Remember when you would play Connect the Dots when you were small? That is what networking is like – meeting one person leads to another and another and eventually, a new client.
Do you hate networking in order to market yourself? I’ve been in sales and I am an extrovert and I still get nervous going out to “network”. But if you think of just talking to people that you run into – that’s networking! You don’t have to go to a formal “networking” club.
The following seven networking tips will help you not only improve business but also make some new friends and acquaintances.
1 – Explore your opportunities.
Joining a variety of “networking” groups gives you access to the widest range of people to attract new clients. There are generally four types of groups: business networking groups, such as LeTip International; geographic groups, such as your local Chamber of Commerce; service groups, such as Kiwanis; and industry-specific associations. Attend a group at least three times before deciding whether it’s for you. Groups don’t have to carry the “networking” label to be good opportunities. What about community groups connected with schools, sports, theaters? Where do people in your business’ target market gather? You don’t have to be in a formal “networking” club or group to be able to network and make relationships!
2 – Farm, don’t hunt.
Many people approach a networking mixer with the hope or expectation that they’ll make a new client from that event. You’ll find more success, however, if you view networking as a long-term process. Get clear on why you’re networking. “It’s more about farming than it is about hunting,” says Dr. Ivan Misner, co-author of Masters of Networking and Founder of BNI, a well-known international business networking group. “It’s about cultivating relationships with other people.”
3 – Don’t forget your networking “stuff”
Of course, always come to a mixer with business cards and a name tag. On the latter, include not only your name but what you do as well. This gives others an easy starting point for conversation. In addition, make a habit of writing notes on the back of each business card so you can personalize your follow up calls and emails. Offering to send an article when you get their business card has a doubling effect. You can now have their OK to contact them by snail mail or email
4 – Get curious.
First, be genuinely interested in the people you meet. Ask questions that aren’t limited to someone’s profession. For instance: What is one way you have fun at work? What is something that makes you special or unique in your industry? Such questions open up conversation and encourage connection on a more personal level.
5 – Have your “this is me and this is what I do” down cold.
Have a clear, concise and specific explanation of what you do and how it helps others. What problem (what “pain”) do you solve for your target audience? Be able to clearly articulate this without people’s eyes glazing over.
>> RELATED: How to Answer the “What do you do?” Question from Prospective Clients
6 – Offer referrals whenever possible.
Often, those who gain the most at networking events are those who give the most. Focus more on what you can give to others than on what you’ll get from them. “When I walk into a room, I’m always looking at how I can benefit someone else’s life,” says Melanie Benson Strick, Director of Shared Vision Network-Los Angeles, a professional and development networking group for entrepreneurs.
7 – Be quick with your follow up.
Meeting people is just the beginning. It’s the follow up that turns connections into relationships. However, the first contact is not the place for a sales conversation. Instead, follow up within 48 hours with material that will help the person, such as a free audio download or a clipped magazine article. “You don’t build trust when the first thing you do is ask someone to buy your product and service,” Misner says. The key, really, is to court them with sincerity and a genuine desire to help others.