Do you simply dread the notion of meeting strangers at events and pitching your business? If so, you’re not alone. However, when you keep a few basic concepts in mind, networking can be a great way to create new leads and opportunities to grow your business.
When meeting someone who may make a good business prospect, it is crucial to gather as much information about them and their business as possible. You should ask questions like:
- What products or services does your company offer?
- Who are your clients?
- Who is in charge of the buying decisions?
- What makes you different from your competitors?
Check your contacts!
Browse through your contact lists to see if there is anyone there with whom it could be worth establishing a working relationship. Don’t forget to take a look back at people from your past who may also benefit you and your business. These are people you already know, so the idea of opening a dialog with them should not be as intimidating as it may be if they were complete strangers.
Don’t ignore the power of social networks!
Use social networks to your advantage. Share or create relevant articles that your audience would find informative. Start a conversation on Twitter or message a contact through LinkedIn. If you can make it relevant to a wide audience, your initial recipient is more likely to share your message with their contacts, widening the circle of your effective reach. That’s what networking is all about!
Attend only the events and conferences that relate to your business!
Networking can be exhausting and time consuming, so don’t your waste time attending an event where you will not be of service. Join groups in your field, get involved with your local business improvement district (BID), check out events on Eventbrite, etc. Be judicious in your choices about where to spend your time and effort. Don’t waste either by chasing opportunities that seem unlikely to benefit you.
Conversations are more valuable than collections!
Set a goal to meet at least three people at each networking event who could possibly turn into customers – and follow up with each of them. The value of a few good conversations is far greater than collecting a stack of business cards from people with whom you will never speak again. While you’re at it, remember to let the other person do most of the speaking while you listen carefully to determine if there is a potential business opportunity.
Leverage the “frequent flyers”!
Look around and identify the people you see who are most committed to networking. If you keep seeing the same people at events, introduce yourself and get to know them. They may have a multitude of leads for you.
Don’t forget to follow Up!
This is the most important part of networking effectively. Everything you have done previously has led to this point. Send an email. Give them a call. Send them a message on LinkedIn. Just make sure to follow through on any plans you make to talk further. No one likes to be given the impression their time and effort isn’t important enough to make you live up to commitments you make.
If you follow these basic guidelines, your networking efforts are much more likely to pay off in the end.
Just remember: Everybody knows somebody!