The purpose of a lead exchange group is to assist business owners by making strategic connections that will help grow their businesses and expand their potential client base. It is a prime example of the power of networking. But to be a strong lead exchange group, its members need to stick to a few basic rules, or the group may quickly devolve into a coffee klatch – fun for the gossip and socializing, but barely worth the time in terms of generating solid leads – or worse, it may simply fall apart because it is not achieving its main goal – the exchange of those same solid leads.
Meetings Are in the Mornings
Whenever possible, a lead exchange group should schedule its meetings in the mornings, before everyone goes to their respective offices. It’s much more difficult to schedule meetings during the work day, as most business owners simply have a hard time getting away. Also, make sure to schedule meetings regularly. Everyone in the group should know, for example, that the lead exchange group meets every third Wednesday of the month at 8:00 AM. That way, the calendar is set in stone and members are more likely to show up.
Meetings are at the Same Place
Meet at the same place every time. Habits are easier to maintain and even though it might be appealing to change venues, it’s always better to book the same room, club, or restaurant for your meetings. Meeting at a regular place tends to increase the comfort level of the group while generating a sense of group ownership among its members.
Attendance is Consistent
People who come and go, for whatever reason, are displaying a lack of motivation. That’s why meeting at the same place, at the same time is helpful. It limits the possibility of dilettante members making up excuses for their absences. Members who don’t show up consistently should be politely dismissed from the group. They are taking up space and usually can’t be counted upon to support the group’s goals.
Has a Good Organizational Plan
Lead exchange groups work best when they are well-organized and the business parts of the meeting move swiftly. Start and finish on time. Keep careful attendance records. Choose leaders who are good at maintaining order and sticking to the agenda. While the atmosphere of good fellowship is important, a lead exchange group is still a business meeting. Make sure that everyone gets an opportunity to give his or her “elevator” speech (approximately 30 seconds), and each meeting should feature at least one member who can give a lengthier presentation.
Competition is Limited
A lead exchange group may quickly become rancorous if there are too many members in the same line of business. For example, if several members are accountants, there may be trouble deciding who would get the lead from a member who brought in information that a good friend was in need of some tax advice. It’s far better to have members who have a broad range of business interests. That way, the competition for leads doesn’t generate bad feelings.
Guests Are Made to Feel Welcome
Members should always be encouraged to bring guests along who may become new members, in time. A spirit of openness and hospitality will entice those guests to consider the potential upsides of joining the group. Try to refrain from cliquish behavior or “in” joking around. Remember: every prospective new member is another possible addition to your network.
Members Bring Leads
Every member should be required to bring a certain number of leads to each meeting, based upon an agreed-upon quota. It might be a minimum of two leads per meeting, or three leads every two meetings, or whatever the group decides is reasonable. Encourage lead bringing by rewarding the person who brings in the most leads over a specified period of time. The group might give anything of value – theater tickets, a free meal at a local restaurant, a small gift, etc. This type of incentive is actually healthy for the group, as it tends to foster friendly competition, and, over the long run, produce more leads.
Members Required to Follow Up Leads
Make sure that each member follows up each and every lead he or she receives. It is simply common courtesy, when receiving a lead, not to file it away or leave it in your pocket or purse. Someone in your group has gone to the trouble to get you the lead, and undoubtedly will know, sooner or later, if you made the call, or not. Not following up creates mistrust and negativity within the group psyche. Your lead may not pan out, but you are responsible, nonetheless, to check it out with a seriousness of purpose.
Lead Flow is Monitored
Naturally, some members of the group will wind up either giving or receiving more leads than some other members; there is no way to make things come out completely equal, and some businesses may simply be harder to connect with than others. For example, someone in your group might be in the lawn and garden business and get several leads each meeting. Someone else may be an architect and, most likely, will get fewer leads over time. However, try, as much as possible, to ensure that there is a process in place that helps even things out.
The Group is Fun
Even though a lead exchange group exists to help businesses grow, it doesn’t have to be solemn and serious affair all of the time. It won’t hurt to lighten the mood once in awhile with some sort of friendly competition, or group game. It’s also a good idea for the members to get together socially, perhaps with their employees or spouses, once or twice a year for some sort of party or special event. Business people need to bond and relax just as much as they need to take care of business and members of your lead exchange group may become your very good friends.
Find a local lead exchange group in your area. Contact the group to find out when the meetings are held and plan to attend a meetings to determine if the group is a good fit for you.
And if you’re located in the Orlando area, come check out one of our bi-monthly breakfast meetings or frequent social events.