Networking is about getting face to face with potential customers and partners and building relationships through trust. Good business contacts are achieved by getting to know people and establishing a mutual understanding and liking, not simply bombarding them with what you are selling. Networking is so hugely effective because you get straight into a face to face relationship, and people buy from people they know and like.
So here are The Effective Marketing Company’s Networking tips to go along with our Sussex Networking Directory. If you are running a networking event in Sussex and you would like to see it included forward us the details to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will publish it for you.
1. Warm Up
The majority of people walking in to an unfamiliar group will feel some level of anxiety, just thinking about being in this demanding situation can produce strong emotions. You need to remind yourself that everyone at these events feels the same and they are there for the same reason, to network, so there will be lots of people wanting to talk to you. Before you walk in get yourself in to a positive mind set, hold your head high and smile.
2. Break the Ice
You will have something in common with everybody in attendance, whether that’s how you travelled there, being associated to the same organisation, or having mutual acquaintances. You have something in common and you are there to learn something new, so start every conversation with an open question like how are you? or if you are feeling bold – how’s business?
3. Approach New People
Its fine to spend some time with the people that you feel comfortable with, in fact its good to strengthen existing relationships, but remember you are there to meet new people so make sure you don’t spend too much time hiding behind your friends. You can approach people on their own, even groups of 2 or 3 will usually welcome you to join, however, avoid closed groups of 2, 3, 4 or more unless you already know members of the group.
4. What to Say
You don’t have to be loud or overtly confident to be a good networker, overly loud personalities are quite often particularly bad at networking. You don’t learn anything by talking, the only way to learn something new is by listening. An excellent networker will have bags of self esteem and will spend the vast majority of their time listening and learning new things.
5. Don’t Hog People
When you do hit it off with someone be mindful that they are there with their own objectives, most likely to meet new people, so don’t spend too much time with them. Just because they have intimated that they buy what you have to sell from time to time and their current supplier isn’t great doesn’t give you licence to follow them around like a stray. They will be keen to make the most of their time and maximise their networking. Take their card and arrange to call them back or perhaps meet another time. If you are in a group and are not part of the conversation excuse yourself and move on.
6. Buy Things
We are all motivated to network for the same reason, to meet new people and win new business, the whole thing breaks down however if nobody is prepared to buy. Supplier relationships are as important as customer relationships and we would all prefer to be buying from people that we know and like and meet face to face from time to time, this is why networking works. So, if you meet someone and you like the look of their stuff and their attitude give them a go. It’s also worth noting that supplier relationships can quickly and easily become referrer relationships.
As well as having a brief outline of what you do as a person or business, what you want to say and a good amount of business cards there are a few other things you may find useful. Most networking groups provide name badges, however some, perhaps the more casually arranged events don’t, so having your own will make it easier for people to remember you. Also a pen and a small pad will be useful for making notes on who to contact, when and about what as notes written on the back of cards or cigarette packets can easily be lost.
8. Hang Around
The really good networking very often takes place before or after the scheduled time of the event, remember this when you put it in your diary and aim to get there a little early and stay a little later. Why not set your self a target of not leaving until you have spoken to at least 5 new people and gained 4 new pieces of information or gossip.
9. Keep Your Promises
Diarise any follow up calls or actions that you have promised, make notes of the information you gained and add it along with the name of the event into your database. Memories fade quickly so if you have made a useful contact invest a little bit of energy in following them up in the way that you said you would, failed promises will be seen as an indication of unreliability on the networking circuit.
10. Go A Lot
Networking is about building relationships through trust which takes time. You will need to keep attending the networking events on a regular basis to get to know the members really well, and be on the tip of their tongue when they are referring somebody.
11. Spread The Net
Networking is a fantastic way to get your name known in areas you don’t usually work. The internet is the best way to find new networking groups, however you should also speak to your customers, suppliers and any other business associates as they may be attending events that they could introduce you to.
12. Enjoy It
Most networking goes on in pubs or restaurants in the evenings or hotels around breakfast time. Networking is a necessarily social affair and could become the most social aspect of your job, if you compare it to other forms of prospecting like cold calling or knocking on doors its easy to see how people grow to love it and the people that they meet on the networking scene become really good friends. So, smile, have fun, put your best foot forward and go win yourselves some business.