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Start in your own local community. Look first to see if there is already a networking group or business leads group running. Search the newspapers for the community calendar, Here, you will learn about meetings, their times, and locations. Join these existing groups and become an active member. Expect to pay dues of $50 to $200 a quarter to belong. These dues usually include a breakfast meal. Paying $200 a quarter is cheap when you look at the potential sales that can come from joining. Stick with it too. If after a quarter you don't seem to get anything from going, stick with it for another quarter just to make sure. I belonged to my first networking group for one year before I really started receiving referrals. This type of business comes with trust and trust can take some time to develop.
Usually these groups are made up of one representative from each type of profession (to eliminate competition within the group). Check to see if your profession is available. Remember that the power of these groups is that you have the audience of 10 - 20 professionals every week or month. These individuals become your sales people. Sooner or later, they are going to tell people about you. Referrals that are made by people we know and trust are the most successful. These leads are always the easiest for me to turn into sales.
Do you consider yourself a good leader? Do you not have any networking groups in your area? Consider starting your own! What you need to do is contact a number of other business owners you know and see if they would be interested in starting a referral group. The goals of the group would be to generate qualified leads for others in the group by an education process that occurs at each weekly meeting. Meet each week for 1 hour (usually around a meal - 7:30 a.m. times are popular) and the meeting goes something like this:
After the first couple of weeks, many groups go through a "blah" period. Perfectly normal. Try to spark things up by bringing in a speaker on sales or plan a social event on a weekend with spouses and/or children. Make referral and new member goals to give the group something to work toward. Every week fax out an agenda to the members with last week's minutes and encourage attendance. Have a pizza party and go door-to-door in surrounding business offices, inviting owners to a free lunch to get to know your group.
The group that I formed in my little town has been running for over a year now and has between 18 and 22 members at any given time. We usually exceed our quarterly goal of 80 referrals and have a good time at quarterly social events with our spouses. It is a mixed group of men and women from very different professions. I am not a morning person. The work I have received from the group has more than offset the fact that we meet at 7:30 a.m. every Wednesday morning.
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