Today’s guest is Erica Caster, “The Queen of Results“. In this episode we discuss tips and strategies around networking, particularly if you tend toward being introverted.
For over two decades, Erica Castner has helped business owners and service providers improve their communication skills to find, connect, and convert their ideal clients. From climbing the corporate ladder to entrepreneurship, needless to say, she is not a stranger to the professional development world.
Erica teaches a proven system to enhance productivity, presence and partnerships in business and her strategies are designed to help business professionals attract quality referral partners which ultimately leads to more quality clients.
Erica is one of the most generous people I know. You’ll learn why as you listen to this epsiode. You’ll want to join her tribe and get her advice and the goodness that comes in the way she shares.
In today’s episode you’ll learn:
- What are the biggest impediments that keep people from networking?
- Is it possible to do networking if you’re an introvert, and how?
- How do online networking and offline networking fit together?
- Should you do networking with end users or with people who could refer to you?
- Who are those strategic partners for your specific goals?
Narrator: Welcome to The Sustainable Business Radio Show podcast where you’ll learn not only how to create a sustainable business but you’ll also learn the secrets of creating extraordinary value within your business and your life. In The Sustainable Business, we focus on what it’s going to take for you to take your successful business and make it economically and personally successful. Your host, Josh Patrick, is going to help us through finding great thought leaders as well as providing insights he’s learned through his 40 years of owning, running, planning and thinking about what it takes to make a successful business sustainable.
Josh: Hey, how are you today? This is Josh Patrick. You’re at The Sustainable Business podcast.
My guest today is a repeat offender. We like repeat offenders here in the The Sustainable Business. Her name is Erica Queenie Castner. She is an expert on networking. The reason I like to have Erica come back and visit us from time to time is that I hate networking and I always need someone here to remind me that networking doesn’t have to be something that’s evil. Why don’t we bring in Erica and we can start conversation?
Hey, Erica, how are you today?
Erica: Hey, Josh. I’m super. Thanks for having me back as one of your repeat offenders. I love it.
Erica: It’s so fun. Yeah, I’m glad we’re talking about networking especially for those that are not caring about networking or think it is an evil task. Hopefully, I will shed some light on why it’s not so evil and how it can be beneficial to your biz.
Josh: We all know that we should be talking to other people and we don’t. We don’t like talking about ourselves. What are the biggest impediments that you see that keep people from having those sort of conversations?
Erica: That’s a great question. I think a lot of it boils down to, at the end of the day, human nature. We all want to feel validated. And so, if there is this chance that getting into a conversation with somebody is going to open up a door where somebody’s going to shut us down, they’re not going to have the time for us for whatever reason. It might not have anything to do with us but if there is a little glimmer of like “that person is going to shut down my ask.” There’s that fear factor right behind getting involved with relationships – business relationships that could be lucrative. The biggest factor that I see or the impediment, to use your word, is that fear factor.
The other aspect is that they just don’t know where to start. For a lot of us, the thought of going out there and building a relationship with somebody new in the business context, if we’re talking about that today, it’s so overwhelming because— especially if they have a service like what you provide. Your service, although it’s niched down, if you thought about it– like if there were somebody that were walking into your world and wanted to utilize your services, you probably take them on even if they weren’t specifically in your niche. You’d figure out a way to work with them. I think a lot of people will get into this networking rat race where they’ll think anybody and everybody is their client. If they just take it down a notch and start talking to their strategic partners or likely strategic partners, it doesn’t make the process so overwhelming.
Josh: Yeah. I actually am one of those people who, if it’s not in my niche, I’ll be happy to have a conversation with them but I’m not going to take them on as a client. I don’t think anybody else should either but that’s a whole different conversation.
Erica: Right. That’s repeat offender 3.0, right?
Josh: Right, right.
Erica: That’s another conversation for another time.
Josh: Yes. I don’t know, do you remember the movie Ground Hog Day?
Josh: Do you remember the people that kept running away from Bill Murray during the movie because he was an ABC guy, which stands for “always be closing”.
Erica: Yup, always be closing.
Josh: Yes. I think that might be part of the problem that we have with networking is that people think that networking is about selling. I bet you probably have an opinion on that.
Erica: As I’m shaking my head, could you tell [laughs]?
Josh: I have no idea.
Erica: You have no idea, right? Captain obvious [inaudible 00:04:12].
Josh: I have no idea whatsoever.
Erica: Well, of course, I think that that is, again, one of those conditioning things.
