What does effective networking look like today?

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Hazel: Hi, I’m Hazel Geary I’m the Right Brain at Drio and and the co-founder of Monument Women’s Creative Alliance where we empower women in creative professions to exchange ideas and inspiration within our online private forum. We also host learning workshops and social events and offer local volunteer opportunities that impact our community.

Rachel: And I am Rachel McFadden I am the other co-founder of Monument Women’s Creative Alliance as well as the left brain of Drio where we work with small businesses and nonprofits to develop their website and help with their online marketing.

Rachel: We want to thank our panelists for joining us today as we discuss “What does effective networking look like today?”

Rachel: I’m going to go ahead and introduce our panelists. So, first we have Jim Ries who is the director of Business Development at Offit Kurman. Jim is a Master networker and he prides himself on being able to make meaningful connections.

Rachel: We have Colleen McKenna and Colleen is the principal at Intero Advisory, which she launched for individuals and companies focused on increasing their sales and talent initiatives. Her membership site, blog and podcast reach a global audience and more than 600 companies have benefited from her expertise.

Rachel: We have Letta Moore, Letta is a mompreneur and the owner of KSM Candle Co. a fragrance and goods company located in Clipper Mill. Her business has been featured in Baltimore magazine, Baltimore Fishbowl and cool Progeny, just to name a few.

Rachel: So, I’m going to go ahead and get started with our questions to our panelists. I’m going to start with you, Colleen and we’ll go around the room. I wanted to ask, “What strategies have you found most effective in networking and generating new business.” Pre-Covid-19 and then today.

Colleen: Great, well thanks for having me and it’s great to be with all of you and these are questions I get all the time and certainly for me and the work that we do LinkedIn is really the primary way we lead in terms of Business Development and reaching out, connecting and building a really awesome, strong, robust network. So, for us really, we haven’t changed and I have not changed my business development efforts so much. Although, one area that I’ve worked to be much more intentional with is phone calling. So, I am not great at answering the phone or making phone calls because I do so much through direct messaging and email and even text. So, I have really worked hard in the last 6 weeks to pick up the phone and have quick calls with people I know that I haven’t talked with in a while. Typically, from 5 to 6 I might even be outside walking and pick up the phone and call clients and people we know on the west coast just to see how they’re doing. So, I have tried to be even more intentional than normal -in staying in front of people and just making sure that they’re okay letting them know that we’re here to have a conversation or if they need anything we’re happy to talk with them.

Rachel: Awesome, thank you and I wanted to turn it to you, Letta.

Letta: So, not to dissimilar to what Colleen has said, we haven’t really changed our focus, either most of our networking has been through Instagram or other social media channels and you know because social media has always been online we just continue to reach out through that same channel. It seems though that post covid-19, what we are experiencing is that more people are online. So, we become a lot more visible and not just in our local Network anymore. We are finding that people are finding us or reaching out to us even across the US so that has definitely increased since this has happened.

Rachel: That’s awesome, especially that it’s now moved outside of just the US and Maryland, cool. How about you, Jim?

Jim: So, the success I’ve had in networking and generating business has not changed pre and and current situation. What I’ve learned in in my role at Offit Kurman is for me, I need to get in front of certain people and for me to get in front of the right people rather than take a chance I have created my own c-level peer groups. And, I’ve also planned my own events where I can invite the people that I want to meet. So, I’m now doing that virtually, I’ve got at least four groups where I manage who we invite to the sessions so that way I’m guaranteed to get in front of the people that  I want to meet.

Rachel: That’s great and we take your advice with that by being here today.

Jim: Of course, this is one of those opportunities, thank you for inviting me.

Rachel: Sure.

Hazel: So, our next question is, “How have you adapted your business development and networking techniques? How do you use webinars, social media, blogging and videos for business development? Jim, let’s start with you, what are your thoughts?

Jim: Well, thank you, I try it all.  I’m sending lots of emails, scheduling phone calls, scheduling zoom meetings, and attending virtual webinars. I continue with lots of LinkedIn activity that I’m sure Colleen will speak further about since she is the expert. I believe it’s important to originate your own content as well as share meaningful and relevant content that your following expects to see from you. The zoom meetings that I attend generally are the meetings that I put together and have invited specific people to attend. And then I partner with others to do networking more networking zoom meetings. I think there’s a terrific thirst for networking because we’re not able to do it in person so the zoom networking seems to work well mostly in smaller, more intimate groups. And then of course now I’m using a lot of video I’m sending short video text messages  in the morning. I’m doing video conversations with attorneys and video conversations with clients and it’s very conversational it’s not even an interview is just conversational it’s light, it’s informative, it’s entertaining.

