We will regularly publish articles to help you grow your business and improve your networking skills.
I do a lot of networking both online and offline. Networking face to face didn’t come naturally to me at first but by persevering and following a few guidelines I found the time I spent networking definitely paid dividends.
Here are some tips I followed when I first started out that might help to ensure your networking success.
Choose the right venues.
Not every group of people will be right for you. Choose groups where people meet who share your interests and who are potential clients or referrers.
Networking is not about selling, it’s about investing in and 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.
Too often, people approach networking with the hope of making a sale or getting a client after one visit to a group. That’s not how it works. People do business with those they know, like and trust and it can take time to build up that knowledge and trust. Approach a networking event without any expectation of getting new business. Instead go with the idea of meeting new people or cementing relationships with those people you already know.
Dress appropriately and professionally.
Establish yourself as a successful person, which you can do by dressing the part. This does not mean that you need to wear expensive clothes, but do wear something appropriate to the group you will be networking with.
Be prepared. Take plenty of business cards, but only give them to people who show a real interest in what you do. Brochures, flyers or printed postcards can also be effective. Also, craft a short description of what you do — no more than 10 or 15 seconds.
Ask questions and listen. You don’t have to talk a lot about what you do in order to find potential customers. Instead, show interest and ask people you meet questions about them and their business, then listen carefully to their answers.
Sit with people you don’t know. Many events have stand up networking followed by a sit-down meeting of some sort. During the standing up part, 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. Make sure you 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.
Move on politely.
Don’t spend all of your time talking to one person or one group. Gather the information you need, exchange business cards and move on.
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.
If you make a good connection with someone follow up with a note saying how much you enjoyed meeting them. If appropriate, send an article, a link to other valuable content or some kind of information that they might find helpful. Remember not to put anyone on your mailing list without their permission.
Networking isn’t a one off event it’s a process. Take the time to develop relationships with people who interest you. Be proactive and invite someone to a coffee for a one-to-one meeting so you can get to know them.
Remember that most business owners and professionals are looking for connections. Have courage and step forward into their world.