So you’ve made your choice about which networking groups you want to be part of and you’re attending on a regular basis – so now what?
Well, how about some key pointers about what you should be doing to get the most out of the event?
It might seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people turn up without business cards! If you have marketing material or sales brochures take them along – sometimes there will be a specific place at the meeting where you can display such things.
It is said “you only have a single chance to make a first impression” – turning up in jeans and a sweatshirt, may not do you any favours; likewise “suited and booted” may not be right for your business. Dress according to the impression you want to leave people with – you are representing your business.
If you are looking to build relationships with other networkers at an event, having a smile on your face and a positive attitude is going to go a long way towards this; as opposed to an impression of Jack Dee or Victor Meldrew!
Wear your name badge on your right lapel. Hmm – now why would that be? Although it is easier for right handed people to put a name badge on the left side, they correctly are worn on the right side so the person shaking hands or greeting has easy eye contact with both the person and the badge as a way to help remember the name or to see where he/she is from, etc.
Be ready to answer “What do you do?” – this will certainly be a question that individuals at the meeting will ask you and some meetings will give you the option to introduce yourself to the group. You’ll only have a couple of minutes at best, so make sure you are clear about your message. Practise it beforehand and write it down, particularly if you are introducing yourself to the whole group.
Do Not Sell
No one likes the over-bearing, foot in the door, in your face type sales pitch – so don’t do it! You will come across as desperate to want business and you will turn people off. Your job is to start to develop relationships with other networkers. If you meet a potential prospect that you think is interested in what you have, ‘sell‘ the next step which might be a 1 to 1 outside of the networking meeting.
Understand who your ideal client is & tell people. This way they will be able to refer the right type of people to you. For example mine is “I work with MD/Owners of businesses with 5-50 staff who are based in Northamptonshire who are either looking to grow their business or need some help“.
“Two Ears, One Mouth”
Listen twice as much as you speak. You don’t have to speak ‘at‘ people telling them all about the wonderful stuff you do. You will generate as good, if not better, relationship with people if you provide them a listening ear. That isn’t to say that you don’t get your chance to tell them about you – it’s about proportion. It also doesn’t mean that you get stuck in the corner with someone being bored to death (see below).
‘Manage The Room’
By this I mean understand who is at the meeting (maybe find out in advance so that you can ‘target‘ the people you want to meet) and who would be the best people to connect with as potential prospects or referrers of business to you. If you get stuck with someone who is either boring or not particularly relevant to you, don’t be rude, but politely excuse yourself and move on to someone else.
Again, maybe an obvious one, but be conscious of how you are coming across to the rest of the room. Don’t dominate conversations, be loud or larey or appear arrogant. You know what I mean – you’ve probably met them (or at least heard them) at events you’ve attended.
Follow Up, Follow Up, Follow Up!
After the event, if you connected with someone of interest or committed to send them something, arrange a 1 to 1 or you have a referral for them, as a minimum drop them an email. LinkedIn is a useful place to invite people who you have met at a physical networking meeting to connect with you online.
Don’t Spam People
For example, collect all the names of the people who attended and email them with a sales message or newsletter; especially if you didn’t meet them on the day.
Here’s to your success with business networking.