Hazel: Thank you, Jim. And, Colleen, what would you like to add?

Colleen: Well, I think it’s so interesting I think there’s so many new opportunities and tools and techniques to try right now and I think they’re all on the table and one of the things that we started doing we’ve been blogging for a long time, probably 5-6 years at least and obviously doing LinkedIn content and posts, but very early on, probably about 6 weeks ago I had a client say to me, you know I was getting ready for conference season and all the conferences are gone what should we do I’ve been using LinkedIn so many of my colleagues don’t you should do a webinar. So, we started doing webinars, we put a webinar together in 48 hours and we had well over 100 people sign up and we had a great session so we did a 2nd and then that was well received, we did a 3rd we did 5 all together. It was really interesting and they were kind of really kind of spontaneous in just how we marketed them. They were great and then they provided great content that we could then l put on our website. So, once again, another way to look at content We’ve been playing with doing more videos, we have an online membership site, so we’ve been really building much to Jim’s point that intentional community that we come together every Monday morning and do group coaching. This past Monday we started talking about using video in very small snippits more purposefully and somebody mentioned something called soap box. So soap box is my new favorite tool for the week and I’ve been creating and I did our blog post instead of writing 500-words I did a 2-minute video that went up an it was all about a particular tip on LinkedIn. So, I feel like this is such a great time to test these different ways we can communicate and figure out where we can innovate and do some new things that our audience and the people we want to be doing business with will find interesting. So, I think this is I think this is such a great time to test and learn new things. And we got to test all of them but how people want to talk to us, it’s going to be across the board so from texting to video to the written word to a phone call all of these, I think need to come together and sort of be a surround sound system for business development.

Hazel: That’s awesome, thanks Colleen.

Hazel: And, Letta, I know that you touched upon earlier you were how you leverage Instagram for business and development and networking do you have anything else to add?

Letta: Sure, so part of our business model has also been teaching workshops so we were doing a lot of workshops in person and in our space until they did away with the gatherings, in-person gatherings, so we moved our candle-making workshops virtually, online, so now people can sign up and it’s not just regulated to the Maryland or Baltimore area. Anyone can sign-up, we have people signing up from California to Texas to Michigan, all over the US.  So, one of the things that we wanted to stay on top of was being able to connect with our customers. 70% of people in the US own candles, so candles are obviously something that people enjoy.  It’s our business so we just wanted to be able to reconnect with people in a way that touched our business model the way that it had prior to to having to stop being together in groups.

Hazel: That’s awesome.

Rachel: I wanted to move to the next question and we’ll start with you, Colleen
We wanted to know, “What advice you have for businesses professionals who are trying to find new opportunities?”

Colleen: Well, I certainly think you need to understand where are your best customers and clients are and move to those channels and certainly if it’s business-to-business, LinkedIn is that place. If you’re really going after the consumer in like Letta than it is definitely to be Instagram. Her Instagram posts are beautiful absolutely beautiful, everything she does is really beautiful, so she’s on a different platform, but she’s on LinkedIn too. Right?

Letta: Yeah.

Colleen: So, I think it’s really finding the place where people that can buy from you where they are and start to engage with them there. So, and that might mean lots of different places, I think you need to understand how you come across on those channels but it’s very difficult to be really proficient in my opinion and looking amazing on all of these channels so just really master one at a time that’s what I tell all of our clients figure out one figure out one and somebody just sent me a message about 30 minutes ago and said, “I’ve got over 23,000 people, I need to find 4 clients can you help me?”  So, it’s not the size of your network it’s how much you know that network, right? You can have a hundred people and engage with those people those people will know who you are so you have to be known. So, you have to find the channel I think that resonates with your audience and be known on that channel and stand out and don’t look like everybody else. So and test a lot of different things to find out how they want to engage back.

Rachel: Yeah that’s great advice, thank you. And how about you, Letta, what advice could you give us?

