A guide to successful networking
You can never have enough friends and colleagues in business, so you need to ensure that you go to as many events, join as many groups and meet as many people as possible. Whatever line of business you are in and because people buy people, you need to make sure that you get out and about and network your socks off, because networking done well is the way to continued business success.
Networking is a means to build trust with other people or businesses, so that they can see how your product or service can genuinely benefit other people. Networking can be a low cost activity, with the main investment being your time, so try to make the most of each and every networking opportunity.
Below are a few tips to help you get the best results.
- Figure out what your specific goal is for the networking event you are attending, this will help you focus on networking with the right people i.e. if you sell websites, then you will need to look for people who are looking to have a brand new website or make changes made to their existing site. By doing this you will get the most out of your networking session.
- Try to be a good source of information. People always want to know people who know things or people who can do things. So by answering queries easily and/or coming up with good ideas and suggestions you will be able to stay in the forefront of people’s minds.
- Make sure that you have short, effective pre-prepared answers and/or captivating information to the most commonly asked questions ‘so what do you do’, ‘so how can that help my business’ and if needed your 40 or 60 second elevator pitch. You need to wow the person with genuine answers/information that rolls off your tongue as though it was second nature, thus giving the impression that you know your stuff.
- Ask lots of open questions and try to keep control, even answering a question with a question works. Examples of good questions that will help you going forwards are shown below:
- How did you come to be in your line of work? Often people fall into their job through a chance encounter or a stroke of luck - these stories are often interesting, and recounting them will bring your new contact alive in a way that a straightforward discussion about current business never does.
- Describe to me your dream customer. You will learn much about their motivation and goals by listening carefully to this.
- What changes are happening, or can you predict happening, within your industry? Tap into a source of inside information here - it may well have implications for the product/service you can provide them with. What do you regard as your greatest achievement in business to date? Another great way of breaking the ice and getting to know someone better.
- What do you love about your work? Someone else's business will come alive for you if you listen to them describing their favourite activities.
- Are there things you wish you could change? A natural follow-on from the above.
- How would you like people to describe your contribution to your industry? This gets away from day-to-day business and allows them to discuss their deeper aspirations if they wish.
- Let them talk about themselves and listen. Find out what’s important to them right now and what interests them (social etc) as a social reason might be the reason you can meet up again.
- Stay clear of self-promotion and sales pitches, people will be less than impressed if they feel that you are selling to them. Focus instead on discussing generic business topics, issues, solutions etc. and try to find commonalities or shared interests.
- Make mental notes on everything that they say so that you can follow up with them at a later date.
- If you find that you want to do business with them, ask for their business card. Whilst doing this, ask them for the best time to reach them and the best method to reach them (email or phone). Don’t forget to offer your business card as well, so there is an even exchange of information.
- If you feel that they are a good person to pursue at a later date, remember to say that you enjoyed meeting them and that you hope you can both keep in touch.
- Alternatively when you have nothing more to say and/or want to excuse yourself “Excuse me a second, I’ve just seen somebody I need to say hello to, would you excuse me?”
- Always follow up networking leads within agreed timescales.
- Invite them to join you on your social networks, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter etc. and follow them where appropriate.
- Add them to your prospect and/or contact database with their permssion and keep them informed about you and your business by sending them relevant and timely communications.
Finally, remember that the more networking you do the better and more relaxed you will be at it. And pretty soon a jam-packed room full of people you don’t know, will be an exciting challenge that you can’t wait to start.
Good luck and happy networking.