As business people many of us see networking as something you just have to do. It means we can tick the box to say that we have been out and about drumming up contacts for future business.
However it is vitally important to make the most of your time at networking and referral group events. We have to consider that the time spent is taking us away from other important business activities, or if outside business hours family and recreational time. Therefore the more efficient we are at making the most of these events, the better.
Here are some ideas to make the most of your networking time.
- Don’t try to talk to everyone!
- Treat networking at referral groups as you would any other social interaction, don’t just focus on the business side of things, be friendly and useful first.
- Don’t dismiss anyone! You may think you do not need to know or meet this person, but you don’t know who they may know, or where they may be in the future, give everyone the time and respect they deserve.
- Your first goal at every meeting is to help someone else, build the trust first, help another, and eventually they will reciprocate.
- Be more interested than interesting!! its not all about you, no one wants to listen to someone else talk about themselves and their business for 15 minutes, they will be looking at their watch and making excuses to sneak off to get more canapes.
- Introduce people who have similar interests and may benefit from the relationship, help someone else first.
- Always follow up! Be prompt and follow up when you say you will, people will appreciate your punctuality, it says I value your time and I come through when I say I will.
- Never sell at a networking event!! There are many reasons for this, just don’t do it.
- Ask good questions in order to get a strong idea of what the other person’s business offers, only then are you in a position to help them.
- Be clear when introducing what your business offers, people are not interesting in in depth explanations of your products and services, use case studies of how you have helped others to explain what you offer.
- Add value! This goes with the previous statement, when discussing your business make it about them not you, how can you help them? This could be as simple as updates on current regulations if you are in the health and safety industry, or changes to tax laws if you are an accountant.
Finally, be picky, don’t be the person who goes to every networking event who talks to everyone but never makes any strong connections. Have a purpose at each event, make the most of every interaction. You need to get a return for the time invested.
Hayden Burgess is a Programme Developer and Facilitator for Sales Impact Group.