How to Earn Business from Your Next Networking Event

Effective networking is harder than it looks. But if you do a little bit of homework first, you’ll find it easier to make the contacts you need during these events to help your business grow.

As a small business owner, growing and nurturing a network is critical for current and future business. People like to do business with people they know, like and trust—and earning that trust is critical. Successful small businesses grow through referrals that come from satisfied customers. When you think of going to a networking event, do you cringe? Is it because you will be hounded by people and getting business cards you don’t want, having to listen to endless elevator pitches? Well, it is time to rethink how to leverage events and grow a profitable network.

• RELATED: Learn about COSE’s B2B Cleveland Matchmaker event

The first thing to do is get into the right mindset. Effective networking is about farming versus hunting. Farmers plant seeds. They are patient and make sure their seeds get the proper caring and feeding and then they can reap the harvest. Hunters go a mile wide and an inch deep, they value quantity and shoot at anything that moves. Most people do not go to networking events to buy something, so why go there with the intent to immediately sell?

When you are going to a networking event, do your homework first. Find out who else might be there you want to connect with. Learn what you can about them on social sites such as LinkedIn and also go to their website. When you find them at the event, ask them questions about themselves, their business and their challenges. Take the time to learn about them, show them you care and you want to build a relationship. There will be time for talking about how you can support them—but only really after you know what they need. When you get to share, tell them a story of how you have solved business problems for clients similar to their problems, then it shows you listened and you have some experience.

Ivan Misner, Ph.D, founder of BNI, shares the need to first have visibility. People have to know who you are and what you do. He warns against premature solicitation and asking for a sale before you have visibility and offers some tips on effectively navigating networking events. He uses a 12 x 12 x 12 rule. From 12 feet away—make sure you are dressed the part. At 12 inches away, perception is reality. Don’t complain to someone you just met because they will think you are a negative person. And think about the 12 words you’re going to say. After you listen to them, be able to concisely share your value proposition.

I facilitate a leadership program focused on building influence and connecting with others leveraging John Maxwell’s books—“Everybody Communicates, Few Connect” and “Becoming a Person of Influence”. In it, we focus on how to really listen to others to better connect. It’s not about us, it’s about them. I love this quote by Norman Vincent Peale:

“Humble people don't think less of themselves ... they just think of themselves less. When you really listen to others, you make a connection.” John Maxwell says “Leaders touch a heart before they ask for a hand” and it is the same here for connecting.

10 questions to ask at networking events
Bob Burg, author of Endless Referrals and other great books, is a great connector and says, “All things being equal, people will do business with, and refer business to, those people they know, like and trust.” He shares 10 Feel-Good Questions to ask at networking events:

1. How did you get your start in the widget business?

2. What do you enjoy most about your profession?

3. What separates you and your company from the competition?

4. What advice would you give someone just starting in the widget business?

5. What one thing would you do with your business if you knew you could not fail?

6. What significant changes have you seen take place in your profession through the years?

7. What do you see as the coming trends in the widget business?

8. What ways have you found to be the most effective for promoting your business?

9. What ways have you found to be the most effective for promotion your business?

10. What one sentence would you like people to use in describing the way you do business?

The One “key” questions that will set you apart from everyone else: “How can I know if someone I’m speaking with is a good prospect for you?

Important: Please keep in mind you won’t have time to ask more than two or three of these questions in any one conversation. These are questions people enjoy answering and they are simply meant to make them feel good and establish initial rapport.

So, it’s about farming and cultivating relationships and building a network of people that really know, like and trust you—this is your referral network. Be selective, don’t chase everyone, and focus on building a network of people that can leverage your services or product. Focus first on adding value and the rest will come! And most of all: Happy networking!

Jill Windelspecht is president of Talent Specialists Consulting. Contact her via email at Jillwindel@talentspecialists.net.

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  • Next up: How to Get New Employees AND New Business

    How to Get New Employees AND New Business

    COSE members explain how they are overcoming two of the most vexing issues facing small businesses.


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  • Next up: How to Get ROI from Social Media

    How to Get ROI from Social Media

    With everything a small business owner has to contend with these days, it’s no wonder social media often takes a back seat. The thinking goes: Sure, it’s important, but promoting a business on social media isn’t going to have a dramatic impact on a bottom line. Not so fast! Jason Guyer and Paul Marnecheck, two members of COSE and the Greater Cleveland Partnership’s membership development team would disagree with that line of thinking. Guyer and Marnecheck recently took time to answer some common questions entrepreneurs have about social media and also relate how they’ve used social channels to drive business.

