If you operate your own business, chances are high that you are also responsible for bringing new clients in, a position otherwise known as “the rainmaker.”

Unfortunately, however, sales may not be your greatest skill.

For all meeting and event planners—and owners of an independent meeting planning company, especially—developing and leveraging a business network is critical to success.

7 Strategies for Network Building

Following are seven strategies to increase your leads and bring in more clients:

1. “You don’t have a network” is a myth!

You may not be the most extroverted person on Earth, but you do have a network.

Think about the people with whom you studied, your former colleagues, your friends from your sports or religious affiliation, the people you volunteer with, etc.

You know at least 50 people. Now, realize that each of those 50 people individually knows another 50 people. That means you already have a network of 2,500 people!

2. What do you do?

The million-dollar question. I’m sure you have been asked that question a thousand times and you know you will be asked that question by every potential prospect you will encounter.

So, what do you do? I’m guessing you don’t have a proper answer yet, so before going to my next point, stop and write down YOUR answer. Oh, and now that you are at it, make sure you express your message in terms of benefits for your customers.

What’s in it for them? Why should they work with you? Which pains are you going to cure?

3. Who is involved in the buying decision?

According to business research and consultancy company Gartner, within companies with 100 to 500 employees an average of seven persons are involved in most buying decisions.

So, if you have convinced one person, you have an approximately 15 percent chance of winning the business. When you are prospecting make sure to ask the question about who is involved in the buying decision and make sure you are speaking to the right person.

4. How is your presence on social media?

According to Forbes, 78 percent of salespeople using social media outsell their peers. Are you present on social media? Which social media channels do you prefer?

Let me offer one idea: You don’t have the time and the resources to be present in all channels, so pick your fight. Where are your prospects? What do they read?

Whether it is LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook or Twitter, decide which one you are going to be more present on and work it consistently.

5. Persistence.

About half of salespeople give up after one “no,” while 80 percent of prospects say “no” four times before saying “yes.” That means that only a small percentage of salespeople are getting most of the business. Don’t be discouraged with a “no!” You may not know the real reasons.

It is much more important to not burn bridges and maintain relationships.

6. Do you ask for referrals?

This is the most mind-boggling statistics of all. According to Dale Carnegie, more than 90 percent of customers say they would give referrals—but only just over 10 percent of salespeople ask for those referrals! Isn’t that crazy? So, who do you know that could give you a referral and which current or former clients can you reach out to for such a referral?

[Meetings Today Blog: What If I Don't Want to Be Promoted?]

Yes, word of mouth is still the easiest and strongest way to develop a business. More than ever, people trust their peers in their buying decision more than anything else.

7. Consistency.

Along with persistence, consistency is one of the two most important critical success factors. Whether it is posting regular updates on social media or having regular touchpoints with your customers and prospects, those who are the most consistent will win in the long term. Going back to your network, imagine that you block one hour per day to reach out to four people.

That is 20 people per week, 80 per month and 800 per year if you work 10 months per year.

How many hours per day are currently blocked in your calendar for reaching out to clients and prospects? It is so easy yet most of us don’t do it—yet.

Enjoy your network and developing your business.

Carpe diem noctem que (seize the day and night!).

Independent Life is a monthly column by meetings industry veteran and author Eric Rozenberg, who writes about the challenges and opportunities of being an independent planner.

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