Get the "Convo" Started. A Guide to Networking.
Networking is by far the most effective and least expensive marketing method to build your business in your local area. If you say it isn’t so, you may be missing the boat. Even if you are a bit on the shy side, or a bit skeptical about the potential for success with networking, it pays to take a closer look at the art of the hob-knobbing and some helpful guidelines.
Here are some tips that can ensure your networking success.
1. Choose the right venues.
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 (yes, we are tooting our own horn), men’s and women’s organizations, networking groups, special interest groups, and associations are all potential choices.
2. Develop relationships.
Leave the sales pitch at the door. Networking is not about selling, but rather developing real relationships that can eventually lead to sales or referrals. The idea is to genuinely get to know people and allow them to get to know you.
Too many times, people approach networking with the hope of making an instant sale or getting a client after one visit to an appropriate group. That’s not how it works. People do business with those they know and trust and it can take time to build up that knowledge and trust. So approach a networking event without any expectation of getting new business. Instead go with the idea of meeting new people or socializing with those you’ve already gotten to know.
3. Dress appropriately and professionally.
Establish yourself as a successful person, which you can do by “dressing the part”. This doesn’t mean that you need to wear expensive clothes, but do wear something a bit on the dressy side and leave the comfortable baggy clothes on the hanger at home.
4. Be prepared.
Bring a healthy stack 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. Also, craft a short description of what you do — no more than 10 or 15 seconds.
5. Ask questions and listen.
You don’t have to talk a lot about what you do in order to find potential customers. Rather, ask people you meet questions about them and their business, then listen carefully to their answers. Find points of commonality that you can bring into the conversation.
6. 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 venture out and sit with people you don’t know in order to widen your network and meet potential customers. Remember to ask questions and listen.
7. 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.
8. Move on – politely.
Don’t spend all of your time talking to one person. Gather the information you need, exchange business cards, if appropriate, and move on. You might say something like, “I’m going to do some mixing now. It’s been a pleasure speaking to you.”
9. Give to get.
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.
10. Follow up.
If you make a good connection with someone, after the event, send a note saying how much you enjoyed meeting them. If appropriate, send an article or some kind of content they might find helpful. But beware…do not add them to your mailing list without their permission!
The takeaway here is networking is a process, not a one-off event. Invest the time to develop relationships with people who interest you. Remember that most business owners are also looking for connections. Be bold and make the first step in building your network.
Want more tips on networking? Click here for more info on our Ambassador Networking event on March 21st.