I wrote this article to give a little perspective on business networking. Hopefully, there will be some helpful insights in here for you as you continue your networking journey.
So what exactly is networking? Here is the definition of business networking as defined by Wikipedia: “Networking is a socioeconomic business activity by which businesspeople and entrepreneurs meet to form business relationships and to recognize, create, or act upon business opportunities, share information and seek potential partners for ventures.”
Networking Anxiety: Swallow hard, shake hands and smile! But, what if they reject me? What if I screw up? How do I get the courage to step up and network? Do you have “networking anxiety”? You are not alone!
If you want to have a successful business or career then you really need to network effectively. Many people are not comfortable putting themselves out there in a networking environment.
Preparing to Network: In order to have a successful networking event you need to prepare yourself in advance. Here is a brief checklist:
Day of the Event: Ideally, you want to get there early and secure a good parking spot. Make sure you have your business cards and some way to take notes such as pen & notepad or digitally on your mobile device. Look sharp!
Name Badge: Whether you have your own professional name badge, or a sticker from the event with your name on it, always wear it on your right side. This way, when you shake hands with someone your badge will be easy for them to see and remember.
SW, SW, SW, N: This is a great mantra when selling and networking so you don’t take rejection personally. “Some will, some won’t, so what, next!”
It’s Time to Network: You want to be in a positive, upbeat mood. Start with the low hanging fruit and approach friendly looking people who are not speaking with anyone. Smile, look the person in the eye and shake his/her hand while introducing yourself. Let him talk first by asking what brings him here today. Listen carefully to see if there may be some opportunity for a mutually beneficial business relationship. Ask questions to further clarify if necessary.
Don’t label yourself: Your mission is to differentiate yourself and your business while hopefully getting a new customer. If you start your “pitch” with anything like; “I sell insurance”, I’m a Realtor”, “We sell websites”, or “I am a financial advisor” you can expect to see their eyes glaze over and for them to start dismissing you right away.
Tell your story: People like to hear stories. Let’s take the Realtor for example. “I help people avoid many of the stresses involved with selling their homes.” Now you have their natural curiosity going. They will likely be wondering how you do this or what stresses you are referring to. If they don’t ask first, then proceed to tell your story . . . “I had a bad experience with a Realtor when I sold my home. It was horrible. So, I decided to become a Realtor and help people to have positive experiences with selling their homes”. This then can open up a meaningful conversation.
Don’t “Sell” at the event: The basic idea of networking is to meet people who can help your business either by becoming a customer or referring people to you. You are there to start new business relationships and rekindle existing business relationships.
Next Steps: Once you have identified someone as a potential benefit to your business then you want to be proactive in arranging the next step(s) forward. Most often this includes agreeing to a meeting where you can continue your discussion. Most people will agree to meet you for coffee or at your/their office. If not, they will usually agree to let you follow up with an email or call.
Follow Up: The money is in your follow up activities. Now you that you have a new business acquaintance you need to nurture this relationship carefully. Do not blast them with sales pitches and high pressure closing techniques! Instead, further the relationship by continuing your conversation, becoming a resource and letting them know that you care. People buy from people, especially people that they know, like and trust. Make your products and services available to them and, when they are ready to buy, they will want to buy from you. That is, if you continue to keep in touch.
CRM: If you are getting a lot of new contacts it is best organize them into a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) database. This way, all of your notes, emails, tasks, and more can be kept with the customer or prospect files in your CRM. CRM’s never forget and customer information can be shared throughout your organization.
Sales Automation: Nowadays you can even automate all of your follow up which saves you a tremendous amount of time and energy. Here is the conundrum. Most people quit following up after 2 or 3 tries. Most customers are inundated with information and tend not to buy until after the eighth communication. Let modern technology help you.
|Kenneth G. Hasty is an award-winning salesperson, speaker, experienced “Fortune 500” sales executive, and the author of the popular book on selling, “77 Seconds to Sales Success”. He has over 10,000 LinkedIn connections and LinkedIn has ranked him in its “Top 10 Management Consultant and Sales Coach” profiles. He is also the co-founder of TriTraction™ “Your Business Growth Experts”.|
Need more help with growing your business? Feel free to reach out to me and let’s talk. kenneth@TriTraction.com.