When Joseph Garmo attended a Chaldean wedding, he never imagined that he would hear the benefits of his own product begin shared by a fellow guest.
There at the table, says Garmo, another guest seated with the group began to share his excitement for a new product our firm developed to help reduce check cashing fraud. "It was like a totally unsolicited sales pitch" for the Michigan-based firm helping the Chaldean community deal with the rash of check fraud. “The Michigan economy is horrible. Add low morals with a poor economy and you get lots and lots of crime,” says Garmo. “Chaldeans in large part are victims of these crimes and not much is done to help them. We wanted to change that.”
Garmo explains how the table guest began what would continue on as a 15- to 20-minute discussion between the guests at the table about his company's product. “It was hard to keep quiet, but I did. I wanted to hear what they would say,” he says. “I wanted to learn if our idea could make a difference.”
It was also the moment he realized the power of his connections. He hadn't spent a dime on marketing his product and before him was a table filled with his target market discussing his Check cashing prevention system. Listening to the Chaldean business talk, Garmo realized where the guest had learned about his product.
How did he do it?
Like many successful Chaldean entrepreneurs, Garmo tapped an age-old marketing technique: networking. Garmo had long attended the traditional Chaldean gatherings like funerals and weddings. However, when invited to join a professional networking group called CAP (Chaldean American Professionals) things dramatically changed for Garmo.
CAP is a networking organization of Chaldean professionals that collaborate and share expertise as well as work to build new business. The group meets monthly at the Chaldean community hall in Southfield. Garmo decided to carve out a few hours to meet and network with other Michigan professionals. It turned out to be a great decision.
At the meeting Garmo shared a few sample check scanner devices that connect to a computer. The device scans the check, connects to the various banks to ensure there are sufficient funds, and confirms that the holder of the check has the right to cash the note. The device also scans the fingerprint and drivers license of the customer, all of which run an immediate background check on the customer for outstanding issues.
Garmo gave out a few of the devices, which seemed to have traveled from one person to another. “I never thought it would get such great attention. From that one network meeting, the news about the new product traveled very fast,” says Garmo. “The few people I knew had a much longer list of people in the check cashing business. Plus, I learned a great deal about their businesses and what they would like to see in future upgrades.”
For professional Chaldean entrepreneurs -- especially those new to a specific industry -- utilizing community contacts and cultivating new ones via networking can lead not only to future sales but also to the value obtained by learning more about a specific industry. After all, knowing who the go-to people are at various companies is never as good as an introduction from a colleague they regularly lunch with.
The Chaldean American Professionals offer ten tips to help Chaldean entrepreneurs successfully network:
Keep in mind that networking is about being genuine and authentic, building trust and relationships, and seeing how you can help others as much as you would like them to help you.
Ask yourself what your goals are in participating in networking meetings so that you will pick groups that will help you get what you are looking for. Some meetings are based more on learning or volunteering rather than on strictly making business connections. Groups like the Chaldean American Professionals are strictly about making business connections.
Visit as many groups as possible that spark your interest. Notice the tone and attitude of the group. Do the people sound supportive of one another? Does the leadership appear competent? Many groups will allow you to visit two times before joining.
Hold volunteer positions in organizations. This is a great way to stay visible and give back to groups that have helped you.
Ask open-ended questions in networking conversations. This means questions that ask who, what, where, when, and how as opposed to those that can be answered with a simple yes or no. This form of questioning opens up the discussion and shows listeners that you are interested in them.
Become known as a powerful resource for others. When you are known as a strong resource, people remember to turn to you for suggestions, ideas, names of other people, etc. This keeps you visible to them.
Have a clear understanding of what you do and why, for whom, and what makes you special or different from others doing the same thing. In order to get referrals, you must first have a clear understanding of what you do that you can easily articulate to others.
Be able to articulate what you are looking for and how others may help you. Too often people in conversations ask, "How may I help you?" and no immediate answer comes to mind.
Follow through quickly and efficiently on referrals you are given. When people give you referrals, your actions are a reflection on them. Respect and honor that and your referrals will grow.
Call those you meet who may benefit from what you do and vice versa. Express that you enjoyed meeting them, and ask if you could get together and share ideas.