I network with a plethora of business owners who are attempting to grow their businesses by increasing their sales and client base. Before every meeting I observed (as a new person to the group) their interactions with others in the room. Admittedly, they were networking but it seemed more "buddy-like" than "business-like". In other words, the focus seemed to be on how their child's recital was or who won the Viking's/Packer's game and why. Is this really networking? Fast forward 20 minutes into the meeting when it came time to give a 60-second snapshot or commercial about what they do as a business owner and who a good referral would be. They couldn't articulate it. In fact, I was quite embarrassed for them. If business owners want to increase sales, they must follow the Have, Know, Educate principles.

Have a Message-Know Your Audience-Educate Your Referral Sources.

So what do these principles have to do with growing your sales and clients? It has become painstakingly clear that many businesses (or folks representing someone else's business such as an employee or partner) do not know how to tell someone what they do or what they sell. Often times they compile about 10 different product or service references in a 60-second commercial but don't say anything about the product or services, the benefits or frankly anything passionate about their business. Here is an example (names have been changed for the purpose of this article):

Hello, I am Amber with Cuts R Us Hair Salon in Burnsville. We offer cuts, perms, colors, extensions, foils, treatments, shampoos, conditioners, blow dryers. A good referral for me is anyone with hair. I am Amber with Cuts R Us hair salon in Burnsville where we never say "oops" when we cut.

Did this example leave us feeling excited about doing business with them? Did it set them apart from other Salons? No, it left us with a bunch of items we could have read off their menu of services. The only clear message here was they offered the same thing as the Salon down the road and they don't say "oops". What is missing is their message? What is the compelling reason for which they are in business? Where is their passion? Finally, was it authentic?

Principle #1: Have an authentic and compelling message. Emphasize the reason you are in business and why. Give people a compelling reason to purchase from you instead your competitor. Articulate what sets you apart as you deliver that message. When delivering your message, do it eloquently and flawlessly. Not like this next example:

Hello, I am Bob. I've been doin' this for 5 years. Oh yeah, I should probably tell you what I'm doing. I am a Handy Man. I do just about anything except for painting and plumbing. If you know of anyone I can help, just let me know.
Earth to Bob! You can help me by telling me what type of work you do, who you do it for, whether you are licensed or not and the list goes on. Bob misses an incredible opportunity here by not giving us any indication of what types of work he does. Missed opportunities mean missed dollar signs for Bob.
One final example of a "message gone bad" is from Sarah. She has several compelling reasons to join her team and purchase her product; however, it's not authentic.

Hello, I am Sarah. I sell PDP Personal Development Products that everyone should have. I am trying to build my team so if you know of anyone who wants to join me and make millions, retire early, spend more time with their kids, travel often and have it all then call me. I was stuck in a dead-end job for years on Wall Street and knew I wanted more. I was broke, in debt and couldn't pay my mortgage. I discovered PDP and my life has changed forever and your life can too. I've been in this business for years and have made a lucrative amount of money doing it.

This is an actual example of someone I met who was trying to give their compelling message to me, but it wasn't authentic. To understand the discrepancies you would have to have known the person. If you did, you would understand that they are only 22 years-old and the particular personal development business they were referring to had only been around for just over 3 years. If she had been on Wall Street "for years" and then discovered this business and had been in it "for years", my guess is she would be a bit older. I believe that age doesn't usually matter; however, the message does and this particular message did not seem authentic. Authenticity in your message is what attracts potential clients to you. They want to know that what you have to offer is something they can use. Trust me when I say potential clients are brilliant people and they usually know what they need and they are willing to get a second opinion if they feel they are being scammed. Knowing this, decide what impact you want to have on your clients right now. Do you want the "scamming impact" or the "authenticity impact"? I choose authenticity every time.

We have talked about your compelling and authentic message and what impact you want to have, so the next question is, who do you want to have this impact on? In other words, who is your target audience?

Principle #2: Know Your Target Audience. When I was first asked who my target audience was, I panicked. After all, my target audience should be anyone who is breathing because I didn't want to limit my scope of people. Truthfully, I did not have a target audience because I did not know my message and I was using "not knowing it" as an excuse. There are two very specific reasons for knowing your target audience: 1) So I know who to share my message with and 2) so others know who (what audience) to refer to me. It is as simple as that.

For simplicity sake, I will use the KISS (Keep It Simple Silly) model. Try this: Before attending the next networking meeting or event - do your research. Is the group primarily men or women? Is the group purpose for networking or socializing or both? By now, you are probably asking why these questions matter and how this is considered simple. If you sell makeup, find a group that is primarily women to start networking with. If you fix computers, network with those who use computers. If your product or service only caters to men, then find a group that is primarily men. If you sell health and fitness products, find a group who loves the outdoors. Note: This is just a place to start. This doesn't mean that others won't buy from you. I hear from my clients on a regular basis about how tough networking is and how they dreadfully hate it. As my clients look back, they simply discover they are networking with the wrong group...so they don't do it at all. Not networking at all is like saying, "I have nothing to offer people" and not networking at all doesn't help you increase sales. Having the right message + the right target audience = opportunities. In other words, knowing what to say and who to say it to and how to say it (covered in Principle #3 below) gives you more exposure, more clients, more referrals, and more sales. So how do you get this? It is by knowing who you want to do business with. Here is an example of someone struggling to articulate his target audience:

I am Jim and I work for XYZ Garage Door Company. I do estimates, remove/replace doors and take care of disposal. A good referral for me is anyone with a garage....

