MORE Networking is a community of business people who understand that creating value is the best recommendation. MORE Networking is about people talking about them, not about job descriptions. About people who offer solutions, they do not sell products. MORE networking is about people who understand that selling is a consequence, not a primary goal.
I just came from a business networking meeting and the main idea that I left with is….you can’t be seen, until you learn to see. Let’s see what I learned in the first 3 years of managing a business networking community and how it can be used for business scale up.
Let’s be very clear about something – business networking, like any other business activity, requires concentrated effort to produce results. If you treat networking like an occasional or purely social club it will not produce good business results.
Business networking is an effective low-cost marketing method for developing sales opportunities and contacts, based on referrals and introductions – either face-to-face at meetings and gatherings, or by other contact methods such as phone, email, and increasingly social and business networking websites.
A business networking community offers a great way to reach decision-makers, which might otherwise be very difficult to engage with using conventional advertising methods. In addition, it brings the unique advantage of recommendation and personal introduction, which are always very helpful for developing business opportunities.
Business networking is a way
for you to make the maxim
“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”
work for you.
What kind of business people attend business networking events?
That’s the beauty of it – all kinds. We’re all different and that’s the best thing for a business community. Nevertheless, the reasons for business networking will shift during the life of a company or of an entrepreneur. As a small business owner, you might want to network to publicize or your product or service, find a mentor, establish yourself as an expert within your field, seek investors for business financing, discover opportunities to invest in other businesses, or simply connect with other professionals in your industry. As a big company, you might want to get real feedback and find suppliers or possible business partners. Whatever the size of the business, remember that all business owners are looking for connections.
Why networking at business events doesn’t work?
People have to trust you before they’ll do business with you or refer you.
Networking is a process, not a one-off event. Take the time to develop relationships with people who interest you. Be proactive and invite someone to a one-to-one meeting so you can get to know them.
10 Networking tips + BONUS at the end
Choose the right venues. Not every group of people will be right for you. Choose groups that share your interests and/or are potential clients. Chambers of Commerce, men’s and women’s organizations, networking groups, special interest groups, and associations are all potential choices. Or perhaps one networking community where you can learn to network like a pro.
Develop relationships. Networking is not about selling, but rather developing relationships that can lead to sales or referrals. The idea is to get to know people and allow them to get to know you. Often, people approach networking hoping to making a sale or get a client after one visit. That’s not how it works. People do business with those they know and trust and it takes time to build up that knowledge and trust. So approach a networking event with the idea of meeting new people or building relations with those you’ve already gotten to know.
Dress appropriately and professionally. Establish yourself as a successful person, which you can do by dressing the part. This does not mean that you need to wear expensive clothes, but do wear something a bit on the dressy side and leave the comfortable baggy pants at home. If necessary, get advice from an image consultant.
Be prepared. Bring plenty of business cards, but only give them to people who show a real interest in what you do. Also, craft a short description of what you do — no more than 10 or 15 seconds. And very important – attend events with a plan. Always try to meet someone new or learn something new. This will keep you from talking too much about yourself and your business.
Ask questions and listen. You don’t have to talk a lot about what you do in order to find potential customers. Rather, ask people you meet questions about them and their business, and then listen carefully to their answers. Find common points that you can bring into the conversation and leave room for a follow up call or meeting.
Sit with people you don’t know. Many events have walk-around networking followed by a sit-down meeting of some sort. During the walk-around, do talk to people you have met before to enhance your relationship, but sit with people you don’t know in order to widen your network and meet potential customers. Here too, ask questions and listen.
Talk to people who are standing alone. People attend networking events to meet others. If someone is standing alone, that’s the perfect opportunity to make a new contact. You might want to start the conversation by saying, “May I join you?”
Move on – politely. Don’t spend all of your time talking to one person. Gather the information you need, exchange business cards, if appropriate, and move on. I often say, “I’d like to do some mixing now. It’s been a pleasure speaking to you. Let’s continue soon. ”
Give to get. Focus on what you can do for others, not what they can do for you. Perhaps you know someone who could use your prospects services. If you do, make the referral. Be a resource, not a sales pitch.
Follow up. If you make a good connection with someone, after the event, send a note saying how much you enjoyed meeting them. If appropriate, send an article or some kind of information that they might find helpful. Do not add them to your mailing list without their permission.
P.S. Don’t follow up via email. The only exception would be if you have been expressly asked to do so. A follow up call is the magic trick that transforms contacts intro contracts.
Register for the event and schedule it like a business meeting. Many people either don’t sign up for events or sign up for them and then forget to go. Don’t forget that actions speak louder than words. People will judge what you do, not what you say you’ll do. Business networking requires sustained effort to make things happen.
Sustained focused effort does not mean delivering a full-blown sales pitch to every person you meet, and plastering your brochures all around the hotel lobby. Sustained focused effort means working hard to become a regular active helpful presence in the group and in the community.
Build relationships first, your reputation next, and referrals and introductions will follow.