Tuesday, 30 September 2008 17:00

Franklin--‘Never-eat-alone’ is Good Metaphor for Networking Strategy

Written by Tom Franklin
Quite a few shop owners oppose DRPs and don’t wish to participate. But I have observed that all of the most prosperous shops I have visited (and those are many) have several DRPs. I’ve also noted that most requests for marketing assistance start with a request to obtain DRP status for the shop.

I’ve observed many shops jump through the hoops: getting applications, taking photos and submitting the applications, making follow-up calls, sending follow-up letters and newsletters. I’ve noticed this is generally a waste of time. Most insurance companies selected their local DRP shops long ago and will only add a new one if the old one is grossly fraudulent, goes out of business, or changes hands.
    But there have been exceptions. Recently I noticed a small shop that had been open for less than a year, had a very limited facility with an old spray booth and frame machine, and yet obtained a highly desired DRP contract. By any stretch of the imagination, this shop should not have expected a moment’s consideration based on its facility and capabilities, but somehow it got the coveted contract. How could that happen?

Secret to getting special treatment

In 2005, Doubleday published a book by Keith Ferrazzi, entitled “Never Eat Alone.” I’ve read about Ferrazzi before in the January, 1991, issue of Inc. Magazine. He is considered the most effective networker in the country, if not in the world. He has on his Rolodex the names and phone numbers of some of the world’s most powerful movers and shakers, most of whom will return his calls and know him by name.
    The story of how he got to this special position is worth reading about, but for now the important thing is to see how he would get a shop owner in touch with whoever could hand him or her the desired DRP or other powerful referral status.
    The Inc. Magazine article was entitled “The Ten Secrets of a Master Networker.” These ten “secrets” (actually “rules”) with a little customization for the collision industry may provide exactly what a shop owner needs—if he or she is willing to pay the price! In this article we only have time for a few of his “secrets,” but his book is widely available if you want the full story.

Have a clear idea of wants and needs

Ferrazzi says, “Don’t network just to network.” A number of shop owners belong to networking groups like LeTip, or the local Chamber of Commerce where they have “mixers”—opportunities to mix and exchange business cards. Ferrazzi suggests this is usually superficial and generally a waste of time.
    One must first decide exactly who needs to be contacted to reach a very specific goal. Would knowing the president or CEO of an insurance company increase   chances to get a DRP? Where would you be likely to meet this person? And if a lesser executive would do to get your result, where would you meet him or her? And if it’s unlikely that you could meet this person on your first try, who could provide you with his or her e-mail address or cell phone number?
    If you have the answers to a few of these questions, you may be ready to plan a strategy to eventually meet the mover and shaker who can grant your wish.

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Build a database of specific names
Continues Ferrazzi, “I’m constantly ripping out lists in magazines.” What magazine (or websites) would list the names (and possibly contact information) of top insurance (or other referral source) executives? Obviously insurance industry publications may have this information, but also consider yachting magazines and perhaps even high performance automobile publications.
    This article notes that Ferrazzi has more than 5,000 names in his database, categorized by those he knows and those he intends to know. Since he travels widely, he also cross references them by region and calls everyone on that regional list when he’s in the area. This follows his rule to always stay in touch.
    Although quality of person is obviously important to him, he also values quantity. Sometimes you may have to meet and develop a relationship with numerous lower level people before you can get an introduction to your top target person.

Never eat alone
This is the title of his new book and also the fourth rule. If I had to capture the central idea of his book in a couple of sentences, I would say it is: Never settle for a superficial relationship if you hope to benefit in the long run.
    Take the time to really get to know each person in what should be a planned community of helpers. He suggests finding out what interests you have in common with each key person and how you might contribute to causes and organizations he or she prefers.
    Many shop owners get to know insurance adjusters, agents, and sometimes claims office personnel. You may do this already, but how deeply do you know these people? Do higher level local insurance executives belong to a local Lions Club, Rotary Club, Kiwanis or other fraternal organization? Once you know someone you would like to meet belongs to such an organization, do you have the time to join it? And go to regular meetings?
    Shop owners are busy people. Most would say they absolutely do not have the time to “never eat alone.” Not if it means extended lunches away from the shop. But there are also suppers and weekend events and more.
    Many shop owners hire a professional marketing person for this purpose, but employees come and go. No one but the top person in a company can hope to build an effective long-term relationship of this kind where there has to be give as well as take at a comparable level.
    Ferrazzi lays down a sure-fire approach to building high-level relationships that will eventually lead to hard-to-get business deals, but are you willing to pay the price?

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