In this case Jim has a much narrower field then Amber did in the above story (anyone with hair), but it still left me as his potential referrer digging for information in my brain about who might have a garage. To develop a clearer and more refined target audience, Jim could have said, "A good referral for me is someone who lives in the Birchwood Pines development that was hit by the hail storm last week." This narrows his audience and gives his potential referral sources (me and the others in the group) a person to keep an eye out for when referring. Jim eventually refined his message and articulated his target audience to the networking group and is now positioned to tell another person what he has to offer. Business owners typically do this in one of two ways. "Pitchy" or "Educate".

Principle #3: Educate Your Referral Sources. After you have refined your message and articulated your target audience you have an opportunity to build your sales force - even if you are the only employee in your business. Referral Sources are ANYONE who you talk to about your business and people choose to do this in one of two ways. They either talk about their business from the "Pitchy" perspective or the "Educate" perspective.

Imagine you've just walked on to a Used Car Sales Lot and are looking for a reliable car for your 76 year-old mom. The salesman walks over and without asking how he can help, he immediately points towards the red Ferrari which just arrived the day before and says, "You would look great in that car". That phrase is wrong on so many levels - but I'll name two. He assumed I was looking for a car for me and he never asked how he could help, he just started thinking he knew best and why I was there.

A similar and more personal story occurred when I was 37 years-old. My friend and I went shopping to buy my 12 year-old niece a birthday present. We walked into a clothing shop and noticed a Sales Associate approaching from the right. At the same time, another Sales Associate was approaching from the left. Before either reached us, the woman at the back of the store yelled (and I mean yelled because she was about 20 yards from where we were), "How can I help you?" The woman on the right began telling us about the "buy one, get one free" sale that expired the next day and how the particular sweater she was holding would look good on my friend and the woman on the left looked at me (an overweight and very jolly looking gal) and said, "Your sizes are over there". Each person made an assumption about why I was there and none of them were right. Further, the horror of being pointed towards my size when I wasn't even shopping for me was horrendous. These Sales Associates had an impact and lost a sale. In order to have an impact and gain a sale - educate people on what you do instead of trying to sell to them.
So how do you educate people in what you do? It is simple! Meet with people and ask them about their business, how they got into it and what their goals are. By simply observing what they say and how they say it is a true indication on how passionate they are about their business. If time permits during this meeting, ask for permission to share your business. If it doesn't, set up another meeting at a later time and share as though you are sharing information and not as though you are giving them a "limited time offer" promotion. Listen for what they say and whether they connect to your message and finally, determine whether they are in your target audience. If they are, make a note to follow-up in a month or so and if they are not, follow-up with them in 6 months. Either way, reconnect with them and re-discover if anything has changed.

Finally, we as business owners experience change through the years. Using the Have/Know/Educate model can help us navigate through these changes. Having a compelling and authentic message - delivered to an audience willing to hear it - in a manner that is for educational purposes can increase your clients and ultimately your business.

Author's Bio: 

Ann Boland is a sought-after Coach, Trainer and Leader in the ever-growing Personal Development, Leadership and Coaching industries. Ann's love of the outdoors and her unique, experiential style of leadership bring her work alive. Clients experience powerful, hands on, learning in a fun and down to earth way. Ann blends her wide range of intelligence, intuition and leadership skills with the specific needs of each client. Working with Ann, clients are able to access the truth of who they are, what they want in their work and personal lives, and create strategies to move forward in alignment with this vision.

Ann spent several years in a Fortune 500 company as a Training and Development expert. While there, she developed several workshops and coaching programs which taught employees how to more effectively train new people and increase customer satisfaction. Her role was coaching and training others to enhance their leadership and coaching skills. These types of programs are what launched Ann into a newer and more innovative role as a Personal Development and Leadership Coach. She had a vision and saw the value and benefit of coaching others on how to design goals, develop strategies and declare outcomes for the sake of growing themselves, their employees and ultimately their company.

Ann has a BA in Communication Studies and certification through The Coaches Training Institute, which is a world-renowned organization. This training positioned Ann to be certified through the International Coach Federation and to be held by its standards and ethical guidelines. She furthered her Leadership skills through a yearlong program with CTI. This program is far different from any leadership training offered in the corporate world. Instead of teaching people to 'manage', they truly teach people to 'lead'. Ann has designed, developed and co-lead workshops using this methodology across the country. She has created deep learning and facilitated lasting change.