Letta: So, I would just tell other businesses that are interested in business development to look at your current model and to find ways where you can become innovative and get the word out about what you are trying to do with your business. I know that these are very trying times and we’re under a lot of restrictions right now, so just thinking a little bit outside of the box, learning how to pivot when adversity is here, learning how to adjust and then just trying new things I think that’s kind of been the theme for this panel, the theme right now it to just try it all.  At this point, what’s stopping you?

Rachel: Yeah, absolutely.  And, how about you, Jim?

Jim: Yeah, solid advice from both of them. I would add what Colleen mentioned taking a historical snapshot of where your prior business has come from and study that.  I think that’s really good advice. I would add to that be visible, be relevant and be authentic. I think those are three very important things as I mentioned before, attend the events where the people you want to meet are going to be there. And, if you’re having trouble finding those events, then make those events yourself and throw those events yourself. Have a happy hour, have a virtual Zoom, networking, whatever and invite the people that you want to meet.

What a lot of people forget to do is follow up you’ve got to follow up with the people that you meet at these events. Again, I know Colleen will probably get into this but be active on LinkedIn. I’m a I’m a true believer polish your profile, build your contacts Post relevant content and do it regularly and consistently And then finally, I would stay position yourself and build a reputation as someone who wants to help genuinely.

Hazel: Okay, the next question we have for the group is, “How do you stay focused on business development with all the extra distractions? As we know, we have no real separation between work and personal life at the moment.  What is your advice? Colleen, let’s start with you.

Colleen: When I saw this question I was like, oh my gosh this question really elicits a lot of thoughts in my brain. So, I’ve always been a salesperson and I’ve managed sales people and Business Development people and I certainly do a lot of that in what I currently do. So I think what happens is that sometimes we forget that that’s our core responsibility. And I believe in every organization every person regardless of where you are and what your title might be everybody has that potential directly or indirectly because everybody has a network everybody is connected somehow and so I believe that the best sales people are really focused that in some portion of their day even if they have to do a lot of other things they do find the time to make a few touches, a few really smart calls or emails that initiate or continue a sales conversation. If we are not selling we have no business I’ve been really encouraging people about that over the last six weeks. for the last four years the number one topic of every conversation we had is about finding talent. From March 11th to March 12th that totally flipped it’s all business development now. So, it is about putting time on your calendar and making sure that you lead with that every single day and every conversation doesn’t have to be a straight-up sales patch but every conversation should really be a sales conversation in my opinion and I mean that in the best sense of the word sales I love selling I love the whole process around it.  So we need to be intentional. I always tell people put 30 minutes on your calendar and honor that as though that time was with somebody that you were going to be on Zoom with or meet in your office or in coffee shop. So it’s just me putting it on the forefront it’s going to be more important than ever as we get our businesses back to where they’re going to be right and so we have to manage that somehow‚ and we have to be really intentional about it.

Hazel: I love that, great advice and  30 minutes to something manageable so I think we all can do that.  It’s a goal we can all strive for.  Thank you, Colleen. Letta, how about yourself, anything you’d like to add?

Letta: Yeah, so one of the things that as an entrepreneur a lot of times we wear several different hats and staying focused and I’m trying to move the needle forward can sometimes be a distraction in its own right. Because we are wearing so many hats and are being pulled in so many different directions. So for me, it would say that the best way is to evaluate where your business is, understand how you want to move it forward and then just do that every day. Move it forward, even if it’s a little bit. Cross something off the list every day. And that’s just kind of how KSM has grown into a success. And just like Colleen said, even if it’s just 30 minutes or even if it’s just one item, at the very least you are taking the steps to move forward. And that’s just how I stay focused.  As far as work/life balance, what’s that?

Hazel: Letta, I love that! Well said, what is that?

Colleen: It’s something totally different than it was a few weeks ago that’s for sure!

Hazel: I love that, thank you for that.  And, I agree with you, Rachel and I when we find ourselves in situations where we’re like wow that was a lot. We always say onward. That’s our mantra, onward. So, we can definitely relate to that. And Jim, how about you?

