Networking… a word which can send shivers down the spine of many of you out there!
It’s however an important part of running a business and doesn’t have to be as scary as people think!
Networking will open doors and with the right connections, your business will grow leaps and bounds!
Once you’ve picked the event you’d like to attend, there are a few things you should do before you’ve even left…
Get professional business cards done. When I say professional, I don’t mean the ones you can get for £2.50 from a well known printing company! In fact, avoid those like the plague!
Your business card will indicate to your connections and potential customers how serious you are about your business. A small investment in professional cards will be well worth it. You can get 500 x 350gsm double sided premium silk business cards for less than £30! It will show your commitment and your attention to details.
Dress to impress! With less than 10 seconds to make your first impression, it needs to be a good one! Your appearance accounts for 55% of it. Make an effort and if need be, pop into the rest rooms before entering the room to straighten yourself up. You don’t want to look like you’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards even if you have!
So you’ve made it and look ship shape…
Walk in with confidence, grab a drink and if you don’t know anyone go and introduce yourself to someone. Remember that if they’re standing alone, they may be just as scared as you are. Introduce yourself with a smile and maintain eye contact. Start by asking about them instead of telling them all about you.
If you’re feeling too shy, go and ask the organiser to introduce you to someone. They will know everyone and are likely to pick someone you will have things in common with.
When talking to someone, stay focused on them. They may not be “relevant” to your business but remember that networking is all about forming and cementing relationships.
They may recommend you to their contacts and could become customers themselves in the future. Never write anyone off.
Don’t start scanning the room to see if you can spot someone else to talk to, they will probably notice you doing so! You’ll meet the people you need to meet in time.
Watch your body language. The way you act says a lot about you. Don’t cross your arms whilst talking to someone, it gives the impression you’re on the defensive. Scratching your nose is a sign of deception… Did you know women tend to have better perception and interpretation of body language than men?
Don’t use your phone! If you’re standing on your own, don’t give to the temptations of checking your emails. No one will approach you if you’re playing away on your smartphone. Put it away and turn it off!
If you can’t turn it off and need it, put it on vibrate and politely excuse yourself if it rings.
Don’t answer it whilst in a conversation with someone.
Don’t SELL SELL SELL! There is nothing worse than the hard sell at a networking event. If someone is interested in what you do on a commercial basis, they will say so. Don’t push yourself on everyone you meet. The likelihood is if you do, they’ll try their best to avoid you the next time you meet!
It’s all over and you’ve survived!
Once you’re back at your desk, follow up on the contacts you have made.
Send a quick email stating you enjoyed chatting to them and if you promised to point them towards one thing or another, forward the links and so on. Always follow on commitments you make or it will show you’re not reliable.
This will also allow for the conversation to carry on and cement the relationship further.
Stay in touch with people, meet them for a coffee, send an email asking if they’ll be at the next event you’re going to and so on.
Don’t blanket email everyone at the event with your latest “offer”! Even if you’ve received the email addresses of everyone who attended the event, it’s extremely bad form to do so!
Your email is more than likely going to be marked as spam and the next time you send them an email, your email will go straight to their junk folder!
Even worse, those who did speak to you won’t look too kindly on receiving a very impersonal email!
Connect your connections! That’s what networking is all about. Sign post someone to someone else and they will return the favor at some point either by using your services or by recommending someone!
Do you have any tips you’d like to share on networking? Feel free to leave a comment! We’d love to hear your thoughts!