a networking sales system 1200

How We Started Hawk Marketing

It’s important to be aware that everything can change in an instant. For me and my sister Michelle, that’s what happened when our good gigs at a large local marketing company disappeared. Like many other people, we were disappointed when we lost our jobs as the company self-imploded. We had no idea that networking could turn things around for us… and so many others.

We went to Baltimore immediately to file our trade name, so that we could start our new company, Hawk Marketing. Choosing a name was easy. You see, our Dad owned a company for years called Hawk Retrofit. I worked there as a Sales Manager until I became too overwhelmed with anxiety. On my birthday in 2015, we learned of the stage four cancer diagnosis for my Father, so Michelle and I were honored to name the new company “Hawk” after his old one.

John at 10 light street 300 dpi

Now Hawk Marketing was in business, but what were we going to do to build it? Before the move, I had been working on cold calling charts, and walk-in scripts, but that wasn’t me.

Honestly, I don’t think anyone likes doing those activities. They consume so much time and effort… and cause so many moments of rejection. And, the thought of going out in public was made worse by my ever-present anxiety. Before, I had been an internal sales manager. Nothing out in the “wild.”

We pulled out our list of contacts from our old client file and emailed all of our contacts to let them know of our new business. I was so grateful to get a reply from Karen Bailey. I had served with Karen on the Board of the Goshen Farm Preservation Society. She said she had some ideas for us.

The Entrepreneurs Exchange Networking Group

Karen served as a facilitator of the networking group called The Entrepreneurs Exchange. She invited me to a networking meeting at Union Jacks in Annapolis as her guest. I didn’t want to seem unappreciative, but I was pretty sure that I didn’t want to do that, as my heart was beating fast, even at the thought of it.

Sitting there with my limited options, I knew I had to work beyond the anxiety and go to this meeting.

I wasn’t there long when a man approached me. He was wearing a white button-down shirt, a navy sports coat, and slacks. He had a BIG presence in the room. When you think “larger than life,” you’re talking about a guy like Steve Hall.

My First Networking Partners

As we talked, he seemed genuine. I’m not sure exactly what he said to me, because I was too busy thinking how much I admired his persona. The way he was able to talk to the group, he was a natural role model and made me yearn to be relaxed and effective like him. I admired him and became determined to become better at public speaking.

As the luncheon went on, I met a couple of gentlemen named Michael Frieman and David Anderson and had a conversation with them. Mike was a real gentleman with a lot of experience. He was also quick with a well-crafted joke. His delivery was perfect, as he pulled you in with his soft-spoken voice before nailing the punchline. David was a great photographer who was very nice and always helpful. I even attended his photography workshops!

They were both easy to talk with. As I explained to these two gentlemen, as coherently as possible, what I wanted to do, they recommended that I talk to Susan Wheatley. Susan, it seems, was a bit of a folk hero in our local networking world.

The Networking Recommendation That Started it All

This was my very first networking event, and an opportunity was already manifesting itself. It felt like I was being led to my next step. I wasn’t sure how I was going to get there. At times, I wasn’t even sure where I was going. The guys encouraged me, telling me a little about what to expect at one of Susan’s meetings.

“Go three times and then ask Susan to have coffee.” “Susan knows everybody.” It sounded like a secret handshake. The honest truth is, I didn’t go. The universe pointed me in a specific direction, and I ignored it.

Several weeks went by, and the next networking event I attended was the Crofton Maryland Chamber’s End of Summer Bash at the Crofton Country Club. It was a hot, humid day. Everyone was sweating and looking for some shade that afternoon. In late August, five o’clock p.m. can be unbearable in Maryland with temperatures over a hundred degrees and humidity at one hundred percent.

As I sought shelter from the heat, I found Dave Anderson again chatting with another gentleman. After a few moments, both of them started telling me again about Susan Wheatley and her networking group at 49 West St. in Annapolis. Both told me, John, “Go three times and then ask Susan to have coffee. Susan knows everybody!”

Just Show Up Annapolis

This time, I went for it! At my first meeting in this new group, I stood up and recited my well-rehearsed 30-second commercial and felt confident. In fact, I asked to go first, as I did many times back then. That way, I didn’t have to feel my nerves build as it came closer to my turn. The reaction from the group made me feel welcomed. At the second meeting, I felt even more confident in my presentation.

After the second networking meeting, and before I even went for the third time, Susan called me. I thought to myself, “WOW, I must have really impressed her!” Remember, I was supposed to go three times and ask her. I was thrown off guard as she said that she wanted to learn more about my business. Immediately I went into “sales mode.” Although nervous, I couldn’t say no to the opportunity.

My First One-On-One Networking

We met at a coffee house, and as I sat there anxious, she quizzed me about my business and was taking notes the whole time I was talking. She was asking me question after question. She seemed very interested in what I was saying. My inexperience caused me to ramble on about my products and services. I was in complete features and benefits mode. She must have been numbed by all of the jargon I was throwing around.

Then I paused, mid-sentence. I noticed that the book Susan was writing in was two-thirds open. She had my business card attached to the page, with a number next to it, Number 1881.

“Stop, wait a moment,” I said. “What’s with the number?” I asked. She said, “This is what I do.” Then she gave me a real gift, as she revealed her coffee system to me.

Here it is in a Nutshell:

  • She would collect the card of every person who attended her networking group.
  • Taping the card into her book, she would commit to asking each person to have a one-on-one meeting, typically over coffee.
  • During the meeting, she would make it all about them. She would ask them questions and be a good listener.
  • She went back into her previous books and tried to find referrals and connections for all that she met with.
  • At the very end, for a few moments, she shared what she did.

Each page in her notebook had notes, cards, and… numbers. What’s more, she had five more books just like that one in her big beach bag. She flipped through the books for a few minutes and gave me three cards. “Call these people,” she said.

In the front of each book, there was the name and number of each person in the book for quick reference. Next to several of the names on each page was what looked like the @ symbol. About a quarter to a third of the names on each page had the symbol. I asked, “What does that @ symbol mean?” Susan replied; “That’s not an @ symbol; it’s a lowercase “e” for enrolled.” Susan had been successfully signing up visitors to her networking group for Melaleuca for years! All by listening, providing value, and at the end, sharing what she does. For every ten cups of coffee, she was enrolling three people as customers or representatives.

The Start of My Networking Life

I was hooked, and that is how Hawk Marketing got started in networking. It was a fresh, exciting way to bring in new business. We brought a couple of clients from the old company over. With Susan’s blessing, we started our networking group and started putting our lives back together again.

This story illustrates perfectly how networking and learning from others is at the core of being successful in business.  It also reminds us that going to meetings is a good strategy, but most of the meaningful connections are made by participating in a one-on-one with your networking partners.  To learn more about the early days of Hawk Marketing, and how you can leverage networking in your business, be sure to check out our next article  Setting Up Your Coffee Sales Funnel.