    With everything a small business owner has to contend with these days, it’s no wonder social media often takes a back seat. The thinking goes: Sure, it’s important, but promoting a business on social media isn’t going to have a dramatic impact on a bottom line.

    Not so fast! Jason Guyer and Paul Marnecheck, two members of COSE and the Greater Cleveland Partnership’s membership development team would disagree with that line of thinking. Guyer and Marnecheck recently took time to answer some common questions entrepreneurs have about social media and also relate how they’ve used social channels to drive business.

    Q: Talk about how you leverage social in your day-to-day at COSE/GCP?

    Guyer: Social media in general is sometimes viewed by others as a time-waster in the workplace. I think that is a stale, outdated, and antiquated mindset on how social media can impact your business—assuming you use it the right way. I’d guess roughly 75% of all members that I’ve welcomed to our chamber or who are trying to decide if membership is right for them are all on social media in one form or another. 

    Day-to-day on Twitter, I’m always on the lookout for content I can share or retweet that might matter to those who follow me, whether it’s my own or content of those I follow. Anything I can do to help spread the word for our Northeast Ohio companies on Twitter—members or not—I’m happy to do it.

    Similarly, LinkedIn is a great way to connect and put a face to a name for companies I am trying to engage with who may not be active on Twitter. If I am exchanging emails or phone calls with someone looking for more information on GCP or COSE, I always check to see if they have a LinkedIn profile so I can connect and engage with them that way.

    Q: What networks are you most active on and does your strategy change based on the platform you’re using?

    Marnecheck: I would say I am most active for work on Twitter and Linkedin. I use Linkedin more for background research while I use Twitter to help push content out. I agree that social media is a great way to remain current with our members and the business community. By creating lists in Twitter for instance, I am able to organize my feed in a productive way. Also, Linkedin allows me to see when a connection changes jobs, gains a new title, or reaches a professional milestone.  It allows me to remain current quickly.

    Q: What strategies work best as you try to encourage engagement from your followers?

    Guyer: To me, the goal is to stay top of mind. Simple retweets and comments on whatever it is my followers and those I follow are putting out there shows them that A) you’re noticing their content and B) you care about what it is they have to say. People create these accounts to engage (ideally!), so why not go back and forth and strike up a social conversation?

    Q: This question is probably highest on the mind of a small business owner: Have you been able to turn social into sales?

    Marnecheck: YES! I have found one of the biggest factors in making a sale is timing. Linkedin & Twitter gives me a good sense of when things might have changed for the client and when the time could be right to approach, reapproach etc.

    Q: What’s one thing a business development professional or small business owner should keep in mind about social media?

    Guyer: If you’re using social media to ask your prospects to “marry you on the first date” then I think you’re utilizing these tools the wrong way. Do I use social media as a sales tool? Of course I do. However, rarely—if ever—do I ask someone to join via social media. To me, Twitter and LinkedIn serve as a way to establish and cultivate the relationship throughout the sales process. In today’s day and age where it’s easier to point and click than it is dial and answer the phone (thanks caller ID), social media is a way to bridge the gap in communication.

    Marnecheck: ALWAYS have current content. One of the biggest red flags to me is when a business lists a social network site (especially Twitter) on their company website only to find the content on the site is outdated.  Must always have fresh content.

    Want to continue the conversation with Paul and Jason? Paul is on Twitter @marnecheck while Jason can be found @GCP_Jason.

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  • Next up: How to Get the Most Out of a Trade Show

    How to Get the Most Out of a Trade Show

    With hundreds of exhibitors and thousands of attendees, it can be overwhelming to attend a robust trade show. There are so many seminars, discussions, presentations and exhibits, how can you see everything? Simply put, you can’t. But with a bit of prep beforehand; you can set yourself up to get the most out of your trade show attendance.

    With hundreds of exhibitors and thousands of attendees, it can be overwhelming to attend a robust trade show. There are so many seminars, discussions, presentations and exhibits, how can you see everything? Simply put, you can’t. But with a bit of prep beforehand; you can set yourself up to get the most out of your trade show attendance.

    Create Show Objectives

    Although you are not exhibiting, you and your team should still have trade show goals and objectives. A team meeting before you travel to the show will make sure your team is aligned, and that everyone is working towards the same goal.

