Written by Sandy Donovan, BNI Executive Director
A while back, I held aÂ meeting with some of my colleagues where we went around the table sharing who each person’s dream client would be.Â Something specific.Â The type of client who would make your year, if you had the opportunity to earn his or her business. I pushed each colleague to be more specific:Â Tell me which company, tell me the name of the contact you would love the introduction to â€” make your dream so clear that every person at this table will walk away being able to share that dream referral with anyone.
So one by one, all began to share the specifics, the name of the contact, the company, all of the details that painted a picture of their dream clients.Â And so we planted the seeds of dreams that became reality for a few of us.
The dream client of Diana, one of my colleagues, was Waterview Properties, a prominent property-management company with offices here in Florida, as well as in several other states.Â Diana, who owned an IT company, would need to meet Waterview’s HR director for this introduction. Having this account would make her year and probably many to follow, as well as boost the credibility of her client list.Â At the time, I didn’t have any personal connections at Waterview Properties, but the description she gave of her dream client was so clear and concise, that it stayed with me.
Two years later, my seven-year-old on startedÂ his first year of flag football, his first big step into organized sports.Â At practice each week, as we parents on the sidelines cheered our kids, we’d laugh and talk and get to know each other better. Which sounds an awful lot like…networking!Â Our own our personal form of networking. And this is where I met and befriended Debbie, whose husband was one of the coaches. Debbie and I would sit next to each other during each practice and have a great time together while watching our sons and daughters.
Near the end of the season, after countless flag football practices and weekend games, we talked about getting our families together â€” we’d had too much fun together all season to let this all end with the final game.Â So I invited Debbie and her husband over one Sunday for a casual meal and to watch football.Â It was a great afternoon and before Debbie and her husband left, she and IÂ made plans for a girl’s lunch.Â No kids or husbands, just some time to hang out together.Â I knew she worked in the area, so I figured we’d meet at a local restaurant.Â For the first time, I asked her, “Debbie, where do you work?”
“I work over at Waterview Properties.”Â she said.
Hmm…Waterview Properties. That sounded familiar.Â Oh, right!Â That was the company Diana had told me about a while back. Her dream client!
I asked Debbie what she did at Waterview.
“I’m the HR Director,”Â she said.
Huh? No way.Â This was not just the company, but the exact person Diana had been looking to be introduced to. Diana’s dream client was sitting right in front of me, and we were becoming close friends. This was unbelievable!
“Debbie,” I said, “you’re not going to believe this, but one of theÂ people I work with told me that you were the person that she most wanted to meet â€” that Waterview Properties was her dream client!”
Debbie started laughing and said, “I can’t believe I’m anyone’s dream anything! I’m flattered.”
With that, Debbie asked me about Diana and her company.Â As it turned out, Waterview PropertiesÂ was becoming frustrated with its current IT company and Debbie was more than happy to meet with Diana to find out more about hers, to see if Diana’s IT company would be a good fit for Waterview’s needs.
The upshot: Diana’s IT company got the account and, several years later is still the IT provider for Waterview Properties.Â Debbie and I remain close friends and laugh about what a small world it is.
And it is a small world.Â Nevertheless, at the end of the day, networking at its very best is natural.Â It’s organic. It’s not staged or “set up.”Â Nobody is “playing” anybody.Â It’s people meeting people.Â Investing time and energy to get to know and hopefully, like them. Then it’s adding value to their lives.Â I know.Â It sounds too simple. But I’ve always found that when thingsÂ feel simple, when they flow the most smoothly, that’s how you know you’re doing it right.
Sandy Donovan is the Executive Director of BNI for Palm Beach and Southeast Florida.Â She is also the Executive Director of Network University, which she founded in 2009.Â As a contributing author to two New York Times Best-Selling books, Masters of Networking and Masters of Sales, Donovan has had the opportunity to share her knowledge and experience with a global audience.Â She is a professional speaker and trainer, and lives in Palm Beach County with her husband, John, and their two children.
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