GAP’s Guide to … Networking
Why networking might not be working for you?
Are you going to too many networking events or not enough?
With so many formal networking groups, it is possible to go to networking three times day (before you go to work, during work time and events in the evening). Conversely we are so busy that we don’t allocate time to go out and develop and maintain our networks.
It is really important to network….
…. through networking you can identify a number or business opportunities including developing leads, strengthen existing client relationships, raising the profile of the business, meet potential suppliers or strategic partners, meet potential employees, market research and testing your product.
….but it is really important to network well.
Firstly, it is important to carefully think about the events you go to. Secondly, when you are there, are you making of most of the time. Finally afterwards, you have done the hard work of going and making these new contacts, what are you doing with these business cards and how are you following up.
The following are some tips covering these 3 areas
Before you go:
Prepare what you are going to say by putting together an ‘elevator pitch’. This is a short introduction that describes who you are, who you work for, what you do and areas of specialisms. It is called an ‘elevator pitch’ because it reflects the idea that it should be possible to deliver this summary in the time span of an elevator ride (approximately thirty seconds to two minutes). In this instance less is more, think water fountain rather than garden hose.
Is this the right event for you? Think about your target customers and consider if they are likely to be here. Prior to going to an event find out
- Who is it aimed at / Who is likely to attend?
- What type of event is it / the format?
- Purpose of the event?
- Date / time /duration/ location?
- Potential benefits of attending and probability of attaining benefits?
- Who is the event organiser? Have you attended the event before and if so was it good ?
- How many people are likely to attend?
As part of thinking what you are going to say, when speaking about your business, sell not tell. You can do this by thinking about the features of your products/services have? ….. and what are the related benefits to you customers? Link benefits to features with ‘which means that…..’
In your discussions, there will be probably be some objections to your product / service. Welcome these objections! A well thought through and rehearsed response to an objection, will pivot the objection in to your advantage.
Take business cards! (Make sure you have enough)
When you are there:
The most daunting part often is when you first walk in the room. You will see a crowd of people all who look like they know each other really well and don’t want their conversations to be interrupted by you. That is not often the case!
When you first enter the room, stand on your own for a couple of minutes and simply watch the room. People will be very engrossed with others, so you won’t be noticed doing this. Then select a group to join by observing the intensity of conversation between people.
The following shows the difference between an ‘Open’ and ‘Closed’ groups.
Alternatively, say hello to someone who is on their own.
If you are new to networking, then you might to think about going with a colleague. The first time, you might stop together for all the time. Next time, still go with a colleague, but split up after ten minutes. Next time, go on your own.
Most people at the networking event will be pleasant and reasonable, and it’s always best to assume this at the start but you will meet different people and so the trick is to get the best out of each conversation you have. For those who may be a naturally quiet, ask questions about them and their business or ask them for their opinion. For the “Talker” (Yes you probably met them – On mastermind their specialist subject would be themselves!), don’t be too timid and let them go on and on. Refer to something they have said and link to something you want to talk about.
When breaking into a group, listen to the conversation and wait to join in. Join in by making eye contact with one person or wait until someone speaks to you.
When talking, stay enthusiastic and interesting. Try to find common ground so you can connect quickly. Also have a list of questions in your mind
Think about your body language. Maintain eye contact which shows respect and interest in what they say. Gently smiling to show liking of the customer and comfort with the situation. Confident body posture so you don’t look anxious or nervous. Don’t invade their space or stand too far as will be seen as “stand offish”.
Make a note of the conversations you have with them and in particular any actions you have agreed. In normally write this on the back of their business card.
After the networking event:
This is the part we often forget to do. This is further compounded by our desire to catch up with the telephone calls / emails we missed while at the event.
So what can you do? When you book the event in your diary, also book in time to do the follow up.
When following up:
- Carry out the actions you agreed
- Email / telephone new contacts to say you enjoyed talking to them and look forward working together
- If you have been given a referral or information (follow up with a thank you)
- Send a thank you to the event organisers
Best of luck with your networking. I hope it helps you identify those who are looking for new business and helps bring their new business to you.