I remember back in the day when I was new work to networking. We’re going back in 2005. I was already 10 years into my career but I had always been used to being on the— I was in the corporate retail space. The companies that I had represented were big giants like Lancome Cosmetics, Victoria’s Secret, Dillard’s. There were a lot of retailers that had millions of dollars to drive clients into the storefront. My number one job, when I was in those stores, was to make sure once the client got there, I pointed them in the right direction.
In the service world though, however, when I shifted into that service-based world, it became really evident that I had to go into that, “Oh, well, now, I have to sell myself. I have to talk about my service and my business because my storefront isn’t tattooed on my forehead.” Those were a lot of the mistakes that I used to make too because it was just like, “Well, how else are people going to know that I do XYZ as a service unless I constantly talk about it?”
I learned the painful way that, again, people are going to be more apt to run away from you instead of staying with you. I learned rather quickly that it was really more about me going out there and asking questions. Josh, you’re brilliant at asking questions, getting people to open up, learning more about what they’re up to. When you can get really good at this– I’m talking to the audience now, when you can get really good at asking questions and inviting a deeper conversation you’ll know intuitively where to take the next steps in those conversations. If it’s a sales conversation, awesome. If it’s just a continued to be a service conversation, then that’s okay too.
Josh: When you first meet somebody at a networking opportunity, whether it be a networking event or just in a random conversation— I just had a random conversation with a neighbor who happens to own a hair salon. She was interested in some stuff that I was talking about but I didn’t talk about me. I spent the first half an hour of the conversation only asking her questions so I could understand what she was doing and what her pain points are. Now, to me, that’s a comfortable way to network. I didn’t feel like I was selling. I just felt like we were having a conversation.
Now, I’m really good in those small one-on-one sort of things. I absolutely despise large events. I am like, I want to go sit in the corner, take out my iPad and read a book and pretend nobody else is around.
Erica: You’re not the only one my friend.
Josh: I know I’m not the only one because there are lots of introverts in the world. If you’re an introvert and you know you should be networking but you just can’t even get close to doing it, do you have any tips? I need some badly.
Erica: Okay. Well, let’s see. How long is this interview, Josh? We can— no, I’m just kidding [laughs].
Well, let me talk about probably one of the more impactful ones. I’m here to say that there’s power in not necessarily going to major massive events. Josh, you know a little bit about my history. I used to work in the chamber of commerce space. That was prior to me launching my company. I was in and out of the chamber of commerce space for about six years. And so, my lifeline was ensuring that, “Hey, we’ve got to get members or businesses into our membership, if you will. We’re going to drive awareness to your business by showing up at this after five, or this luncheon, or coffee breakfast thing.”
Today, I’m singing a different tune. Although those can be appropriate if you’re trying to— an introvert that’s listening to this today, (wink, wink), you can start with a– you don’t have to go to a networking event that has a hundred people. You can certainly go to a networking event that might have 25 people. The focus, and I think this is the pivotal shift, is that when we start thinking about that roomful of people not necessarily in going back to your original statement about the ABC – always be closing. If we can think about that roomful of people as, “Okay, they’re a potential relationship builders. They’re potential conduits to my clientele.” If we get out of the ABC mode and we start thinking about that person more as if they’re going to lead us, they’re going to be the pied piper to our clients and we just focus on building a relationship or having a conversation – not even building a relationship, I don’t want to even make it that like dramatic– just committing to having a conversation with one to three of those people inside of that room, it becomes less overwhelming to think about the entire room.
Number one, I think it’s important that if there’s an introvert out there that is needing to expand their network, the way to do that probably more efficiently would be maybe to go to some of these events that cater to their niche. Again, like perfect case and example, I work with a lot of clients in the insurance world, and the wealth advising world, and the attorney world. I’m going to be telling them to go to places where like– they all want to get to know each other too. The attorneys and the insurance agents, the wealth advisors – they want to know each other too so I’m like, “Okay, I’m thinking, what events are attracting those people? Let’s start there.” Let’s go there first because you’re going to find your tribe there, if you will, and then just focus on one or two or three people and just do it that way, one at a time. That’s one way to do it. I have lots of other ways you could do it but that’s certainly one way you can do it.
Josh: One of the things that I’ve thought about or– not actually thought about, just is true for me. I’m actually very good at having in-depth conversations with people. I’m really bad at having superficial conversations with people. I don’t do small talk well. That’s kind of an introvert sort of MO. Introverts love having deep conversations which often is why they’re very good problem solvers, but when it comes to networking, networking seems to be mostly small talk.
