Networking has been the most successful activity in growing my contact list and building my client base, so I’m sharing with you my advice on networking like a pro!
To make the most out of networking for yourself and your business I feel it would be wise to:
Start by attending lots of different groups, of different sizes, locations, single/mixed gender, and corporate/self-employed. However, always make sure that all or some of the delegates are in your relevant target market.
Once you have narrowed down what sort of networking groups and activities most suit you and your business then be sure to find as many of these types of group to explore. E.g. If a single-sex networking group has gained you lots of useful contacts, and seems to be more suited to your product/service, then find similar groups in your target location/s and attend these!
Once you have attended groups that suit you (from points 1 and 2 above) on a regular basis you will begin to know which of these groups/meetings are the most successful, therefore these are the ones to carry on attending on a regular basis.
Now you know what groups and events to attend, make sure you check out the delegate list of each meeting or event in advance, and highlight those you would like to build a business relationship with.
Try and chat to as many people as possible at each meeting/event, however make sure you focus on those you have previously highlighted.
Always introduce yourself with a smile, handshake and a business card. Even if you have briefly met a person before it is a good idea to remain professional, therefore a hug is not likely to be appropriate.
Don’t introduce yourself with a robot-like sales pitch. Try to mix it up a bit, and even include some personal details if you feel comfortable.
In conversation don’t focus on the sale. It is more important to focus on building meaningful business relationships, making useful contacts, and seeking new opportunities.
Look for things in common during your conversation (both business experiences and personal attributes) as this helps to build relationships and makes you more memorable. E.g. If the person you are speaking with has children like yourself, then this is a subject you can connect with and chat about.
As well as using networking to gain contacts, build relationships, and eventually make sales, also use groups to build your confidence by offering to be a speaker, and share your business story, or give an insight into your business/products/services.
Never slag off your competitors – EVER!
A great thing about networking is that, as well as meeting new people, it also encourages referrals, which in turn encourages sales. By building trust with other business delegates, this means they are more likely to recommend you to others (both who attend the relevant networking group and who don’t).
Always leave a meeting/event by saying goodbye to as many people as possible who you have spoken with. This, along with a beaming smile, leaves a lasting impression and makes you memorable!