10 Tips to Take the Ugh Out of Business Networking
What are your first thoughts when you hear the word networking? We know some of you are probably thinking, “Ugh, I hate to do that!” Right? All that work meeting new people. Forget about it. Or perhaps you’re thinking “Networking is too much like marketing and I’m not good at marketing. Never works, so why do it?”
It’s easy to be apprehensive or even downright anxious about networking if you haven’t had much success at it. But perhaps your lack of success comes from a lack of understanding just how important and beneficial it is. That coupled with a lack of good technique can prevent you from seeing good results. And, you won’t see how easy it can be when done properly. Many just give up instead of making it part of their marketing message.
Networking allows you to let potential clients know who you are and that you have a business that’s ready to help them solve their problems and quite possibly increase their revenue. Plus, making your name familiar to prospective customers is a great way to stay connected. People are more willing to work with a new service if they have heard about you or have had the opportunity to meet you. It helps them to gain the confidence that you can help their business. And finally, for those who work at home, it offers the camaraderie they often miss by not being in a workplace atmosphere. This is especially true when you network regularly at the same places so others become familiar with you and look forward to seeing you.
Like many things, networking can come in many forms. You can network by joining some of the more relevant business groups in your community and even offering to be a speaker at some of their events. You can attend seminars, tradeshows and expos. But what is even more important to where you network is how you network. It really works when it’s done right and we hope to help you see that.
Here are some tips to make your networking experience better:
1. Know the dress code and dress professionally. You don’t want to be over dressed nor do you want to be too relaxed. Simply ask or look at photos of recent events they have hosted to get a feel for it. Past event photos are often featured on their social media pages or website.
2. Make sure you are comfortable. Shoes that hurt your feet or shoes that tend to slip off regularly don’t create a positive appearance. Also, you want to look natural and when you look in obvious pain that sends the wrong message. You don’t want to look like you only dress for these networking events, but that you are professional day in and day out, even if you do normally wear jeans and a tee to work.
3. Make new contacts. Try not to spend all the time with the people you already know. Many people don’t enjoy networking events because of the “cliques” where the same people talk to the same people and it’s hard to break in. Do your best to mingle and truly connect with everyone.
4. Welcome the new attendees. They will long remember you for making them feel comfortable at their first event. And, you can sometimes use your “old contacts” to help you with this. For example, when a new person stops by your group you can introduce yourself and then say, “Oh, have you met…,” and then introduce your friend as well. This can be a great icebreaker for everyone.
5. Always have your short elevator speech prepared. The more prepared you are the more confidently you can introduce your services. Know the audience in advance so you can customize your speech to that group. Also, have business cards handy, as well as a pen.
6. Be a good listener. People can tell when you aren’t interested in their conversation. If you want their business, you should be interested. Pay attention to what is being said as if there were going to be a test later, because there just might be when asked if you recall something that was said just a bit ago.
7. Remember to make eye contact. You likely know how it feels when you’re talking to someone at an event and their eyes keep wondering over your shoulder to scan the crowd. It makes you feel like they have absolutely no interest in you and what you’re saying. Do your scanning of the crowd before you engage in talk with someone. Seek out who you’re going to talk to and keep them engaged with interesting conversation—don’t make it all about you.
8. Collect as many business cards as possible. Be sure to make any special notes on the back of a contact’s card that will help you remember them and why you need to make contact later.
9. Send a thank-you note. Immediately following the networking event, send a thank-you note to all those you spoke with to let them know it was nice meeting them. You can design your own to make it a little more personal. Make sure you sign your own name; don’t have it typed. While handwritten is better, email is acceptable. Just do it!
10. Follow-up immediately with hot prospects. If you made contact with the right people you will have identified some hot prospects. Armed with the notes you took on the back of their business card, make contact and let them know how you can benefit their company. Be sure to get a commitment for a next course of action.
Being prepared, looking professional at all times, and having the confidence that you are an expert at what you do will help to take the “Ugh” of out networking. And remember, the more you network the better you get at it. The more you enjoy it, the more results you will see.
Diana Ennen and Kelly Poelker are the co-authors of numerous books including Virtual Assistant – The Series: Become a Highly Successful, Sought After VA. Stop by for information on starting your own VA business http://www.vatheseries.com. Follow them on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/becomeava. Article is free to be reprinted as long as bio remains.