Is your networking having a positive impact on your business or career? Is the time you are investing paying dividends or are your coffee dates leading to friendship and nothing more? The world revolves around relationships, we have known for years it’s not what you know but what you know AND who you know that will get you to the top.
Networking is an activity which is becoming essential for businesses and individuals to develop their careers. But it should be done with intention. Here are a number of tips which may put an end to fruitless networking and help you join the ranks of the Super Networkers.
BEFORE THE EVENT
1. They choose the right events
There are thousands of networks both online and offline you could become a part of. Choosing the right events and networks to invest your time in is the first step to effective networking. If your target market is financial services, go to events interest people from the financial services industry. Networking requires a substantial time input, so make sure your time is invested in the right place.
2. They plan and prepare
A good networker is a good planner. Do your research in advance, know who is attending the event and figure out if anyone you know can introduce you to the person you want to speak with. Don’t float aimlessly hoping to meet the right people. Be strategic.
3. They make it about the other person
Although you go to networking events to let people know you exist, once you get there you must focus on them. It may sound counterintuitive if your intention is to grow your business connections and hopefully create interesting leads for yourself but this is how it works. Ask the question – what can I do for you? Making networking about the other person is the best way to make yourself memorable and create connections who will genuinely want to help you and your business succeed. It’s all about the other person.
4. They are present
How many times have you met someone who asks you what you do and spends the rest of the time scanning the room as you reply? How does that make you feel? Never do this to another person. We may have our targets in sight and want to get an opportunity to speak to them, but rather than make another person feel bad, tell them straight. I really want to speak to that person tonight so please excuse me while I try to connect with them. Anyone would much rather you did this than half listen to what he or she is saying.
5. They are good listeners
Being present is the first step to being a good listener. Listen intently to the person speaking to you and think about how you may be able to help him or her. The more you remember about a person the next time you meet him or her, the better the relationship will be.
6. They ask insightful questions
In order to listen well you may have to ask clarifying and insightful questions. Show the person you are interested in him or her and what they are saying.
AFTER THE EVENT
7. They capture contacts
You arrive back from the event with a pile of business cards. Don’t just throw them in a drawer, capture the details in a way you can follow up when required. Use sales or CRM software. If you don’t have one of these packages, Excel will do just fine. Capture the details and any information you think may be relevant for future encounters.
8. They follow up
Don’t forget to follow up. You have good intentions but you never seem to have the time to follow up. Make time. After the event follow up after a couple of days. Never do a hard sell. Say how it was nice to meet them, if you have any relevant news to tell them let them know. Never use a follow up email as a means to sell. You may want to ask permission to add your contacts to your mailing list. You could tell them you checked them out on social media and followed or liked them. You could say you looked at their website and will recommend their services if the opportunity arises. There are many ways to make the initial contact without trying to sell yourself.
9. They fulfill promises
Make sure you make a note on the night of any commitments or promises you have made to people. If you promised to forward a connection or send them information make sure you deliver. They will lose respect for you if you cannot fulfill your initial promise.
10. They use their network
If you have all your contacts together in one place it will make it easier to use your network when the time arises. If you are looking for a supplier, your network contacts should be your first port of call. Keep in touch with your network by sending them useful articles or by inviting them to a business event when one arises. Stay fresh in their minds.
11. They make getaways
The reality of networking is there will be times when you need to make a getaway. Your ideal contact is moving towards the door and you will kick yourself if you miss this opportunity. My tactic is to tell the truth as much as possible. Excuse yourself, go speak to your target, then go back to the person you were initially speaking to. If you need to make an escape because you can’t listen to another minute of someone’s self-absorbed sales pitch, you could try telling him or her nature calls, you need a glass of water, or you need to put more money in your parking meter. Whatever way you do it, try to take the person’s feelings into account (even if he or she wasn’t worried about yours) and on a strategic level you never know who you are speaking to nor the value of their network.
12. They value quality not quantity
And lastly remember at the end of the night it is more beneficial to create two warm leads that have a pocket full of business cards.
Networking is about building relationships and this takes time. You may get frustrated starting out but know it pays off in the end. Follow these useful tips and you too can become a super networker
Featured photo credit: IMG_9565.JPG by Andy K via morguefile.com