Being relatively new to the (sometimes daunting) world of entrepreneurship, I've learned a lot in the past year namely how building a funnel is extremely important to the process of generating leads and forming genuine business connections.
Here are 5 key things that have helped me grow my funnel extremely quickly (by quickly I mean I've added about 40 connections on Linkedin and 15 connections on Facebook over the past 3 weeks).
If you're currently a volunteer, then you already know the answer as to why we really give away our time: volunteering is cathartic (you're helping people who truly need it), and it can also be extremely rewarding. As a volunteer @ FreeGeek Vancouver, I've formed some incredible and genuine connections which have blossomed into friendships, business opportunities and more. When you give to your community, your community gives back!
But remember, you shouldn't expect anything in return. When you volunteer, go in with an open mind and make sure you're committed to helping. Volunteering isn't just a one-off run to your nearest donation bin; it's a continuous investment of your time along with a strong desire to help other people. Watering those genuine connections is just as important as growing them.
Lastly, pick something you enjoy doing - I volunteer @ FreeGeek because I run a tech company. What's easy for me (tech support) isn't so easy for other people, so they really appreciate me giving my time. If you're good at art, then volunteer at an art class. If you're good at listening, then volunteer to spend time with elderly people. See? It's not so hard!
2. Join a networking group (or three)
This one sounds obvious but it really isn't. I personally know so many business owners who either don't join business groups period, or they join a group but don't actually put aside the time to get out there and attend the events. I've personally seen my social network start to explode after joining the Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce. Other networking groups include BNI, ConnectNow and of course the various splinter groups on Meetup. I'm even thinking about trying Shapr soon - I just haven't had time in between all the meetings I've been putting together with the people I've already met! Get out there and meet people!
3. Find a mentor
Are you an introvert like I am? One of the easiest places to start is with people you already know. Reach out to your connections on LinkedIn / Facebook / Twitter and start hanging out with them, especially the ones you already know and respect from working with them in the past. One of my mentors is 67 years young, and yet technically savvy, plus an inspiring and great connection. Even more interesting is that it had actually been a couple of years since we last connected, but I reached out to him and it turns out he was actually very interested in teaching young entrepreneurs like myself. How amazing is that?
4. Get rid of your filters
This one is harder than it sounds. I don't just mean dropping judgement temporarily while you go out and shake hands with people. I mean be genuinely interested in them, even if you don't think you can benefit from it. Here's why: when you form great connections, they can always refer business your way (and vice-versa). After all, the key of this article is to show you how you can get as many people into your funnel as possible. Think about it: A plumber or a landscaper doesn't have much use for an IT company now, do they? But the next time Bob the Plumber is working for one of his clients who runs a big accounting firm, and his client says to him "We had a massive computer meltdown at work today", Bob will say "Oh yeah? I know a guy who can help with that!" - especially if you're referring people in your own circle to Bob in return. It's the circle of connections! Isn't it wonderful?
5. Expand your side gig
Do you have a side gig? Not sure where to begin? It's exactly what it sounds like: Find something you're good at besides work and double your efforts on that. For instance when I'm not focused on Perfect Leap, I enjoy investing / trading stocks on the side. I've taken a few courses, and while I'm not a professional trader, it turns out I'm actually getting pretty good at it. Not only does this give me a bit of an extra income stream (which helps a lot when you're a starving entrepreneur), but it's also led to a bunch of stock traders and business owners in the mining sector adding me on their social networks. It could even be connecting with other people over a hobby you enjoy, like rock climbing or watching weird movies. And as I mentioned in tip #4, a connection is a connection right?