Tips for networking effectively
Networking is possibly the most effective and least expensive marketing method you can use to build your business, especially if you do business in your local area.
Many business owners don’t like to network or haven’t found it to be effective. That’s probably because they don’t know how to do it or they had unrealistic expectations about the timing of results.
Here are some tips to get you started:
What are you trying to achieve, what do you have to offer? When you have clear answers to these questions, it will be easier to focus on making quality connections and stay on track with your goals.
Have a pitch/story
Use your elevator pitch as a platform and modify for your audience to engage and interest them when you first meet.
Make a positive impression
People want to work with positive genuine people, having an upbeat attitude and response will increase your chances of creating a lasting impression. Dress suitably for the occasion.
Bring plenty of business cards, but only give them to people who show a real interest in what you do. Brochures or printed postcards can also be effective and most importantly take a business card from anyone you speak with.
Focus on quality, not quantity
Instead of focusing on making as many connections as possible with other people, focus on the quality of those connections. Is there a great chance for a mutual benefit? If not, move on. If there is, try to find a way you can help the other person succeed with their own goals.
The best way to make friends and to network is to become interested in others. Seek first to understand, then to be understood. People will be more likely to trust you because they’ll know it’s not all about you. Ask questions and listen, don’t just launch into what you do
– Ask the person what they do and then ask for a business card.
– Ask open ended questions that will help you get to know them better and see how you can help them
– Ask them who is there ideal client?
Ascertain their needs; hint at solutions that you could provide or other contacts you know that could be valuable to them also.
Work the room
Don’t get stuck talking to one person or with people you know, meet and mingle.
Write down important takeaways from your conversation or other things that will help you to remember them on the back of their business card. If you discover you are networking with someone that you feel you can do business with set up a coffee appointment and move onto another person at the networking event.
Networking is not about selling, but rather developing relationships that can lead to sales or referrals. The idea is to get to know people and allow them to get to know you. People do business with those they know and trust and it can take time to build up that knowledge and trust.
Choose the right function
Not every group of people will be right for you. Choose groups where people congregate who share your interests and/or are potential clients. Chambers of Commerce, men’s and women’s organizations, networking groups, special interest groups, and associations are all potential choices.
Sit with people you don’t know.
Many events have walk-around networking followed by a sit-down meeting of some sort. During the walk-around, do talk to people you have met before to enhance your relationship, but sit with people you don’t know in order to widen your network and meet potential customers. Here too, ask questions and listen.
Talk to people who are standing alone
People attend networking events to meet others. If someone is standing alone, that’s the perfect opportunity to make a new contact. You might want to start the conversation by saying, “May I join you?”
Give to receive
Focus on what you can do for others, not what they can do for you. Perhaps you know someone who could use your prospects services. If you do, make the referral.
Following up is the most important part of the networking process. If you have agreed to email a new contact information, be sure to do it within twenty-four hours of meeting them. If appropriate, send an article or some kind of information that they might find helpful. Set up a coffee meeting etc. Do not add them to your mailing list without their permission.
Networking is a process, not a one-off event. Take the time to develop relationships with people who interest you. Be proactive and invite someone to a one-to-one meeting so you can get to know them.
Remember that most business owners and are also looking for connections. Be bold and take the plunge, the more you do it the easier it becomes.