When you are commencing in your own business, attending networking events can be a tad overwhelming. If you compare networking to other forms of new business development, it is less expensive and very effective.
You’ll need to find the right networking event for you and your business. It’s also important to remember that it does take time to reap the benefits of networking. Just like you can’t build a highly successful business or career overnight, the same patience and timing needs to be applied to networking.
For anyone new to networking the most important lesson to learn is that it’s not all about ‘you.’ The key to successful networking is showing interest in other people and what they are doing, genuine interest too. The best networkers have a real interest in people and it shows because they come across as authentic in their interactions.
If you view a networking event as an opportunity to only talk about yourself and sell your business, then the results are likely to be less effective. Everyone has a fabulous story, so when networking listen to your new contacts and find synergy. Rather than wondering how you could sell to this person, think about how you can help them. Are you able to offer some genuine advice? Do you know someone who might be able to compliment their business or help their career? Without a doubt my most effective networking connections have come out of a mutual desire to help and complement each other.
Professional networking takes time. You need to allow 6 months of consistent networking before you will truly see valuable results. If you are consistent in your efforts, it will be noticed and people will soon develop a healthy respect for you. They will see you ‘walk your talk’ and know you are serious about forming long term relationships and not just looking for a quick sell.
Creating a lasting impression will work wonders in networking. Taking a genuine interest is the first step and also remember to use a big smile. Try also not to be judgemental about the person you are talking to. It is very easy to make incorrect assessments about people, so give everyone you speak to, your respect and undivided attention. Don’t scan the room looking for people who ‘look like’ your ideal customer. By putting your best foot forward in all your conversations, if nothing else, each person will be left with a great impression of you. Who knows when they will next speak to someone who might need your product or service!
Before you attend your networking event, you’ll need to prepare and rehearse a 60 second snapshot of what you do. This is called your ‘elevator pitch.’ It’s important that you practice this so it delivered in your conversation, naturally. The more you practice, the more confident you will be and the more confidence you will instil in the other person. Your 60 second ‘elevator pitch’ should also include a nice benefit that you think will be of interest. Remember people are interested in what makes their heart sing, not a long list of features. How will your product or services make him/her feel, how will it help or improve their life?
I always recommend you look great too, as this will naturally make you feel more confident. It’s a bit like going on a date – wear an outfit that you look good in and feel comfortable wearing. If you’re feeling great when you walk into a networking event, it will show. I always wear something that stands out too – in a positive way. It’s nice for people to have something to comment on and it helps them remember who you are too. It doesn’t need to be an expensive designer outfit. It can be a funky necklace, flamboyant earrings or a dazzling top, for example. I met a lady recently who had a lovely, delicate broach on her lapel. I am not even a broach wearer but it was so delicate and feminine I could not stop looking at it. Kay will now always be the lady with the broach to me. See how simple it can be!
After your networking event, follow up with all the people you spoke with. This might be as simple as sending an email to say ‘great to meet you.’ If you think there is more synergy, then organise to catch up for a coffee. Let him/her know you think there might be some ways you can help each other. Through my work with Brisbane Woman, people often ask me to catch up for a coffee. If you are a busy business owner, you can’t always say yes to everyone, so give them a good reason to come along. Maybe you think you could help their business in some way, or perhaps the two of you would work together in the future etc. This will be the start of building a relationship and growing your business.
When done effectively, it is our networking and relationship building skills that set our businesses apart from competitors and catapult our careers.
Tops Tips for Networking:
1. Smile and be genuinely interested in other people.
2. Wear an outfit that makes you feel confident.
3. Practice your ‘elevator pitch’ until it feels natural.
4. Write something interesting about each person you meet on their business card and mention it in the follow up email. How good does it feel, when someone remembers something interesting about you?
5. Don’t bring a friend along, unless he/she are a keen networker too. Push yourself to go on your own and talk to new people. It’s easy to stand and chat with your friend but really what is the point of doing this at a networking event? I have never introduced myself to a person at a networking event and not had a positive response. Remember everyone is in the same boat as you, so talk to new people.
6. Don’t be afraid to make the first contact after a networking event, most people will be flattered – unless it is obvious you’re just trying to sell your product or service.
7. Go again and again. Be seen networking consistently and professionally and others will presume this is now you run your business also.
Brisbane Woman prides itself on providing warm and supportive environments for new people to network in, so come along and have some fun with networking.
What are your thoughts?
How effective have you found networking for growing your business or career? What makes a good networker? Have you any tips? When does networking not work effectively? Do you find networking events intimidating?