Do Meetings Matter for Growth?
Adkins diet. Sonoma diet. Meeting diet? I’ve been on them all. Several years ago, I went on my first meeting diet. A member of seven organizations, on the board or the emeritus board of three, I spent at least three nights out every week “connecting.” I had enough name tags to rival the number of Imelda Marcos’ pairs of shoes but could barely keep track of who I’d talked to, and rarely did any meaningful follow-up.
So, I dropped to zero for nearly 18 months. Instead of it hurting my company’s growth, it actually sparked a growth curve, largely because I used that time to refine who our ideal clients really are--- and narrowed time previously spent on meeting all sorts of people into learning about the kinds of meetings our ideal clients go to.
Today, my clients often ask me, “Do I have to go to external meetings to network?” And, my answer always starts with another question, “What are these meetings, and, what do you usually do when you go to them?”
Why ask that? My own diet convinced me it’s really time to bury the old fashioned networking. There’s no question business people consistently need to be meeting new people. If our businesses are going to grow, we need to find ways to connect with the kinds of clients/customers we serve the best. Today’s “net” needs to be more narrow. As for working, doesn’t sharing substance offer far more value than simple chit-chat and charm?
So, should you go to meetings to do business development? Yes, IF you will
- Be picky about your choice of meetings. If your purpose is to grow your business, Unless the kinds of people who fit the description of your ideal client/customer are going to be there, don’t even plan to go. Period. (Don’t have a clear picture of that ideal client/customer? Write one. And, if you don’t know how to write one, read this.)
- Prepare first. Write down questions, interesting ideas to share. Push yourself into some self-confidence building. Study up on any leaders in the organization, skim background material about the last three or four meetings that the group has held, read some background about the speaker/topic. Use LinkedIn, Facebook to see who else you might know (or be connected to) who is in the group. I can remember being taught to read the sports page before a meeting, so I’d have something to talk to the guys about. Today, people are looking for BIG talk, not SMALL talk.
- Be valuable and offer something of value. Be there. Show up early. Sit with people you’ve never met (not with a friend so you can catch up about the good old days). Be a conversation sparker, and focus on giving rather than getting. A great giving technique; offer to send someone an article about something you’ve talked about--- probably much higher value to them than your brochure.
(As an aside, a great new book called Go-Givers Sell More is well worth your time.)
- Stay until the meeting is over. Linger long enough to meet 2-3 more people. And, follow-up with people you met. Send a note to the speaker, the meeting host. And share some of the wisdom you got via a note to people who were not there, that would value the content.
One caution, especially for professionals who have been coached to make sure they are “doing” business development, and expected to log the time they’ve spent doing it. Don’t confuse professional development with business development. Professional development meetings help us learn more, broaden our skills and get jazzed about our work. While sometimes they offer opportunities to meet great referral sources, they’re not the place to go looking for potential new clients to serve. Instead, focus your business development time on meetings filled with people who fit the profile of those to whom you can give real value. Do you have to go and network? If you will first choose well, and then go and give-well, absolutely. The right meetings, well attended, can really matter in your growth. Otherwise, stop networking and find another approach.