Everyone needs to network: entrepreneurs, small business owners, job seekers! But does everyone maximize the benefits of networking? The purpose of networking is to build relationships so you will get leads from someone you know, or from someone who knows someone you know. When you attend a networking event the purpose is to meet business people from various industries to get exposure.
What networking is not? Networking is not a numbers game; you need to focus on quality and not on quantity. Some people think that they had a successful event when they have collected 30, 40 or more business cards, but they are missing the real point. How many of these 30 or 40 people will you be able to follow-up? How many of these 30 or 40 will follow-up with you? What is the purpose to collect a huge number of business cards that will end up in a shoe-box on one of your shelves? Networking is not a place to sell. You have to be prepared to give your elevator pitch to introduce yourself, not give a sales pitch. If you attend an event expecting to find a client to close a sale right away, chances are you will be very disappointed. Furthermore the other attendees might not appreciate your attitude.
What networking is? Networking is more than just shaking hands and collecting business cards. It is about building relationships and being committed to help other business professionals. It is about the quality of your contacts and not the amount of your contacts. It is about consistency. The best is to belong to two or three groups, attend their events regularly, get to know the other members, and in exchange they will get to know you and trust you. When you see the same people over and over you develop a strong and relationship with them. The benefit of building relationships with a committed group of people will result in new leads for your business. It is about patience. The benefit will not appear overnight, and this is why you need to follow up with your contacts. Networking is like dating, one meeting is not enough to know someone. It will probably take some time, some meetings, some lunches or some drinks before you really start doing business together. Here are some tips on how to maximize the benefits of a networking event.
- Be prepared when you attend a networking event. Know your goals. Are you looking for leads, partners, new clients, services?
- Bring your business cards and a pen to take notes on the back of the cards you receive.
- Have an effective 15 to 30 second elevator pitch. Learn how to sell yourself before your services or products. People want to hear about you first and when they know you and trust you, they will buy your services or refer you to someone else.
- Have a brochure and/or a web site. Some people will probably want to hear more about your business later, so give them the opportunity to get the information they are looking for.
- Meet people, ask about their business or services. Be curious and ask about them. people love to speak about themselves, so ask questions and listen to their answers.
- Be a problem solver. people will be more interested in you if you tell them how you can solve their problem instead of just hearing your story.
- Go to people; don’t wait for them to come to you. Some people are very shy, they will be very happy if you make the first move.
- Go to events with a friend, a colleague, a client, and introduce people to each other.
- Send a thank you note or email to your new contacts. Thank them for their time and reintroduce yourself in a few lines. They met lots of people during the event and your business card doesn’t say everything about you. So it is good to reinforce your introduction.
- Give them the link to your web site. Tell them about your newsletter, if you have one. This is the best way to stay in touch on a regular basis.
- Schedule follow-up meetings with the people you had a good connection with, or if you think that you can help each other.
- Do it again and again. You will see that networking can expand your contacts, which will definitely help grow your business.