Jim: Yeah, well Letta made a good point because as an entrepreneur and a business owner she’s wearing lots of hats. I only wear 1 hat and that’s at least one work hat and that’s my business development hat. So, business development is a full-time job for me. That’s all I do. And I’m working all the time. What I learned was for me I got business by being in the right place at the right time and then I took that to the next level and thought, if I’m in a lot of places a lot of times I can speed up or shorten the sale cycle and speed up the sales. And that’s what that’s happened. It definitely increases your chances for opening doors but it’s very time consuming. As far as a balance I heard somebody about a year ago say it’s really not a balance it’s in integration. It’s not like this, trying to balance but it’s integration more like this. I am not easily distracted in my business development role because I feel like I’m doing it all the time. I know my family members would agree that I’m on all the time and it’s really tough for me to turn it off I try to be mindful when it’s family time, but it is hard for me to turn it off.

Colleen: May I share a Jim Ries story very quickly?

Hazel: Please, please.

Jim: Uh, oh.

Colleen: No, I’ve shared this story with you. So, people will call me and people who say do you know Jim Ries. Yes, I do know Jim Ries. I want to be Jim Ries. Well, what does that mean? Tell me what that means because I actually know what that kind of means so tell me what that means. Well he’s everywhere he’s everywhere he’s always on LinkedIn he’s here he’s there. That took, not a flip of a switch but 2/3 years of serious work everywhere Jim is means he’s actually somewhere and it’s not just virtual and it’s 7 in the morning to 8 o’clock at night some nights, like he just described. And so, when people say, well I want to be Jim Ries, I kind of laugh when people say that now, Jim and I can’t tell you how many people have. But because he’s consistently everywhere, now I don’t know that you need to be everywhere, Jim, people just perceive that you’re everywhere. I know that you are a lot of places, but.

Jim: It’s my twin that you see sometimes.

Colleen: But that speaks to the consistency and the consistency is what he’s been able to establish so he can have a post on LinkedIn and people now because they know him feel like he’s talking to them or he’s promoting them or give them a shout out. So, he’s done such a brilliant job of building his brand. Being seen and being visible in multiple channels at a time.

Hazel: Great, awesome stuff. Absolutely. And I will say, Jim you do wear one other hat really well that I know that you hold dear to your heart and that’s grandpa. So, that’s wonderful too.

Jim:  Plus, this hat. I wear this hat sometimes. I don’t wear as many hats as Letta, but I do wear this hat sometimes.

Rachel: Alright, so, let’s go on to the next question. I’d like to start with you, Jim. “How many new people should we try to build new connections with each week?” Now that our connections might be a little different.

Jim: Well, I can’t wait until my fellow panelists answer this I can’t put a number to this. My tongue in cheek answer is has as many as you can while remaining authentic and true to what you do. What I will say is important is to have a multifaceted marketing strategy. So, as you’ve listed in the question use phone use email use LinkedIn use video and I try to use all of that. So, a newsletter will go out via email.  But an article like I wrote today and posted today will go on LinkedIn. Then, I recorded a video with an attorney today, that will go on LinkedIn. So, maybe the others can speak better I just think you know a little bit of everything. I think there’s some great tools out there I try to use them all a little bit of each week.

Rachel: Thanks for sharing, how about you, Colleen?

Colleen: This comes up quite a bit in our coaching, so we do a lot of one-to-one coaching and particularly the sales people and so I have somebody call me a couple weeks ago and he said yeah I’m doing pretty well on LinkedIn I don’t know I don’t have that many new connections. I’m like well, how many did you reach out to? He’s like, I had a really good week, I reached out to 10 new people. Well, even if you have a 30% response rate, which is probably pretty good. That’s only 3 people, probably not enough to really build a strong pipeline. So, I think it’s really important to think about where do you need to end up. What do you need to work with in order to close business? So we really we do a lot of LinkedIn outreach for our clients Our most popular plan is 65 new LinkedIn profile outreaches per week Trying to connect them with at least 65 new people and so suddenly then if it’s 30% now we’ve got a little bit to work with and then we have some phone in there and some email in there as well. For some of our clients, it’s 125 per week. So, depending on who their audience is. So, for sales people where it’s 100% of your time, or as close as you can get to that, you’ve got to have that number There does need to be a volume play there. So. not a hundred cold calls I wouldn’t suggest but I would say you know, 80 LinkedIn connection requests or engagement through Instagram or Twitter of whatever you’re using, whatever your platform is. A few emails, a few phone calls because we have to find how people are going to respond, That’s what we’re always looking for. So, we’ve got to measure it and put some numbers to it because everybody wants to see a metric. So, I always want to know what you need to end up with and then work backwards. But I do think it’s engaging and nurturing your network and then expanding your network.