Erica: Yeah, in an event environment, sure. I think that that’s where, again, if you can start—because every relationship has to start. Think about— and I hate to equate networking with dating but at the risk of sounding flaky I’m going to go ahead and do it anyway. Like when you’re courting or when you’re thinking about okay like you think about a husband and wife. You think about a married couple. They didn’t automatically– like most cases, they did not like meet and then like two days later get married. There was this courtship involved. They might have met initially. And then they were like, okay, there’s enough interest for us to you continue the conversation so let’s go on a date.
The same with networking. In any context, whether you’re doing it in person, like one of the ways I just suggested, or if you’re doing it online. LinkedIn is a popular way for a lot of people, especially if you’re wanting to get deeper with strategic partnerships and you’re not for sure where to find your–you know who you want to align with but you need to build your network with those people. LinkedIn could be a really powerful way for you to engage in a conversation but you’re going to take it offline.
Just like when you’re engaging in a conversation at a networking event, you might not necessarily take the conversation as deep as you want it there. Give yourself permission to say, “You know, this isn’t the one and only time I’m going to have a conversation with this person. I like them enough to see them. And if I see them at a networking event, I like them enough, I’m going to want to continue the conversation whether I take them out to lunch, or whether I pick up the phone to continue to build that relationship.” It takes time. And so, regardless, if you’re an extrovert or you’re an introvert, if we can just remember that all relationships – personal or professional, take time.
Josh: Ah, good point. One of the things I see that you’ve added to your little quiver is you’re now doing online networking and offline networking. How do those two things fit together?
Erica: There’s a lot of people out there— if you’re watching this today, you’re watching it obviously online unless you’re sneaking into my office in Fort Myers or where Josh is in Vermont. That would just be really weird but— okay, I digressed.
The main thing in terms of building that bridge between online and offline connections is that you’ve got to start somewhere. Especially in the offline world, a lot of my network, when I really got honed in on my skill set and building a powerful person network, I did a lot of that offline. And then, when the online assets really started becoming popular like when I did finally launch my blog and my YouTube channel and I had a Facebook account and all these other things that kind of add some extra layers to what I’m doing as a service provider, it supports what I’m doing in the offline space. It makes me almost look like I’m omnipresent.
It’s funny because, Josh, you and I were having this offline conversation prior to us starting this one. We were talking about just some of the new things that are going in our worlds. One of the things that’s been really— since we last spoke on your show, was the amount of traveling that I’m doing. Part of that is because I’ve been able to build offline networks within different pockets of the US and then sustained my relationship with them with some of my online media things.
This is one of those things where I’m getting on a podcast with somebody. I don’t have to be in LA to resonate with somebody in LA with this podcast. Like, I can actually connect. There’s something that I’m probably saying today, there’s something that you’re saying today that’s going to connect with my audience that happens to live in LA. I think it’s important and it’s critical that we don’t have one or the other, we really integrate both.
Josh: One of the things that you— this just triggered a thought of mine, is that because we now network online and we network offline, that gives us, especially the businesses with less than 10 employees, and really the businesses with less than three employees, the opportunity to absolutely micro, micro, micro, micro-niche their business. I do probably more Zoom meetings— in fact, I know I do more Zoom meetings with clients than I ever do face-to-face meetings because the truth is I only have a few clients in northern Vermont. I have way more clients outside of the area which are more than an hour and a half drive from here. That means I either have to go stay overnight and visit them or set up a Zoom call. As a result of that, I’m able to become narrow, and narrow, and narrower who I serve.
I know there’s some fear when I tell somebody to start saying no to people outside their niche. The amount of fear people have is unbelievable but the truth is if I just say, “I want to work with left‑handed chiropractors who take Wednesday off.” There’s going to be more left-handed chiropractors who take Wednesday off than I’m ever going to be able to service in my entire lifetime when I start looking at an online networking opportunity. It seems to me that understanding how to start online and then move offline allows you to become a much more important and much more valuable asset to the people you’re meant to serve.
Erica: Yeah. It goes both ways. I started building an offline network. And now, obviously, I’ve got a sizable online network. It doesn’t mean that I’ve turned my back and my offline network. I think, at the end of the day— this is what I love about networking. And what I like to really call building strategic partnerships but that doesn’t sound as fancy and that’s not a buzzword that really gets that. Everybody I know is networking so.
Josh: Well, actually, you’re talking about two different types of networking.
