Leads groups and networking organizations can be great sales tools, if you know how to use them. The single biggest mistake people make in these groups is that they expect to come away with sales.  That’s not your goal.

Instead, focus on building relationships with others. Consider it dating. You’re getting to know people before you trust them with your secrets. Here’s a step-by-step guide to using lead groups wisely.

Meeting 1: Making Connections

Your first meeting you’re just there to learn the ropes. How does this organization work? Some only allow one person per industry. Find out what the rules are, and get to know as many people as possible. Find out from them how they like the group and what they get out of it.

You might find out that this leads group skews heavily toward tech companies. If you’re not in tech, find another group (unless your customers are in tech! Then stay put!). Take notes on all the perks you can take advantage of once you become a member. These might include:

  • The opportunity to present your business to a group
  • Getting your company link on the leads website
  • Having your company profiled in the group’s collateral
  • Advertising opportunities

Check out several groups before determining which you want to join. Participating in a few different leads groups is fine, but don’t overstretch your schedule.

Meeting 2: Getting to Know You

People will recognize you from your first meeting. Now’s the time to start building relationships. Ask lots of questions. People like talking about themselves. Keep business cards from people you meet, and make notes for conversations you had and things you can follow up on.

Keep the conversation away from sales. Put on your Good Samaritan hat and ask how you can help others. Maybe you meet a pool builder and remember your brother is in the market for a pool. Get an extra card to give your brother. Just like that, you’re providing value and relationships. And that, over time, will make people reciprocate the love.

Meeting 3: Do Your Own Market Research

If the members of your leads group are potential or theoretical customers for your company, this is a great platform to find out what makes your target audience tick. Find out what pain points they have that relate to your industry and ask what they look for in a product like yours.

The goal here isn’t necessarily to sell, but to research your market and improve your product and selling technique. It’s free research, so use it well.

Meeting 4: Don’t Be Afraid to Ask

If you’re given the opportunity to express the kind of leads you’re looking for, be specific. Don’t just say “I’m looking for people who have dogs that need them groomed.” Share your ideal customer. Maybe you really like working on poodles in your grooming service. Tell the group that. Be specific to your needs, and don’t be afraid to ask.

Consider offering referrals for anyone who brings you new business. This can incentivize people to start bringing leads your way, especially if the incentives are lucrative.

Final Tips

The biggest and most important thing to remember is that you are not in your leads group to sell. You’re not. You’re there to help others who may be able to help you find new customers. Consider this your family. Work on building relationships.

Give as many referrals as you can. Ask your network of friends and family what they need, and see who you can connect. This goes a long way to building trust.

If your leads group gets stagnant, meaning you’ve all helped each other as much as you possibly can, consider joining a different group for fresh blood. Stay in touch with your old contacts via email, phone and over coffee. Never lose touch with a good contact.