Rachel: Thank you, thanks for that advice.  And how about you Letta?

Letta: So, I’m kind of like Jim. There really is no actually number for me Through my engagement on Instagram and social media I can see the responses based off of when I put content out etc I try to be just like Colleen had mentioned earlier, very deliberate with the content that I put out, so that way I’m targeting the people that I’m trying to connect with that I want to be familiar with my brand. That’s it, there is no limit, I’d love to connect with as many people as possible. I just try to use my social media platform and I also do newsletters as well to reach my network and just engage with people that way as many people as I can that way.

Rachel: So, the overarching theme is engage engage engage with as many people as possible.

Letta: Yeah, absolutely, something Jim had said earlier about just trying to stay relevant. Continuing to stay relevant and genuine in front of the people who are your customers.

Jim: You know, can I jump in and say something because Colleen has coached me an awful lot on LinkedIn and one of the things that I learned from Colleen is that for many of us our most common thread with the rest of the universe are the people who graduated from the same college that we did. So, for example 4 weeks ago I had nothing to do on a Sunday and I reached out to all of my fellow alumni in the in major cities where we have offices and I made a lot of connections and this week one of them became a client. So, I encourage everyone who’s going to listen to this reach out to your College alumni it’s a great common thread and who wouldn’t want to connect and they might be a client or referral source one day.

Colleen: I love that that’s awesome Jim and I thought you were going to go in another direction.  May I add one more piece?

Rachel: Of course!

Colleen: COIs, we call them COIs, centers of influence so everybody on this call is the center of influence. And I always say find the centers of influence in your network and not a hundred people, ten people because those are your natural connectors and be continually networking with them. Those are the people that you know, like and trust they know, like and trust you and we talk a lot about those centers of influence and then be that center of influence in your network where you just automatically introduce people because you’re like oh you two should know one another. Because the first thing somebody does when they’re introduced by you through you, is they talk about you and that’s not a bad thing. So centers of influence like that people you went to school with those are natural affinity groups, I call them and they are rich and filled with opportunity, we just have to uncover the rocks, right? I think we’re going to be uncovering lots of new rocks moving forward and testing these different types of groups, subsets within each of our networks will be very very important.

Rachel: Thanks, Colleen, I think that’s great advice. Hazel and I have been following that advice a lot, lately and it’s been really beneficial to us. I’m glad you brought it up.

We will move to our last question.

Hazel: So our last question for the group is , “Covid-19 has forced us to leverage online meetups which we have been talking about this whole discussion. Once we’re able to move back into the office do you think you will continue to leverage on my meetings or will you shift back to in person meetings? Or, will it be a mix?”  What are your thoughts.  Letta, we can start with you.

Letta: Yeah so you know it’s funny because prior to all of this happening I thought about doing online, virtual workshops. So, just like any other entrepreneur you get nervous about new ideas and putting them out there. And, so, this situation forced my hand, to say the least. So, I am eager to do whatever this situation calls for. So if we are allowed to meet up again, absolutely I’ll do that again. If this exists for longer periods of time and this virtual reality is  a thing, or on going, then I am glad to adjust and do that as well. Combining the two sounds ideal because then you are still exposed to both sides of the market. So, I’m willing to do whatever the market  can take at this moment and I think that you have to be agile like that when you are trying to be a business owner and trying to grow your business .

Hazel: That’s great and I love you using the word agile, you have to be that way, great advice.

Jim, what would you like to add?

Jim: Well, I am very much a relationship driven person so I really miss the coffee meetings the lunch meetings I miss being across the table from people I miss being in a environment where there’s a CEO Roundtable or a peer-to-peer advisory group, I miss them greatly. However, I do think that I will carry through with some of the online meetings that I’ve established during this time and those meetings as I mentioned before, were those meetings will be the smaller small more intimate virtual meetings I also think they have to be creative. There has to be a reason for folks to want to meet virtually, so some kind of creative agenda, small intimate meetings I do think I one comment I’ve heard a lot about the virtual meetings is it saves so much, there’s no commute time to get to a CEO Roundtable or a peer advisory group.  So, I think that’s going to come into play So, I think we will diminish from where we are now with virtual meetings but for me I don’t think they’ll go away I think we’ll take the best of the best and continued them.