    Here are some examples of attendee show objectives:

    • To visit with potential vendors
    • To visit with current or potential customers
    • To learn from the seminars or lectures
    • To set up meetings with decision makers

    Outline ‘Must See’ Booths and Companies

    Trade shows can be spread across a large area. Often, you can access the exhibitor list and map on the trade show website. Create a list and map out the booths that you must visit. When you walk the floor, visit your list first and then you can walk the rest of the floor leisurely. If a booth is crowded, come back another time for better face time and conversation.

    Create a Schedule

    Prepare a schedule ahead of time by using the trade show literature and website to choose what speakers and seminars you want to see. Create a schedule and choose backup plans in case your first choices fill up. If you have a team, you can spread out and report the key details back to the team.

    Make sure to come prepared. A notepad and pen are a must; don’t assume they will be provided. If you are sitting up close, you can consider recording or taking photos on your phone. Also, bring a good amount of business cards for networking after the events.

    Book Meetings in Advance

    Once you create your schedule, you can easily set up key meetings ahead of time. When people start traveling, it is often difficult to get ahold of them to schedule meetings. During the weeks before the trade show, connect with your contacts and set up meetings. A remote trade show is a great place to set up breakfast meetings, dinner meetings or to meet for happy hour. A trade show website will often suggest local places to visit outside of the show.

    Monitor Social for Updates

    You can’t get away from social media. Most trade shows will have a few social media pages or even an event hashtag that you can follow online. This is an excellent way to see show updates, schedule changes or announcements. Other attendees will be participating so you can see what is going on from all over the show. The show website will have the best way to stay connected!

    Want more tips? Visit the GTS blog to read about leadership, business and supply chain news.  Visit onestopshipping.com to take control of your shipping and supply chain.

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  • Next up: How to Handle Workplace Injuries Resulting from Marijuana Usage

    How to Handle Workplace Injuries Resulting from Marijuana Usage

    Election Day 2016 is just over a month away, and the potential for legalized marijuana - both medicinal and recreational - should be weighing on your mind as a business owner. Employee safety is one of the biggest concerns that we hear from small business owners. There is a commitment to safety and a genuine concern for all employees - everyone should return home as healthy as they were when they reported for their shift.   But, what happens if an employee is injured and a post-accident drug screen shows marijuana metabolite levels? Surprisingly, the claim could be allowed by the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC). Why? Because during the initial review done by the BWC, they have no way of knowing just how impaired the individual was at the time of the injury. While this can typically be the case for any controlled substances including alcohol, marijuana poses a problem because it stays in the system far longer than other substances, making it difficult to prove the level of impairment. 

    Election Day 2016 is just over a month away, and the potential for legalized marijuana - both medicinal and recreational - should be weighing on your mind as a business owner. Employee safety is one of the biggest concerns that we hear from small business owners. There is a commitment to safety and a genuine concern for all employees - everyone should return home as healthy as they were when they reported for their shift.  

    But, what happens if an employee is injured and a post-accident drug screen shows marijuana metabolite levels? Surprisingly, the claim could be allowed by the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC). Why? Because during the initial review done by the BWC, they have no way of knowing just how impaired the individual was at the time of the injury. While this can typically be the case for any controlled substances including alcohol, marijuana poses a problem because it stays in the system far longer than other substances, making it difficult to prove the level of impairment. 

    In order to protect your business, the BWC decision will need to be appealed and this is where an effective post accident drug screen policy is critical—  Two important steps to remember - the drug screen needs to be done immediately after the injury  and you should also ask supervisors and co-workers if the injured employee was displaying any behaviors that raise suspicion of being impaired.  

    A copy of the medical records, complete drug testing results (which could be over 100 pages), custody control forms and procedure and policy documentation from the lab will all need to be obtained and then reviewed by an independent medical examiner (IME).  

    The IME should be able to provide an expert medical opinion as to whether the employee was impaired at the time of the injury. He/she will take several important factors into consideration—was the drug test obtained in the proper fashion?  Was it indeed positive?  In the case of marijuana, what was the marijuana metabolites level?  Did the individual’s behavior or actions suggest some degree of poor judgment or poor reaction time?  

    Workplace example

    Let’s think about an employee in a manufacturing facility who is working with machinery. A belt comes off of a conveyor and the employee attempts to fix it without turning off the machine. His hand is caught, causing a crushing injury.