Erica: Totally. Totally. The point I wanted to share, if I may, is that it’s really about– if you’re truly out there serving people. The whole intention of networking, again, going back to one of our first points, stop getting onto that mindset of always be closing. Start being of service. If you can live in that intention of like “I am being of service. I am opening up a conversation with somebody, learning about their areas of focus”, you are going to run into people that are in your industry.
This is to the audience now that’s listening to this. You may run into people that are in your exact industry. If you know like you know the people that you serve, the niche that you serve and then you identify those other people that are within the same industry that you are but maybe they serve somebody else, like maybe they serve a different client. Well, one of the cool things about building your network and having that service-first mentality is when you are getting asked and approached by somebody that isn’t your ideal client but you know that there is a service provider that can help them and that can assist them, you’re doing two things. One, you’re still being of service to that person that’s coming up to you wanting to work with you but you’re like “No, that’s not my thing.”
And then, the other side is, you’re actually referring that client onto another service provider. You’re giving them an opportunity to show up and serve and be valuable to them and potentially impacting their bottom line in a huge way. It’s really powerful. We can start going very specific about who we serve and then identifying with other people that serve markets around that. That’s totally acceptable. That’s what networking is truly all about, in my opinion.
Josh: The networking you seem to be talking about is more around people in the same industry as I am. In other words, referral sources than end users.
Erica: Oh, yeah, for sure.
Josh: What I’m hearing you say is that it might be more important for you to be networking with people who could refer to you than networking with people who could potentially buy your services?
Erica: Yeah. I’ll use this analogy. I said earlier that when we think about the people in the room, they might not necessarily be our clients but if we think about those people, in a metaphoric room, whether online or offline, we start thinking about those people as if they could like lead us to our ideal clients, that’s perfect.
I use this analogy. Everybody that’s watching this podcast today might be in a different boat as far as what’s the reasonable amount of clients. For nice round numbers, I’m going to use the analogy that you, as a service provider or a business owner, want to accumulate a hundred clients. Now, that might be like a really small amount for somebody. That might be a really huge amount for somebody else. But just for nice round numbers, we’re going to use a hundred. You, as a business owner/service provider, as you’re watching this today, would you like to go out there and pound the pavement to find all of those hundred clients yourself or would you like to build relationships with five people that are talking to 20 of those clients? They are already in the ears. They’ve already built the know-like-trust factor with those people. They’re like, “Hey, you know what, I know Josh, or I know Erica, or I know Joe and like they’re great. They will be able to take care of you. Let me refer you.”
In terms of spinning your wheels, eating up a lot of your time to go find a hundred of those clients yourself, leveraging the power of other people and the relationships that they’ve built with their clients, to send you more business and vice-versa. Like, it can’t be a one-way street. It has to be a two-way. That’s why, like in the work that I do now, it’s really about helping people figure out, “Who are those strategic partners for your specific goals?” because everybody’s got something different. I work a lot in the B2B space but everybody’s got specific goals that they’re wanting to accomplish. Identifying those strategic partners and building relationships with them is definitely going to give you more leverage, for sure.
Josh: Erica, we are unfortunately out of time for the podcast—
Erica: That went so quick.
Josh: It always does. I do want to continue for a while afterwards on Facebook live—
Josh: –if you have a few minutes to hang out.
Josh: In the meantime, how do people find you?
Erica: The easiest way to find is over at thequeenofresults.com If you put a /free-guide after that, so thequeenofresults.com/free-guide, there is a guide that actually helps you find more of your strategic partners. There’s a free download on the other side of that URL. Go check it out.
Josh: Cool. I also have something for you. This is my book.
Erica: I love that cover, by the way.
Josh: Yeah, there’s my elephark. It’s supposed to be an aardvark but didn’t turn out that way.
At any rate, I have this wonderful book. It’s a parable – a business parable. It’s a story that’s pretty easy to read about a pretty dysfunctional business family where you get to get lots of lessons about what to do to create a sustainable business. To get the book is pretty easy. You can go to Amazon. But if go to my book website which is sustainablethebook.com, you can not only get the book but you can also get a free 20-minute conversation with me, and you get to have a 37-page cheat sheet or actually ebook on how to implement what’s in the book.
This is Josh Patrick. You’ve been at the Sustainable Business. Thanks a lot for stopping by. I hope to see you back here really soon.
Narrator: You’ve been listening to The Sustainable Business podcast where we ask the question, “What would it take for your business to still be around a hundred years from now?” If you like what you’ve heard and want more information, please contact Josh Patrick at 802-846-1264 ext 2, or visit us on our website at www.askjoshpatrick.com, or you can send Josh an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for listening. We hope to see you at The Sustainable Business in the near future.