Hazel: Yeah, I agree, Rachel I love to meet face-to-face as well.  And I’m sure Jim also missing your Stone Mill Bakery days, right?

Jim: Yeah, not as much as they miss me.

Hazel: I’m sure. And, Colleen to end with you, I know you mentioned that you do travel Do you see that kind of diminishing? Are you going to leverage online meetings and not travel as much?

Colleen: Well, everything that was scheduled as an in-person workshop for September has moved to virtual. So, I’m now doing 3-hour workshops all about LinkedIn, virtually. And, crazy it’s working. The other interesting thing is nobody’s ever really late for the meeting. So, you know I haven’t heard anyone popping in saying, oh I’m late because of traffic and there is something really refreshing about that. I actually like it, I like in-person as well, so certainly locally we’ll obviously add that back in, but we’ve done much online over the years I’ve been on Zoom for 5 or so years that for us, it’s just made it more comfortable for everybody else to work with us that way. So, that is expanding so you know what it is a little bit easier to jump on Zoom, do it face-to-face, virtually rather than get to the airport fly, fly back and all of that. So, I kind of like it. And our largest client they incorporate a lot of travel they have pretty much said for most of this year everything will be virtual. So, I think that there will be for most of our clients that do a lot of travel they’re not beginning to plan that next step yet and I think they’re all getting comfortable and they are finding it’s saving them money and it is efficient for them. So, I think there will be a hybrid, but for a while I think this will be what we’re doing.

Hazel: Yeah the new normal, right? Well, before we conclude, I’d like to thank our panel and ask them to share their final thoughts about today’s discussion. We’ll also be sharing their contact information to our viewers. So, they can connect with you, you can connect with them.

So, Colleen, can you begin?  Your thoughts?

Colleen: So, I think my final thoughts really are a synopsis of this whole conversation today, which is, please focus on Business Development. We’ve got to get this economy back we have to get our personal economies back We have to be working and being really purposeful about building our businesses whether it’s because we’re entrepreneurs or we help drive revenue our organizations and it has to be at the forefront and you have to have a plan to do that and you have to have an accountability partner somewhere along the lines. So find that accountability partner, really work on how you show up online because that’s going to be your main means, but make sure that the business development, those calls, those emails, those connection requests get done so that you can be having good conversations because people are paying attention right now, somewhat distracted, but business is still happening. And you want to be a part of that happening, for you.

Hazel: Thank you Colleen. Letta, what would you like to add?

Letta: I was just going to say, very similar, and as an entrepreneur learning where you can develop new, just whatever you can do in order to be relevant in order to stay on top of your business and to continue to have it grow One of the this is that having the virtual workshops, I would say that the in-person workshops in my studio was about 50% of my business revenue. So, if it weren’t for the virtual workshops or the option to do the virtual workshops I’m not sure where my business would be, so being able to add something like that was absolutely important to continuing my business model and continuing with business moving forward and the response has been amazing. With everyone going online, with businesses going online, with people trying to keep their clients engaged, keep their customers engaged they are calling on small businesses like mine to do activities like candle making workshops, etc. So that way people can continue to get together and to socialize with one another. So, if you are an entrepreneur, if you are out there and you are trying to figure out ways to continuing running your business, try to think in terms of ‚”what could possibly be missing out there that people need, need access to. How can you get yourself in front of those people to give them access to the business that you have worked so hard to build. So, I would say everyone, like I said before, try to be agile, try to pivot, try to do the things necessary to continue to make your business ­­relevant and in the forefront.

Hazel: Great advice, thank you, Letta.  And Jim, your thoughts?

Jim: Thank you, so business development is a marathon not a sprint I would encourage people to take some sometime and study how they got their most recent clients let’s say for the last six months who referred them, where did they meet them do more of what works and do less of what doesn’t work. So, after you find out what works for you I still say you need to maintain your characteristics of being relevant, being authentic and being consistent with your business development activities. And that should take you from being active to being productive and they are two different things active is what your calendar looks like productive is what your numbers and revenues look like.

Hazel: Thank you Jim and with that Rachel and I want to give our panel a round of applause thank you for participating and onward.

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