Four Proven Steps To Networking

By Tom Perkins

As a certified personal trainer and a business development coach, Tom Perkins works with personal training departments, fitness professionals and management of health clubs in the areas of sales, marketing, and promotion; operations and administration and staffing and human resource management. With six startups in 15 years under his belt and more than 20 years of working with the fitness industry, Tom leads companies to profitability through Fitness Industry Solutions.

Networking is an often underestimated but powerful business tool. Motivational speaker Bob Burg summed it up best by saying, "It isn't just what you know, and it isn't just who you know. It's actually who you know, who knows you and what you do for a living." If you can develop the ability to effectively network, you open a door to a potentially endless stream of new members at your fitness facility.

First and foremost, it is important to remember that networking is not about telling anyone who will listen about your facility and what you do or is it handing out business cards to everyone from your landscaper to your day care provider. It’s about the quality of the contact. Here are a few surefire tips to effective networking.

Be prepared. Networking, like most aspects of business, is about planning and strategy. Before you run out and start networking, have a strategy in place. Take some time to plan your networking activities. Start by answering these three basic questions:

  • Who is my ideal prospect?
  • How will I recognize them?
  • What do I have that they may want?

Additionally, you should be able to tell someone exactly what you do in 15 to 30 seconds. Think of it as a type of audio-style business card. Rehearse in your mind what your answer will be when someone asks you, “what do you do?” First impressions do count. If you are going to hem and haw and stutter, that’s what they are going to remember. Chances are they aren’t going to have a lot of confidence in you or your business if you can’t confidently convey what you do for a living. Also remember that your spiel is about you and the benefits of your facility. It’s not about selling someone on your services right there on the spot or about expecting to close a sale. If you think that’s going to happen, then you will be sorely disappointed. That is not what networking is.

Finally, identify groups and/or people that are most likely to attract either your ideal members and clients or those who already have access to your ideal members and clients. A little investigative work can save you a lot of time, energy and possible frustration on a group that doesn’t match your needs. There are several great organizations, clubs and events that are geared specifically to the fitness industry or to attracting the type of client interested in fitness. Focus your efforts on finding and exploring these groups first.

Gather information. When you meet someone who you may consider to be a potential prospect, focus the initial meeting on gathering his or her information instead of dispensing yours. This means collecting not only their contact information but also as much information about their business, their concerns, any business needs that are not currently being addressed and where you may potentially be able to help them. Once you have this information, enter it into your contact manager or database for future reference.

Lay the foundation for a relationship. On any given day, most of us are running around just trying to get it all done. What are the chances that we remember the name of everyone we meet in a single day a month from now? The answer would be slim to none unless you’ve got a killer memory. The same goes for a prospect. People tend to have short memories. Therefore, you need to follow up after your initial meeting and continue to on a regular basis.

The followup and ongoing contact does not have to be elaborate or lengthy, just something that will keep you in your prospect’s thoughts. For example, a letter, e-mail, e-zine or newsletter will usually do the trick. Dazzle them with your expertise and/or showcase what you can do for them. However, focus on keeping it short and relevant. Like you, their time is valuable.

Have patience. The benefits of networking do not appear overnight. That is why your followup is so important. Networking is about building relationships, which take time, effort and energy to build. The good news is that if handled correctly, it will be well worth it.

Finally, be sure you also have a system in place for evaluating the effectiveness of your networking endeavors. After about six months of consistent networking, take a step back and review what you’ve accomplished. Prepare to modify your plans as needed and move forward with building those great networking opportunities.