How to get the best out of Networking?
I attend many different networking events. I have noticed a lot of things about the way people network, the expectations that people have when networking, and what happens after the networking event.
I want you to get more business and more clients from networking, I want it to be more time and cost effective and of course to enjoy the networking experience.
So invest the time to read my tips, try them out at networking events, and see if it makes a difference to the end result.
How do I choose the right networking group?
There are loads of different groups to try, they range from Breakfast, lunch and dinner groups, to women only, informal, formal, weekend, online and offline etc…. The most important thing is to find the group that fits you and your business.
Are the people your target audience?
Are the people attending that group the sort of people you would like to talk to?
Are the people in a position to refer clients / business to you?
Are you in a position to help and refer your clients to those people?
Are you likely to meet people that can help you grow your business?
Bear in mind, that the person who you thought may be of little value, may know the person that you have always wanted to talk to – it s amazing when you get talking to people, who they know and perhaps what a small world it is. Try the group a few times before deciding. Your time is valuable
You have chosen the right group –Now What?
I have attended many events. It is a business event, so wear the correct business attire.
Remember first impressions are so important . People usually have an impression of you in the first few seconds – how would you like to be remembered?
I always take plenty of business cards. I am amazed at how many people forget their cards or run out of cards and end up writing the details on bits of paper. .This is not setting a professional image. Be serious and professional, and that you mean business.Don t thrust your business cards in their faces, try and wait until they ask for your cards. This means that they are interested in you.
Then when you arrive, seek out those people, ask the event organiser if they know them, and ask them to introduce you. You may want to go as far as doing some research on them and their company if you are looking at working with them, or forging an alliance. You are there to build associates and relationships.
You’re at the Meeting – Now What?
If you are completely new to the networking scene, it can sometimes be a bit daunting. Talking to complete strangers can sometimes be difficult. I would suggest enlisting the help of the event organisers perhaps. Ask them to introduce you to some people.
Ask open ended questions to get to know them, show an interest in others first, and they will then show an interest in you. Create a nice conversation environment to develop a worthwhile connection. Perhaps one of your goals for the event could be to talk to at least 6 new people that you have not met before. You will certainly need to step out of your comfort zone if you have not done it before, however remember that everyone at the event is there for the same reason to meet new people, create new business associates, and create new contacts.
I would suggest that if attending networking events for the first time, then use the first 3-4 visits to just build up your confidence, practice your questions, practice what you may say in return, try different approaches and see what works for you.
Plan your pitch beforehand. It should be concise and to the point. You should be able to communicate what it is you do, so that people can easily understand it in less than 60 seconds. Remember there will be a lot of people at the event, people do not want to listen to people babbling on. For example someone could say they were in finance. They could also say that they helped people save for their future with the aid of pensions and other financial tools.
Have examples of people that you have worked for or are currently working with and most importantly be as specific as you can with regards to who you would most like to talk to or meet. Don’t just say I am looking to meet people in the corporate world, as that is far too vague. Be specific – tell them you would like to be introduced to the MD / CEO or main decision makers of companies that specialise in the manufacture of a certain product.
Listening is perhaps the hardest thing. We all naturally want to tell our story. However resist this temptation. Ask other people questions about their business first, show a genuine interest in them first and what they are up to, try and create a relationship, try to really understand the other person and how you could possibly help them.
Ask them about the challenges they are facing, what projects they are currently working on, who would they like to meet given the opportunity. Ask them how you can help them, is there anyone in your network that can assist them.
Networking takes time, it is very rare to come away with a sale from attending one event. You have to build trust and rapport with that person, networking is about building relationships long term. It is an investment of time and effort. Put in the effort and you should, in time, reap the rewards.
You should view attending the event and then gaining some new contacts, as the first step in a long road. Networking can typically take 3-6 months of attending and talking and listening to people.
The key to it usually lies in the follow up after the event. It is also about credibility, would you refer a client to someone that you had only just met – I suggest not. However see them for 3-6 months, talking about the same profession, and your trust and confidence will grow.
What do I do with my business cards?
I am always asked this question. My own opinion is that I prefer to get to know the other person first, listen to them, find out about them, find out about their business, see if there is any common ground between the two of us , can you help this person, can they help you? If things look positive then I will ask for their card. How would you feel about having a business card thrust in your face? Nobody likes that.
Whenever I attend events, I always go with the idea of how can I help people, who do I know that I can introduce this new person to, is there someone else in the room that evening, that should be talking to this person. You will certainly gain a lot more from networking with this approach than going merely with the intention of getting more business for yourself.
What do you do after the event?
I attend many events, and always follow up with people that I have met. I always drop people an email thanking them for the chat we had at the event, and following up on any activities that I promised I would. If I said I would introduce them to someone, then I do. If I promised a contacts details, then I get it to them. This is showing them that you are a person of your word and shows professionalism This is so important. In my experience very few people actually follow up after a meeting. Why chat with someone, discover all about them, discover mutual things that may benefit both of you, take their business card, and then do nothing with it. This is a shame and a complete waste of your time in attending the event. You must follow up.
What to do with old business cards
So you have attended loads of events, and your drawer is full of business cards. . The cards then just pile up and and nothing is done with them
Bear in mind, people move on, people change jobs, there may be someone in that pile of business cards who now works for the corporate where you want to get involved.
Drop people an email every 6 months or so, asking how they are doing, are they still at the same company, are they still doing the same job, you may be amazed at the response.
Other forms of Marketing
In my opinion networking is great, however, don’t forget there are other ways to market your business that you should be using as well. It can be very easy to be occupied with breakfast, lunch and dinner on networking without any noticeable benefit.
You must constantly evaluate both the cost of attendance, time utilised and the return gained. Keep asking yourself if the group, groups that you attend are really working for you after giving them a reasonable amount of time. If not move on.
Go For It!
Networking is a great way to introduce yourself to a gathering of people. You are not there to sell anything to anyone. People in my experience do not like to be sold to and can see through that. Think that the people at the event as a way of getting your product / idea etc… to market.
Understand that you will need to be patient, it will take months to start benefiting from any contacts you have made. However it certainly is true, if you start things off by helping others, listening to others, making connections for others, then things will certainly start happening for you.
If you would like to contact me for further information on how to get more from networking please do not hesitate to contact me anytime on 07908 584569 or email me firstname.lastname@example.org Take a look at my website to see how introbiz works, to see if it could work for you! www.introbiz.co.uk