6 Online Business Networking Tips

business networking

As a business owner, you probably feel like there’s always more you could be doing to expand your business. One of the best ways to open up new opportunities to do just that is by business networking. Of course, the time it takes to identify networking opportunities in your area, and then attend them, is just one more time conflict on your path to “doing more.”

Online business networking allows you to open up a new world of opportunities in a much shorter span of time. “The Internet has changed the game in terms of networking,” says Kent Lewis, President and Founder of Anvil Media. You can now connect globally with people that share your interest, background goals and experience at the click of a button.

To get you started with online business networking, we asked six entrepreneurs for their top tips. Here’s what they said:

  1. Maintenance is key.Yes, making connections online is faster and easier, but it lacks the depth of forming face-to-face relationships. “I have 7,000 LinkedIn connections,” says Lewis, “but know very few at an intimate level. Maintaining those relationships becomes a primary challenge.”The Alternative Board UK’s Operations Director Jo Clarkson recommends overcoming this hurdle by staying in touch. “Making new contacts helps – but it can be a waste of time if you’re not maximizing the old ones,” says Clarkson. “If you only contact your network when you want something, your calls will become less and less welcome.”Clarkson believes staying in touch is the most effective way to keep your online network close. “Consistency is key – share a great article with your list of contacts or just send over an email to say hello every now and again. That way, when you need your network, they’ll recognize your name and be happy to help.”
  2. Optimize Your Online PresenceWhen networking in person, you simply have to be friendly, professional and natural–all skills you’ve been working on since grade school. Networking online requires a little more technical savvy.“When networking online, people are looking at your profile, and if it doesn’t reflect an expert status, it’s easy to pass you by,” says Bill Corbett, Jr., President of Corbett Public Relations, Inc. “If you don’t have certain keywords in your profile, or if a peer ranks higher than you in search results, you may be left with lost opportunities.”Brock Shinen, Esq., of the Law Office of Brock Shinen “By improving my LinkedIn profile and contributing content on a regular basis, I developed a steady stream of new relationships which were explored for opportunities.”

    Do some research and understand how to maximize your profile for each social network. What works for Twitter may be different for Facebook or LinkedIn, so be sure to understand the nuances of each network.

  3. Get to Know Your Network“Networking online is easier, because you can find almost anything about anyone,” says Scott Eisenberg, CEO & Founder of com. With this wealth of information at your fingertips, “It is even more important that you learn about their interests, accomplishments and personal life, as that is where the real connections are formed.” Eisenberg adds that unlike with traditional business networking, “Many people skip over the personal and social aspect online and go straight to the business instead.”Get to know the network you’re targeting. Build a real relationship before jumping into how the other person can help you get ahead.
  4. Use SlackSlack is a cloud-based company collaboration tool. “Recently I discovered how powerful Slack communities can be in regard to building successful relationships,” says Vincent Vitale, Co-founder of Fount.According to Vitale, Slack makes it easier to network under a shared interest, such as entrepreneurship. “I posted about my app in the TechLondon Slack Community, which started up a conversation with another startup owner. We learned we shared a passion for being connectors and entrepreneurship. Now we are working together from across an ocean.”
  1. Use TwitterShelly Watts, Founder of Thoughtful Missions establishes relationships with clients by connecting via Twitter. She even works with a board member she met through Twitter. “It’s a great, creative way to reach out to people,” says Watts. “Using Twitter is better than a cold call or email because it’s less threatening. It isn’t perceived as intrusive because they can look at your Twitter account to see who you are and how your interests intersect with theirs before deciding to respond.”
  2. Demonstrate Value“My top tip for online business networking is to add value before you request anything,” Vitale adds. “People will be more responsive to you if you can help them. Especially if you can help them with something they really need help with.”“Never start with the objective of making a sale,” adds Shinen. “This objective can be spotted a mile away and comes across as exploitative. Instead, start with the goal of forming a relationship and exploring opportunities. This will serve the long-term purpose of opening much more potential for business, because the foundation is relationship building, not sales or exploitations.”

Of course, building a strong business network requires a consistent combination of face-to-face and online business networking. Use these six tips to get started on your online business networking journey, and share your experiences. If you’d like to increase your business networking opportunities, get in touch with a local TAB board. Being a member of the TAB community puts you in direct and online contact with thousands of business owners around the world.

 

5 Tips to Avoid Chasing the Wrong Sales Leads

shutterstock_76874305When it comes to sales leads, many organizations make the mistake of treating every individual or business that contacts them as genuine opportunities and then expend significant time and resources trying to convert them into a sale.

Given this approach, it’s not surprising that the vast majority of “leads” fail to go anywhere.

As your own sales team will likely tell you, not all leads are created equal. While some prospects might be interested in purchasing immediately, others are just trolling for information on your products or services (which may arm them with valuable knowledge when reaching out to your competitors) and some are simply a bad fit with your business.

Taking time to assess the quality of leads and refining a strategy for pursuing the most promising ones will save you time and money in the long run. Here are five tips to help avoid chasing the wrong sales leads in the future:

1. Create an ideal “buyer persona.” You may have a general idea about what constitutes the ideal customer for your business—but if you and your sales team lack an in-depth understanding of this person or company, considerable time will be wasted with the wrong leads. Put together a detailed “buyer persona,” so that you can focus more quickly on the leads worth pursuing. By taking time to develop your buyer persona, you will have a deeper understanding not just of who your ideal customer is, but what they need.

2. Weed out lukewarm leads by getting to know them. Prospects who contact your business in order to solicit some free advice are generally unlikely to actually buy from you. While it’s always a good policy to be friendly with such lukewarm prospects, refrain from handing out abundant free advice. Instead, in your preliminary conversation, get to know the person a little better and then determine whether it’s worthwhile to pursue the lead any further.

3. Ask open-ended questions to qualify leads. Subjecting prospects to a series of yes-or-no questions won’t produce the kind of information needed to accurately assess the likelihood of a sale. Particularly in the B2B realm, it’s vital to eliminate prospects who come to you with unrealistic demands or want more features than they’re interested in paying for.

Have “a process in place to ask lead qualifying questions upfront” so you can “sort and rank your sales leads based on which ones are the best priority and fit,” advises sales expert Gregg Schwartz. Otherwise, you will “end up with a lot of clutter and noise,” as well as an increasingly frustrated sales team.

4. Nurture leads to separate the wheat from the chaff. Occasionally, a bad sales lead can—with proper nurturing—blossom into a good sales lead. The vast majority of prospects aren’t willing or able to buy on the first call; to expect differently is a costly misconception on the part of sales reps.

This is where marketing can collaborate closely with sales to separate the wheat from the chaff. Employ nurturing techniques such as ongoing content marketing and other outreach efforts to demonstrate to the prospect the kind of value your business offers them, while abstaining from making the hard sell. It will become clear over time whether or not there’s a good fit waiting to be exploited.

5. Follow up ASAP. How many valuable opportunities are lost because your sales team neglected to follow up promptly with a new lead? With so many online inquiries receiving an initial automated reply, it’s altogether possible that good leads will slip through the cracks due to inattention. Look for ways to refine the process so that sales leads are contacted quickly (within 24 hours if possible) so the best prospects don’t get lost in the shuffle.

By regarding each lead as a potential customer, rather than just a “contact,” your team will be more focused on avoiding the wrong leads. Converting qualified leads into buying customers will keep the team highly motivated and working hard on future sales opportunities as well.