Man, oh man, do I like breakfast!
There’s nothing better to me than three eggs, tons of bacon, and a few pancakes smothered with butter and REAL maple syrup. Well, maybe nothing better EXCEPT being able to share this deliciousness with another person.
Back in 2010, just as the economy was beginning its long road to recovery, I was having difficulty figuring out how to grow my business back to pre-recession levels. Thanks to a reasonable savings plan, I narrowly survived the financial hit but lost many of my clients due to their battle with personal financial struggles.
The clients I worked with were still fans, but I wasn’t top-of-mind when hanging out with other people who might need my services. My friends knew what I did, but they assumed that everyone else did as well. I needed a plan to get back “out there” in front of people to let them know that a.) I was still in business, and b.) I’d love an opportunity for introductions to anyone they knew who could use my help.
There was one problem... I HATED NETWORKING.
So I created a tasty solution...
My Networking Secret Weapon: Friday Breakfast Club
Living in small-town, rural Colorado for the last 10 years, I felt like I KNEW EVERYONE and everyone KNEW ME, so the idea of networking groups, speed networking, etc., seemed absurd. Because of this, the mere idea of networking groups, speed networking, etc., seemed absurd. Putting myself into yet another environment to pitch my coaching made me want to vomit.
So instead of networking “meetings,” I decided to try spending more time with people one-on-one. As I started reaching out to people to schedule meetings, I was constantly asked, “why do you want to meet with me?” Of course. I would tell them that I wanted to tell them about my business and services and that, OF COURSE, I would only take a few minutes of their time.
I faced every objection you could expect...
- “Um, could you just send me some literature?”
- “I’m pretty busy. Could you tell me what it is that you do right now?”
- “Chad, I’ve known you for 10 years. I already KNOW what you do.”
It was a frustrating endeavor, to say the least, and my efforts yielded very few actual meetings.
Why wouldn’t anyone meet with me? What was I doing wrong?
One day as I was telling my wife about a challenge that I was having getting a meeting with a certain person named John that owned a successful company in town, she asked me if I knew anything about John’s son with Down’s Syndrome. I said to her, “John has a son with Down’s Syndrome? I didn’t even know he HAD a son.” Her response was typical of my no-nonsense wife, “Well, I guess that maybe you should try and get to know him a little better!”
Boy, was she right! I spent so much time telling people about ME that I wasn’t getting to know THEM. I was selfish and “salesy,” and that’s why people didn’t want to spend time with me. My approach led them to believe (rightfully) that I didn’t really care about them but that I was only interested in selling them my stuff.
And that’s when it hit me. Instead of trying to get meetings with as many people as possible each week to pitch my services, I was going to schedule ONE breakfast meeting each Friday with the sole purpose of simply getting to know another person a little more deeply. Breakfast on a Friday was non-threatening, and it gave us enough time to really connect.
I went to my calendar and scheduled out Fridays from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. every week for the next year. The calendar entry read, “Friday Breakfast Club.”
I made myself a simple promise: I would not tell people anything about me unless they asked, and I set about making phone calls and emails and text messages that went something like this:
“Hey John, we’ve ‘known’ each other for quite some time now, but I just realized that I don’t really know all that much about you. I was wondering if you’d like to have breakfast next Friday? No agenda at all. I just feel like we’ve got some things in common and that it would be fun to get to know each other a little better.”
And wouldn’t you know it, people started saying “yes.”
Sure, some people still didn’t “get it” and wanted to know why I really wanted to meet, but I assured them that my motives were pure and that, yes, I really did want to get to know them better. And I backed that up during our breakfasts. I made it my sole mission to ask questions about my companion until they almost literally had to interrupt me to ask me questions about myself. I got SO ENGAGED in them that, oftentimes, I wasn’t even prepared to answer simple questions like, “What is it that you do, exactly?”
Now you might think that all of this question-asking detracted from my purpose of networking to grow my business, but here’s where you’d be wrong:
Over the course of a year…that’s 52 breakfast meetings. I grew my business from 4 clients to 12, and I did NO OTHER MARKETING OR NETWORKING.
Just a simple breakfast meeting once each, I think anyone would call that a success!
So here’s the simple formula:
- Schedule time in your calendar each week for your own “Friday Breakfast Club.”
- Each week send out a version of my script from above via phone call, email, or text message, until you get a “yes” for the following week.
- When you’re having breakfast, make sure that you’re spending as much time as possible asking the other person about themselves.
- Resist talking about yourself until they ask. And don’t worry - they ALWAYS ask.
Oh, and I recommend ordering three eggs over medium, bacon, and pancakes with REAL MAPLE syrup. And lots of butter.