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Posted: January 28, 2009

Maximize your membership in a leads group

Valuable connections can take time

Cindy Rold

Brian, a coaching client in Ireland who is CEO of a large company, told me today that he is going to join a leads group. He asked what he could do to make sure it was a good investment of his time and money.

If you're thinking of joining a leads group or if you're already in a leads group, here are things you can do to maximize your investment.

First and most important, don't expect immediate results. Building relationships takes time. You can't expect to attend one leads-group meeting and walk away with referrals. It will take time for people to really understand you and your business before they are able to pass you good leads. Be willing to invest the time to get to know others.

Listen more than you speak. Listen well enough that you could describe the other person's business as well as she can. Don't just talk about yourself.

Seek to be interested, not interesting. When you're interested, you're listening, you're engaged; you're not worried about yourself and what you're going to say next. When you seek to be interesting, your focus is all on yourself and what you're going to say next and how you're going to make an impression.

Ask first what you can give. Focus on the other person's needs and how you can meet them. Think about what you can give - advice, resources, tools - not what you can receive.

Figure out how you can solve people's problems, not how you can sell to them. Nobody likes to be sold to. Act like a trusted adviser, not a salesperson, and you will gain people's confidence.

Visit the group before joining. Most leads groups invite you to visit twice before joining. Use those visits to find out more about the individuals in the group and the group dynamics. Think about whether you can easily give leads to people in the group based on the types of businesses they're in and whether you respect and like them.

Make sure there's a match between you and the others in the group. For example, if you only sell to businesses, it doesn't necessarily make sense to join a group where the other members sell mostly to consumers.

View the group meetings as an introduction to others in the group. Make plans to get to know each member better outside of the group. This could be through breakfast, lunch, coffee, or sharing an activity you both enjoy.

Someone in my leads group decided to use my services only after we talked on the phone one day about our businesses. We had been in the same group for over a year, and she said it wasn't until that conversation that she understood my passion for my business. That passion attracted her.

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Display your passion for yourself and your business. Your passion will attract other people to you, make them want to learn more about you, and give them a higher level of confidence in referring your business.

Don't be pushy. Even in a leads group, ask people if they want to subscribe to your newsletter or receive your e-mails, don't just assume it's okay to subscribe them.

Invite guests. Guests are crucial for the success of a leads group, because they may become members, and they provide freshness to keep the group from getting stale. There's also the possibility that guests will become referral partners, even if they don't join the group.

Look for power partners in the group. A power partner is someone who sells to the same customers as you. For example, a realtor and a mortgage lender are good power partners, because people have a need for both of them at the same time. A flooring company and a cabinet company could be good power partners because they're selling to people who are remodeling.

Take on a leadership role. This will give you visibility every week in addition to the time you spend giving your introduction. It will also allow people to see you in a different role and to gain respect for other aspects of your character.

Give memorable introductions and change them weekly. Every time you tell people something different about what you do, you offer more ways to remember you.

Be fully present at the meeting.
Don't check your Blackberry, think about what you'll have for dinner that night or try to untangle a problem at work.

Ask good questions of the presenter to fully understand that person's business. Pretend you are on the sales or marketing team of the presenter and think about all the ways you can promote that person's business.

Arrive early, stay late. Use the time before and after the meeting to talk to people in a way where you are both fully engaged.

Applying these strategies will maximize your investment in a leads group and make it a lot more fun.

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Cindy Rold, JD, is a success coach, professional speaker, and co-author of 99 Networking Nuggets and The Networking Gurus News, a comprehensive monthly list of business networking events in the Denver metro area. She can be reached at 303-734-9776 or cindy@cindyrold.com. Visit her website at http://www.thenetworkinggurus.com.

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