    He is taken to an emergency room for an examination. Company policy requires post-accident drug testing, so a urine drug test is collected upon arrival, which is approximately an hour after the injury occurred. Even though the drug test was positive for marijuana, the BWC allowed the claim for the diagnosed conditions as it didn’t have access to the detailed lab results and specific metabolites level. In order to have a chance at a successful appeal, the employer obtained a file review and provided the IME with the lab documentation and witness statements.

    The IME’s expert opinion, based on the marijuana metabolite levels and the employee’s poor judgment and delayed reaction, is that the employee was impaired at the time of injury. While there is never a guarantee of success, obtaining expert medical opinions gives you the best shot of a positive outcome upon appeal.

    COSE recommends voting NO on Issue 3 (the marijuana legalization issue) and YES on Issue 2 (which would limit monopolies and oligopolies in Ohio).   


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  • Next up: How to Implement HTTPS Security on Your Website

    How to Implement HTTPS Security on Your Website

    Is your website as secure as possible? If it isn't, you could be compromising your content and turning away customers. Read on to learn the importance of implementing HTTPS security on your site.

    A recent KPMG study found that more than half (55%) of consumers have decided against buying something online because of security concerns. One way to allay those concerns is to implement HTTPS security on your site.

    To learn a little bit more about HTTPS and how small businesses can utilize it on their own websites, we turned to COSE member Vince Salvino of CodeRed to answer six questions we had about the importance of HTTPS.

    Question No. 1: What is HTTPS?

    Salvino: HTTPS is a secure way of accessing a website. It works using an encryption mechanism called an SSL certificate. You will usually see a green lock icon or green “Secure” status in the top left corner of your browser when visiting websites using HTTPS. If a site has HTTPS improperly configured or invalid, then you will see a big red “Danger” status in your browser.

    Question No. 2: What additional security layers does it provide?

    Salvino: Simply put, HTTPS provides encryption for everything you view or send on the internet. Think of it like mailing a letter: if you mail a postcard, anyone who touches or comes across that postcard can read what you wrote on the back. You certainly wouldn’t feel comfortable writing private correspondence, or very important information such as credit card, social security number, etc. on the back of a postcard. That is how HTTP works. With HTTPS, it is equivalent to mailing a letter in a sealed security envelope. No one is able to read what is inside it, and if the seal has been broken, then the recipient knows that the letter has been tampered with.

    Question No. 3: Should all businesses have HTTPS on their site?

    Salvino: Absolutely. If you take payments, have a login, or have any type of form on your website, then it is imperative that you use HTTPS. As a matter of fact, browsers such as Firefox now warn the user with an ugly error message if they try to use a password on a site that does not have HTTPS enabled. But even if your website does not contain sensitive information, most people still feel more comfortable knowing their connection is secure. This is not just an IT issue anymore—even non-technical folks have become aware to look for the little green lock when browsing the web. This point frequently comes up on the evening news when talking about the latest data breach, or during the big shopping seasons.

    Question No. 4: Is it difficult to set up?

    Salvino: It is relatively simple to set up. Any web developer or IT department would be able to set this up. Even do-it-yourself website hosts such as GoDaddy offer SSL certificates for less than $100 per year and provide instructions on how to set it up. At CodeRed, we provide this to all of our clients for free—that is how fundamental SSL is to online security.

    Question No. 5: Will visitors notice anything different on my site after it is set up?

    Salvino: It is relatively seamless. Visitors will notice that nice green lock or “Secure” status in their browser. Just be sure to renew your SSL certificate every year—if it expires, the browser will show a warning to visitors.

    Question No. 6: Are there any additional benefits to setting up HTTPS (does Google rank your pages differently, will customers be more apt to buy from me if they see it on my site, etc.?)

    Salvino: In addition to the security and peace of mind of your visitors, there are additional benefits as well. Google ranks sites higher that use HTTPS versus sites without it. There are rumors that in the future, Google will more severely penalize sites without it as a way of forcing website owners to use HTTPS. This probably won’t happen in the near future, but it emphasizes just how important web security is. Also, if you process credit cards or have HIPAA (health care) data, you are required to use encryption when processing this information to maintain compliance.

    Vince Salvino is the owner of CodeRed, a Cleveland-based technology firm specializing in secure Web development and cloud services.


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