For many Entrepreneurs, networking is the life-blood of their business. It is the primary way they acquire clients and customers. Unlike blanket advertising, networking allows you to develop relationships; and developing relationships is the key to growing your business. But how can you use networking effectively, so that you are not wasting your time? Here are 9 critical steps to help you … do it right!
NETWORKING! Some love it – some hate it, but they all agree it’s a necessary part of doing business today; whether you network in person or online. Since it plays such a key role in growing your business, don’t you think it would be a good idea to learn how to do it RIGHT, rather than waltzing in unprepared and winging it? Yes, I think so too! So we’ll look at 9 quick tips that can really help you do it right!
FIRST: Take networking seriously!
On the surface, networking can APPEAR to be just a fun, social gathering, but there is so much more to it. You don’t want to walk into a networking event, or engage in networking online without a definite goal in mind. What exactly do you want to accomplish? Are you looking for a strategic alliance; someone to do a joint venture with? Are you wanting to meet someone who fits your niche as a client and meet them for coffee? Are you looking for help to find a needed resource? Know going in what your purpose is, and take it seriously.
2. Next – Create a data base Too many entrepreneurs or sales professionals go into a networking environment, collect business cards and then never follow up. If later, they can’t find a certain person’s business card in their heap of cards, they cannot contact them again. Rather than leaving to chance your ability to connect with the people you've met, discipline yourself to put everyone in a data base as soon as you get back to the office, so you can keep that connection going! Make this step a priority! It’s critical for growing your business.
3. Be genuinely interested in them If you have ever been accosted by someone who meets you for the first time and then instantly breaks into an exhaustive, detailed explanation of who they are – what they do – and why you should buy from them, without ever asking anything about you; you will understand the importance of always showing interest in the other person first. Now, if they are quick to ask you about yourself and your business, then you have license to share your message first. Otherwise, always ask about them and their business first … then listen! Really listen!
4. Have a clear, concise message
When it’s your time to share, be sure that your message is crisp and brief. Say something that will grab their attention and interest. Be friendly, positive and enthusiastic! Enthusiasm is contagious. If you are enthusiastic about what you have to offer, it can rub off on them. Most importantly, be genuine and sincere.
5. Don't monopolize their time
Remember, the people you meet are there to network just like you, so you want to be cognizant about how much time you are taking with each person. You don't want to stay in front of them so long that they lose opportunities to make connections. Make a connection, be engaging and then let them go.
6. Ask open-ended questions
Keep the conversation going by asking the right questions. Be sure to ask questions in such a way that your new-found acquaintance will have to say more than "Yes" or "No" to your question. Rather than say "So, Bob, do you like what you do there at B & B Accounting?" ask, "So Bob, what do you like best about the work you do at B & B Accounting?" Now you have started a conversation!
7. Be inclusive and help others connect
When someone else approaches your conversation, do not ignore them or make them wait a long time to acknowledge them. Be quick to include any newcomers into the conversation. You can do this without skipping a beat. You don't have to stop talking, just include them into the conversation by looking at them as if they were standing there the whole time. When the time is right, invite them to introduce themselves.
8. Become a valuable resource for others
If you are able to share good ideas, valuable, usable tips, names of potential clients or strategic partners, people will gravitate to you, and the word will spread that you are "that" person - the one who is quick to share great ideas and helpful resources.
9. BONUS TIP: Volunteer for a position with the group
When you can, volunteer for a position with the group. This will put you in the forefront of the members, and you will become well-known far more quickly.
I hope these tips will help you to become a more effective networker, so you can build those relationships and watch your business grow! You may want to join my email list to receive my monthly newsletter, full of great ideas, motivation and inspiration! Just contact me with a text or email! I'll be happy to send it to you!
Author, Speaker, Business Coach