Traverse City Record-Eagle

Business

October 21, 2012

Doug Luciani: It's still 'Who you know'

The Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce will host its annual Economic Outlook Breakfast and Business Expo next month. More than 1,300 people will attend the Expo, where 140 vendors will highlight their unique goods and services.

Another 1,000 people will be at the Chamber's Annual Dinner in January. Two thousand people will attend Chamber Business After Hours events in 2012. Nearly 1,000 will attend Small Business Celebration events next year.

Chamber boards and committees will see another 500 attendees, and nearly 800 young professionals will attend the plethora of events and functions developed by them and for them, culminating in an annual conference Oct. 23.

There are dozens of ways to connect and build profitable relationships, touching 5,000 people or more just via the TC Area Chamber.

With more than 1,300 nonprofit organizations and thousands of private companies offering community events, there are countless opportunities to connect in Grand Traverse County alone.

There is a difference, though, between going to events and connecting at events. Similarly, there is a difference between building relationships and building profitable relationships.

Some ways to make your participation count include the following:

-- Let the meeting host know you'll be attending, even if an RSVP isn't required.

-- Join the organization hosting the event or, if the event is for a cause, write a check.

-- Dress appropriately. If unsure what to wear, contact the event host.

-- Arrive early and greet people as they arrive, introducing yourself.

-- Mingle. It is tempting to stick with a person who is interesting, but you do them and yourself a favor by moving on.

-- Don't try to close a deal at an event. It happens sometimes — that's a bonus — but usually people aren't looking to close at an event.

-- Exchange business cards after you've taken the time to listen to the other person and establish a rapport. People need to know you have a sincere interest in them and/or their business.

-- Follow up on leads ASAP. Do this personally, using a handwritten note if possible and suggesting a follow-up meeting or a cup of coffee, if appropriate.

-- Don't mass mail follow-ups. Such correspondence is easily detected and just as easily discarded.

-- Be respectful and kind to people who follow up with you. Take time to consider their product and to respond. What goes around comes around.

-- Most importantly, make the ask. It is often the most difficult thing to do, but without the ask, there is no "profitable" in "relationship."

-- Don't be afraid to make a big ask. You can always scale down, but rarely will a prospect scale up what they're willing to spend.

-- Finally, don't burn your bridge. Even if rejected, continue to work on your relationship with a potential prospect. Getting to "profitable" can sometimes take years. Be patient.

Opportunities to build profitable relationships via the Chamber are listed on our website at tcchamber.org. If you are a member of another chamber or organization, it probably has its information online as well.

Doug Luciani is president and CEO of the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce.

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