As an entrepreneur and business owner, what does networking mean to you? With so much emphasis being put on your digital efforts, such as having the stunning website to promote your products or services and being the social media guru that engages audiences with valuable insights, it’s easy to forget there is a world outside of this virtual arena.
Getting social in the physical sense is still a key part of your marketing strategy. Any successful business person will tell you, you need to leave the comfort of your office and get out there to meet people and network to guarantee success and growth! So put your laptop or tablet down, move off your chair and get moving!
For start-ups there are many cost effective opportunities to build meaningful business relationships. From the business and networking clubs to local Chamber of Commerce meetings and industry events such as conferences and exhibitions.
It may seem daunting at first if you attend these events alone, I mean who likes walking into a room of strangers never mind walking up to them and starting a conversation? If you are the sort of person who is happier running their business from behind a screen in the comfort of their office then the following tips are for you. Read on for advice on how you too can become a business networking hot shot.
8 Ways To Network Like A Pro
Just say yes
Make the decision to accept all relevant networking opportunities. OK, that may seem an overwhelming task so you’re allowed to be choosy, I don’t want you to waste your time attending an irrelevant meeting. Be disciplined, however, and do try as many as you can. Dress to impress and don’t forget your business cards!
Set your objectives
Do your research about the event, try to find out who will be attending then make a plan. Set yourself a goal of reaching a certain number of contacts at each event. This will help you keep focused when nerves may be taking over! If you are making the effort to attend then you need to ensure a return on your investment! Even if you don’t think an event was particularly fruitful then at least you will know that you made every effort to develop new contacts.
Work the room baby
Don’t forget, everyone feels the same. Those that appear to be the most confident are often the most insecure, they are simply quite good at covering it up! So see yourself as this social butterfly, believe you can do it, take a deep breath and just walk in the room. Make eye contact with someone, walk up to them, shake their hand and say hello. Remember they want to network with you as much as you do with them and of course they are only human, and they won’t bite. Another good strategy is to make a beeline for someone who appears to be on their own. Knowing there is someone feeling a bit like yourself will help you get over your nerves and break the ice.
It’s all about me!
People love to talk about themselves. It’s a fact so use it and work with it. Flattering someone’s ego can be a great icebreaker. You could ask them how they got started in business and the secret of their success. It’s also a great way to very swiftly find out if they are someone who could use your products or services. This technique of taking the focus off yourself and onto another is a very effective way to relax your nerves and gives you the confidence of being in control. You will find moving on to your next candidate will be easier, awakening your inner extrovert perhaps.
Learn from others
Events are perfect occasions to connect with a vast array of talent and experience so be sure to make the most of the opportunity to learn from those who know. They also give you a chance to dig deeper and make the most of other people’s networks. Try to find out who they know and where they network. Do they belong to any associations or organisations that might be useful for you to join? Break away and take notes when possible so you don’t forget names or important information. This type of knowledge share will save you ground work, time is money after all!
You’re there to help
Remember we don’t like to be sold to but we do like helpful people. These events are your opportunity to find out what your contact needs and see if you have a product or service that can help. If you can’t help then perhaps you know someone who can. Relationships are developed by people helping people and businesses grow through personal recommendation, whether word of mouth or via testimonials on your website. Get known as being a helpful person, it’s a small world and its good karma to offer your assistance to others. It can only have a positive effect on your business.
Don’t waste your time with those that have no need for your products or services. I know this is easier said than done. Once you realise they are not a good prospect it can be hard to make the break and of course you will be conscious of appearing rude. Make polite conversation for a short time and then wish them well and move on. You could wait for a natural break in the conversation and say something like ‘It was great chatting with you, I’m going to do a bit more mingling’ or you could imply you are benefiting them by saying, ‘I don’t want to take up all your time, it was lovely to meet you’. Either way, networking events are for just that, networking! So everyone there will want to reach as many people as possible and will understand that conversations need to be brief.
Build your database and follow up
Make sure you ask people for their business cards at every event you attend. If you think they could be useful to you in any way, get a card. Make notes on their cards whenever possible to help you remember key information when you get back to the office. These will be vital to you when building your database. Once again be disciplined. As soon as you return to the office and before you get weighed down with day to day calls and emails, add the details of everyone you met to your database as well as any notes you took. Another important thing to do is to follow up any potential leads. You’d be surprised by the number of people who don’t do this after an event, or who leave this too long. Also, if you said ‘I’ll give you a ring’ or ‘let’s meet’ then be as good as your word. Make those calls and arrange those meetings.
Building your profile as a professional, trusted business person takes time and effort. Getting out to events on a regular basis will expose your products and services to a whole new audience and will affirm your position within your industry and local business community. So what are you waiting for? Get networking!
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