Networking is something that business leaders seem to struggle with. They struggle with the concept of networking. Showing up to an event by themselves having to talk to strangers really doesn’t turn them on! What to say? Who to talk to? Which event to attend? It can be daunting especially for the introvert and for the newcomer to business and the networking scene. However, the benefits far outweigh the fears.
I work with many small business owners and inevitably the conversation will arrive at the topic of networking when we are discussing business growth. My question is greeted with uncomfortable body language and a sheepish no! As most of the businesses are not that into networking and they often miss out on local promotion by not paying attention to strengthen communities while marketing their business.
I have been in business for over four years now and I think I have just got a handle on how and where to effectively network. Let’s face it there are so many networking events around. In my previous career in corporate, I had never even heard of the term let alone gone out there and done it. It is quite a transition in mindset and certainly one that takes a bit of getting used to! Let me share some tips that have worked for my business and me.
The sole reason that you should be networking is to build relationships. Period. It is not to sell. It is not to find a client. People do not attend networking events to be sold to. If you front up to someone and deliver your sales pitch after they have greeted you, I can guarantee you a less than the favorable outcome!
When you are meeting people, be curious and be interested, ask questions, and look for opportunities to build a relationship from Business to Business and as business leaders. Remember your network is your net worth. Look for ways to build alliances and improve your networks.
Have a Plan
As with any great success strategy you need to have a plan to back it up. What are you trying to achieve by networking (networking 101 will assist)? How many connections would you like to make at each event? What type of event will best suit your business? What type of networking event will your target market hang out at? What is the frequency that you will network to support your business growth?
Have a plan for how you will present yourself also. The first impression is paramount at networking events. Ensure you are dressed to suit your desired image and create the perception you would like to impress on others.
Targeted and purposeful networking is the antidote to wasting time.
Know your Value
This is key to having a meaningful conversation with people. You will be asked what you do and how you do it. The more familiar you are with your brand value proposition and the value you add to any relationship the more insightful and interesting your conversations will be. Get really familiar with this and get used to verbalizing it. You may have it on paper, but speaking is a whole different ball game!
Have a process in place to support your networking. You have done the hard yards. You’ve made some good connections (hopefully!), now how are you going to develop your relationship? Ensure you follow up with the people you meet within 24 hours of meeting them or one business day. This may be by phone, email, LinkedIn request or thank you card. You will need to make time to do this. Plan this in advance.