Is your net working?
Networking is when a group of like minded individuals who have a common interest meet to share resources, information, and make introductions to each other’s spheres of influence, in order to support each other in growing professionally and personally. Small business owners network in order to meet each other and expand their spheres of influence by referring prospects to professionals they know and trust.
Helpful Networking Tips
There are many factors that contribute to successful networking. The first rule of successful networking is to have a mentality of give rather take. The following are suggestions on how to put your best foot forward when networking.
Keep these simple suggestions in mind when you are networking:
- Set a goal – Start with the end game in mind. What do you want to accomplish at each and every networking event you attend. Your intention should be on quality connections rather than quantity. A good goal to shoot for is to make two to three new quality contacts at each event that you attend.
- Be sincere and authentic – Be yourself and sincere in your intentions. If you are there to attract new prospects, then be honest about that. It’s actually quite refreshing when someone is honest and candid about their true intentions. People sense insincerity, whether they realize it consciously or not.
- Follow up – It doesn’t matter how many great networking events you attend and how many wonderful people you meet, if you don’t follow up with them to express your appreciation and sincere interest in meeting them then it was all a waste of time, money and effort. Pick up the phone or send them a brief email to let them know you enjoyed meeting them.
- ABN – Always be networking! Visit lots of different networking groups and even look for networking opportunities in non-traditional groups, like volunteer organizations and recreational groups you belong to. You never know who you may meet when picking up your pizza or standing in line at your bank.
- Get involved – Volunteer to be in the leadership body of networking groups you belong to. Getting involved helps develop your leadership skills and gets you noticed and known by the people in that group. When people see that you are a giver, rather than a taker, they trust your intentions and are more likely to do business with you and send you referrals.
- Tune into WIIFM – Everyone loves talking about themselves, especially at networking events. Be different. Focus on listening rather than pitching everyone you meet about you and what you do. Tune into their favorite radio station WIIFM – What’s in it for me. You will be the one everyone wants to talk to and connect with. One simple and effective way to listen and learn about others is to ask open-ended questions – questions that require an answer other than “yes” or “no”. Open-ended questions encourage people to elaborate and explain. They give you a lot of information about them and their business.
- Become a valuable resource – Be a giver; develop a reputation as someone who helps others get what they want. Give rather than take. Be the “go to” person who is well connected. People want to meet the movers and shakers, the people that make connections.
- USP – Be clear, polished and professional about who you are and what you do to serve people through your business. What is your “unique selling proposition?” How are your unique? How are you different? Introduce yourself with an elevator speech that is creative and grabs their attention enough to want to know more and ask questions.
- Who is your prospect? – Who is your customer? What is your ask? What is your goal for meeting people? Ask for it. Be clear, honest and professional.
- Be approachable – Be friendly. Make eye contact. Have open, inclusive body language that invites people to join you and your conversation. Rather than creating cliques that exclude people and make them feel bad, be a connector of people who leaves everyone feeling good about themselves and like they are important.
- Don’t sell – If you go to networking events expecting instant gratification and to land new clients on the spot, then you will be disappointed and fail miserably. Be a giver rather than a taker and you will start to see better results in growing your network.
- Don’t hand out business cards to everyone – If people don’t ask for your business card then they aren’t interested. Don’t force them on everyone you meet. You will be wasting your business cards. People resist someone who is pushy and comes on too strong.
- Don’t pitch, instead of connecting – Networking is a social skill. People attend networking events in order to meet new people and develop new relationships. They do that with idle social chit chat. Be willing to invest in people and getting to know them and they will be more open to you and hearing about what you do.
- Don’t close the deal – Networking is the first step in the sales cycle. It is not the appropriate step for trying to close the sale. Again, be willing to invest the time and attention in others and they will be more receptive to you.
- Don’t Spam – Following up after the event with immediate offers to sell new connections right away is pushy and insincere. Show people respect by asking for permission and pre-qualify them to find out if they are even interested in what you have to offer.
- Beware – If you focus on selling and closing new clients at networking events, you will miss opportunities to make valuable connections with people who could actually be sources of many connections that in the long run could lead to lots of business.
Be Honest with Yourself
Is your net working? Are you getting the results you desire from all your networking efforts? If not, try implementing some of these suggestions and approach networking with the attitude of developing long-term relationships rather than short term sales.
Zig Ziglar had it right when he said, “If I help enough people get what they want, eventually I will get what I want.” Networking is about giving rather than taking. Approach it with a sincere interest in others and you will be one of the most popular people in the room.
Deborah Brightstar ©2015