Do you feel awkward or afraid when going to business networking events? You are not alone! Many people avoid networking events and many others make big mistakes while networking. Simply showing up at a networking event with your business cards is not enough! Successful business networking requires planning and strategy.
Networking is important and networking works! According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 70 percent of all jobs are found through business networking. As a business owner, you want to constantly grow your network of contacts.
Think about some ways that meeting other people has impacted your life. The position you now hold likely happened because you met someone somewhere. How did you meet your spouse, your friends, and your work associates? In many cases you were introduced or you met them somewhere. Many of us have gotten something free such as tickets to an event through networking. Don’t miss out on this great way to grow your business!
Here are some tips to make your business networking effective:
Go with the plan to serve others. The best way to set yourself at ease during networking is to focus on other people. Go with the mindset that you are there to give. Listen well! Think about ways you can help them: people that you can introduce them to, resources and tools that could benefit them. Make them happy that they met you!
Have a goal. You are attending events to make contacts that will be mutually beneficial. Decide in advance how many people you want to meet. If possible, decide in advance who you want to meet. Arrive early and view the attendee name tags and the companies they work for. Arriving early is also important to start the event in the right manner. You can position yourself to meet attendees as they arrive.
Don’t get into cliques. Remember your goals for the event. If you get into a circle of people you already know, you will limit your ability to meet new people. Spend a few minutes with everyone you meet, but move on. You can say, “excuse me, I need to freshen up my drink.”
If you are anxious, go with a friend. This is a good way to get your feet wet. You can talk with your friend during the gaps between meeting new people. As you get more comfortable you and your friend can split up.
Get introduced. Another advantage of arriving early is to ask the host to introduce you to some of the guests. Or if you see an acquaintance talking with someone you want to meet, approach them and ask your acquaintance for an introduction.
Take your business cards and a pen. However, don’t offer your card too quickly. If you meet someone that would be a good contact for you, ask for their card. Once you have ended your conversation, write down key information about your new acquaintance. This will help you later to remember details about them and will aid you as you begin your next conversation. Of course when people ask for your card, be ready to provide one. Don’t give them more than one card unless they ask for it.
Be a good interviewer. For a great example, watch how newscasters interview people. Listen twice as much as you talk. Keep good eye contact while they are speaking; don’t look around the room while they are talking. Nod your head, smile and laugh where appropriate. Interject short responses from time to time to relate to your acquaintance. Make affirming comments, and sincere compliments. Most people will ask what you do, but if they don’t, feel free to briefly tell them about what you do.
Have a thirty second commercial. Be ready to briefly describe what you do. Talk about the benefits (how you impact your client’s life) of your product or service rather than the features (what you do). Know what makes you unique and better than your competition.
Be ready to describe your ideal client. Know how to describe your prospects in terms of demographics. For example, “My clients are young married couples who live in working class neighborhoods in Greenville SC.”
Look for “Networking Orphans.” At just about every event there will be someone who is new, uncomfortable and anxious. They may be standing awkwardly against the wall looking out of place. Find them and become their friend. Introduce them to others. They will be very thankful that you rescued them.
The most important thing…follow up! If you don’t follow up with your new acquaintances, you have just wasted your time at the event. Be unique in your approach. Send a card, or make a phone call thanking them for meeting with you. If appropriate, invite them for coffee or lunch to deepen the relationship.
Remember that people do business with those they know, like and trust. Business networking works! Serve your business contacts well and you will be on the road to great clients and referrals!
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