic partners is not a sales activity. You are not making a sale or generating revenue. However, in the long run, your sales will increase because your Strategically Important Partners will remember the favor and pass along an order, sales lead, or business opportunity when they get the chance. And, that’s when win-win becomes win-win-win.

If you want to provide a seminar on effective networking for your employees, contact SagePresence (www.sagepresence.com) about the “Be Connected” seminar.

Jerry Gale (jgale@kreski.com) is a senior marketing consultant for Kreski Marketing.

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