Michael Goldberg

Think of networking and you picture a crowded room with people shaking hands, chatting, and exchanging business cards. Those days are on hold, but it’s still possible to make effective new connections virtually.

Michael Goldberg, the founder of Knockout Networking, offers a talk on how to attract more business connections on Friday, May 15, at 9:45 a.m. The free event, sponsored by the Professional Service Group of Mercer County, will be streamed online. For more information and to register visit www.psgofmercercounty.org.

In addition to Knockout Networking, which offers programs on networking, referral marketing, and recruiting, Goldberg is also the author of the book “Knock Out Networking for Financial Advisors and Other Sales Producers.” He also writes a blog called “3-Minute Rounds” accessible at knockoutnetworking.com/3-minute-rounds.

In April, he posted this advice for making the most of virtual networking.

Webinars, phone calls, social media campaigns, podcasts, networking groups, and virtual meetings have become the norm. More so than before due to all the craziness. Are you leveraging and getting the most out of your virtual networking meetings?

Here are some reasons to schedule a virtual networking meeting through Zoom, Skype, or even by phone.

• You’re concerned about the prospect’s, client’s, or referral source’s health and welfare.

• You’re concerned about the prospect’s, client’s, or referral source’s business and want to help.

• You want to explore ways of exchanging referrals.

• The other person can help you in some way and is willing to meet with you to discuss.

• You can help the other person in some way, and you are willing to meet them to discuss.

• There is a membership opportunity to a group, association, etc. that needs to be explored.

• A recruiting opportunity.

• The other person has presented themselves as a prospect.

• You have presented yourself as a prospect.

• It’s purely social. (Mutual members of a networking group for example.)

That’s about it. There must be a good reason to initiate and ultimately schedule a meeting (especially since there are so many happening now of the virtual variety) so be clear on the purpose, the benefit (to them and you), the desired outcome, and the next steps. Here are some very basic best practices to keep in mind!

Be prepared for your meeting. Spend a few minutes on LinkedIn and learn what you can about the person (or people) you’re meeting so you feel confident and they feel important. It will also help you prepare questions, discussion points, and desired outcomes. Confirm your meeting with a Calendar Invite and include the Zoom link (or link for whatever platform you’re using) or dial-in information. In fact, you’ll make a great impression if you create and send the Calendar Invite. If you haven’t sent or received a Calendar Invite, confirm your meeting the day before with a quick email. Firm up the date, time, appropriate media (or medium), and share your excitement about meeting and learning more.

Be early. Try to account for connectivity issues, confusion with usernames, passwords, meeting links, and conference codes. Besides, if you jump on a few minutes early, you make a good impression and may be able to establish rapport before you get down to business.

PUNCH up your meeting! (What kind of acronym would you expect from a boxer?) PUNCH is a format that may be helpful in keeping you focused on your Purpose, Understanding, Networks, Call to Action, and How to move forward. Use this PUNCH-line as an agenda for your virtual meetings (and “live” meetings too!) to stay on track and get the most out of your virtual networking.

Use this PUNCH-line as an agenda for your virtual meetings (and “live” meetings too!) to stay on track and get the most out of your virtual networking.

Purpose. What is the purpose of the meeting? This is where you can discuss an overview of the meeting, agenda, and possible outcomes. You can also establish the duration of the meeting if it hasn’t been stated initially. It’s important to have the same or a similar purpose in mind from the beginning as it sets a positive tone while providing structure and direction.

Understanding. Develop an understanding of what you each do both personally and professionally (the fun stuff too!) so you can become more familiar with each other’s background, experience, hobbies, activities, achievements, goals, and potential requests. This might be the most important part of your meeting as it could help you determine if there is a “good fit” and potential for a great relationship.

Networks. Where do they network? How do they network? Who are they looking to meet? How can you help? Find out what their networking approach is and the types of connections they make and are looking to make. Just this topic alone can open the discussion about introductions and involvement in professional associations, groups, podcasts, mastermind groups, and various networking platforms.

Call to Action. Specifically, what do you want? What do they want? Now that you’ve had the networking conversation (above), discuss that types of connections that are of greatest interest. (Again, make sure this is a two-way street — remember, all of this should be an exchange.) The more specific you are about the type of prospects and referral sources you want, the better the results. Just be careful what you ask for and be mindful of how the meeting feels to you. Also, if appropriate, how will you stay in touch? Keep in mind, it takes time to develop a great relationship so take the time. Especially online.

What are your next steps? What promises and declarations have you made and when will you commit to following through on your promises? Will there be a next meeting? If so, when? How will you stay in touch and continue to develop the relationship? Do you want to establish regular calls or virtual meetings — every month, quarter, whatever?

How to Move Forward. One of the reasons many meetings don’t flourish into valuable business relationships is because nobody takes responsibility to stay in touch. What will the “staying in touch” strategy look like for you? What is most appropriate and feels right?

What is your next virtual networking step?

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