This takes about 4 minutes to read
The following networking tips may seem obvious, but you would be amazed how many people go to networking events and do not follow some or, in some cases, all these tips.
Business cards are the bread and butter of networking. Never go networking without them. Expect to give and receive business cards.
Never foist your business card on an unsuspecting recipient, they will only put it in the bin, and it makes you look rude. If you have talked with them a while and think they are someone you would like to get to know better or could do business with, then by all means take a card. If they feel the same way, they will ask for one of yours. Don’t waste a card on someone who doesn’t want one.
Business card management is essential in a networking environment. Keep all your cards in a single pocket and never mix them up with other peoples’ cards. It looks bad and who wants someone else’s card by mistake.
Put all the received cards into a designated pocket, separated from your cards.
Like everything in business, without a goal, how can you measure success. To that end, set a goal before the networking event; working towards that goal throughout the event.
Many people make the mistake of thinking of networking as a social event. It is not. It is an opportunity to make valuable long-term relationships that will help you further your business goals, allowing you to help others to further their own goals.
While it is tempting to ignore people, you met previously or at the last event, because you wish to focus on meeting new people. Don’t. One of the goals that you must have with networking is to develop long-term relationships with those you already know. To do that, you must continue to get to know them.
It is only when you know someone quite well, will they be happy to start working with you, unless you have something they immediately need.
In general, you are building a relationship with your fellow networking attendees, not trying to sell to them. It is much more valuable to speak to their network of contacts than to them directly.
Networking is not about collecting contacts. Networking is about creating long-term relationships.
When starting to network in a new group, where you don’t know anybody, it is easy to feel left out or the outsider. It seems that everyone else knows everybody else. This is probably not the case, almost all groups have new people at each meeting. In the same situation as you!
Take the approachable track and smile. Be someone that others want to talk too. Get a drink, enter an ongoing conversation, do so with a smile.
The current conversation will welcome you and probably change to allow you to introduce yourself. You then get the chance to talk about yourself and to actively listen to the other participants.
The easier it is for others to approach you, the more included in the group you will feel and become. Then you will much more easily be able to achieve your goals.
People become carried away at networking and think the most important thing to do is talk. In doing this they completely forget to listen to other people.
As the saying goes, you have two ears and one mouth. This implies that you spend twice as long listening as you do talking! This is particularly important when starting out networking, as you need time to learn about other people, get your head clear and formulate what you want to say and present yourself.
During any networking session, you will have many people ask you the following question, or a variant “What do you do?”
While we can easily make the case that this is the business networking equivalent of “Do you come here often?” It is what you will hear most of the time. So, make sure you have a suitable answer.
The questioner will be looking to place you in a pigeonhole, so be prepared either to work with that or, perhaps, to thwart that. Have an answer, making sure you can say it day in and day out. It will become your opener to a more detailed discussion. It will also allow the other party to see if you are someone they want to spend more time talking with.
Spend time on this and make sure it is memorable.
Whilst this is obvious, it does require a little explanation. If you can give someone help achieving their goals, then do so. If this is a referral to one of your contacts or clients, then feel free to do so.
If it is your expertise that you are offering, make sure that the recipient wants that help.
Be sure that the person you are making the referral to is worthy of your trust. When you make a referral to a networking contact, you are implicitly saying to your contact, “I know this person and I trust them.” If you do not have that confidence or do not yet have that confidence, then wait until you do.
The point of networking is to develop contacts that you can help and who can help you. Use the referral system as a way of doing this. When done correctly it will elevate you in the eyes of your clients and your networking peers.
Perhaps the biggest mistake people make in networking, is that they do not follow-up after the event!
It is common, for people to gather a supply of business cards and after the meeting place them in a pile on their desk. Then, after a few networking events, when the pile is too big, they wrap an elastic band around them, putting them in the drawer or a box. They mean to look at them in the future, but rarely do!
What you should be doing, is entering them into your Sales and Marketing System for immediate access and use. You never know when you’ll need the information to help one of your contacts, a client or a friend. If they are in a pile, you will not sort through them, so they serve no useful purpose.
Your network or business contacts are a vital business resource, treat them as such. They are important and you must use them to help you and your other contacts.
Connect with your contacts on LinkedIn, send them an email to make sure they have your contact info. Share and start on that long-term relationship.
Networking, like all the business activities that we do, can be helpful if done correctly, but a waste of time and effort if done incorrectly.
Having a system in place that captures the information from networking and makes it easily available to the business is essential. Make sure that the systems you use are suitable for both marketing and sales. All too often the system used is only useful for marketing, while the sales portion remains overlooked.
Too many businesses consider marketing to be sales. When what they should be doing is have the marketing activity support sales, so that we have marketing for sales rather than marketing for brand awareness.
Contact me today and I can have a look at your existing system and make recommendations to make it work for the business by increasing your sales.