Make your networking SMART – Smart Business Goals
SMART goals. I live by them. Anything I set out to do, I apply the SMART framework to. It works like a charm!
SMART goals follow a simple, yet comprehensive pattern which ensures that you have the best possible chance of achieving what you set out to do. The acronym stands for:
- S pecific – A goal that is clear, narrowly defined and will allow you to focus
- M easurable – A goal that you can clearly tick “done” when achieved
- A ttainable – A goal that is actually possible
- R ealistic – A goal that can be achieved within your own life, taking into account all the constraints you have to face
- T imely – A goal that has timed milestones
In 2013, I used the framework to help my audience make the most of CorkMEET, an international conference with over 600 attendees, with people from all over Ireland, two delegations from Bristol and Nothern Ireland as well as a group from Slovenia.
They were about to embark upon a three day mega networking blitz and I was the first speaker of the event. As somebody who has attended hundreds of events over the years, I know all too well how you can drive home afterwards full of good intentions. Then exhaustion kicks in and the urgent overtakes the importance of following up. I decided to speak to them about how SMART goals could frame their experience and help them make sure they got the most out of it, while their energy levels and expectations were high.
Firstly, what was the one overriding aim of the three days? Make it Specific. Of course, everybody would say they wanted “more business”, let’s take that as a given, but how do you actually want to go about that? What does “more business” mean to you, in detail?
“For example,” I asked, “there are several international and foreign owned businesses in the room, do you want to use this opportunity to start building your soft export approach? Do you want to meet new people, with a view to identifying if they are a prospect, following up and subsequently turning them into customers? Do you want to take a look at the attendee list, and work out an approach to meet certain people in a certain industry, existing clients or pivotal decision makers? Are you here simply to get some time off from working in the business, need headspace to get new ideas and consider your strategic direction? Did you sign up for this event to sharpen your sales pitch, overcome a fear of striking up conversation and to build your networking skills? The point is that each one of the above will lead to “more business”, but if you focus on just one of them, you can be far more effective.”
“The next thing to do is to Measure how exactly you’re going to execute this plan. For example, if you’re currently turning one in every three leads into a customer and you want to find ten new customers, you need to meet thirty new leads or improve your conversion rate. If you want to expand into the Slovenian market, you need to create as many meetings as possible with the businesses who comprise that delegation. You also need to look at the wider opportunities that may not be apparent – could you write an article about your experience, put it out on social media and invite your new contacts to share it? Could you approach the organisers about speaking at a future event? How many meetings can you realistically fit into the time that you have?
“This brings us neatly into the arena of Attainable and Realistic. As one enters an exhibition or conference, they’re fresh, looking forward to all that could happen and the people they will meet. After two days of high-energy networking, your mind in overdrive trying to spot opportunities and the potential late night along the way, on the third day, you may be absolutely exhausted and simply want to curl up with a coffee and your e-mail. Therefore, it’s important to think about what your actual capacity is and match it up with your measurable specific goal. Over the next three days, the attendees were going to have at least six meetings scheduled in the facilitated networking slots and there is the possibility that one person may not show up. There are two coffee breaks, lunch, dinner and an impromptu opportunity while queuing on the way in. This makes ten realistic possibilities to meet a lead and make a contact.”
“The last part of this process is to actually schedule in the time to follow up, not just assume that it will happen.” This was the Timely element. It was incredibly important that the people in the room actually made time in their diaries to allow the return on their time invested to happen. They needed to schedule a half day during the week afterwards to send e-mails, LinkedIn invitations, make the introductions that they promised, etc. If they were going to ask people to meet them for coffee, they should have time slots clearly marked out in advance to facilitate this. In the new international business relationships that would develop, they would need to create time to have phone conversations and conference calls. Finally, out of respect to themselves and their time, I suggested earmarking an hour, exactly one month later, to review their progress. It was then, and only then, with no effort spared, that they could decide what the impact of that conference had been.
This may sound like a lot of work, but take it from somebody who has learned the hard way through wasted time and money: this is the most effective way to make the best effort at, and generate the best results from, any endeavour. It eliminates procrastination and propels you forward while stacking the odds of success in your favour. You might think “Well with that much work gone into it, no wonder this formula works! It had better!” I can give you the framework that will speed up the process, but only you can put in the hours. And guess what? When you put in the hours, results are 100% sure to follow.
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