Since I started my business in 2015 I’ve been part of a number of different business networking groups. Here are some thoughts on useful hints and tips for business networking. Something you would add? Please let me know.
Don’t – just connect
The aim should not to be connect with as many people as possible – but to build strong relationships with a select few in the room.
People buy from people! Whilst you may want to retain your professional approach to networking, allow people to get the know the real you. Be real – don’t begin new relationships on a lie.
When building relationships offline and online remember to do the courting first. Too many people try to jump into bed first and date later!
Show an interest
Show an interest in others, ask about family/holidays/social plans. Anything but ‘So, what do you do?’ It’s a real turnoff when you say that!
It is useful to jot down a note or two about someone you meet – perhaps an event they have coming up, something new in their business, a personal event they are looking forward to. You can use this information in your follow up – ask how his event went, if her daughter passed her driving test, if their new office is now up and running, etc.
Always do what you say will do! If you promise to email within 24 hours – do! If you offer to connect them with someone else – then make the introduction. Don’t become known as the person who can’t be trusted!
You may be at a networking event to grow your business, raise awareness, attain new referral partners, but one of the quickest ways to achieve all those is to help someone else. Who can you connect them with? What businesses can you make a warm introduction to? What useful tips and advice can you offer? Be seen as the person who is always willing to help others – and others will want to help you in return!
Do not be a card spammer
Don’t dart around the room handing out your business card to everyone in sight! Instead, place the majority of them on the literature table, and and keep a few on you in case someone you have a conversation with asks for one.
As a first attendee, it will generally be calmer and quieter – and people won’t have settled into groups yet. It will be much easier to find other people who don’t already have someone to talk to.
Ask easy questions
Try not to wait around the edges of the room, waiting for someone to come over to you. To get the conversation started, simply walk up to a person or a group, and ask if you can join them. Asking what brings them to the event can be a good opener. Don’t forget to listen intently to their replies. This can really help you to get to know someone.
Ditch the sales pitch
Networking is all about relationship building. Giving it the hard sell the moment you meet someone can be really off-putting. Start off with some light, fun conversation.
Share your passion
Tell people why you do what you do! Share the enthusiasm that you have for your service or product. Share your story about how you first got involved with it. Remember to ask others about their passion too!
Ever had someone smile at you and you found it impossible not to smile back? Smiling shows warmth, friendliness and makes you much easier to approach. You might be nervous – but it’s likely that others are too. A simple exchange of smiles can put you both at ease and make you both feel more comfortable.
Don’t hijack the conversation
Remember networking is about conversation. Not about talking at people! Make sure to have your input, but listen as well as talk. Create opportunities for conversation and discussion rather than keeping the focus completely on yourself.
Networking doesn’t end when you leave the room. Book a one-to-one, arrange a coffee or lunch to get to know each other better. Send a quick email telling them how lovely it was to meet them. Remember to make reference to the conversation you had with them, so that they know you were paying attention to them and were interested in what they had to say. It will make you memorable.
Don’t spam people
If you collect business cards at an event – use them to follow up and get to know people better. They can be useful for keeping in contact with people, but do not just put them on your database and spam them with your emails.
One of the most overlooked important parts of networking is listening to others. Remembering simple things about people can really help you to build relationships with them as time goes on. You will soon become known as the person who is interested in others and pays attention to what is being said.
Set yourself a goal
When you are going to an event, identify people/business that you want to meet. Make this your priority when you arrive. It will help to keep you focused on meeting the right people and making those all important follow up coffee’s!