Chances are, if you were looking to meet new people you could sell to – to make budget, or raid business cards you could add to your mailing list, you got off on the wrong foot.
Networking – aka developing business relationships, takes time, effort, energy and trust. It’s like dating – you don’t expect to marry someone you’ve just met and certainly not if you want your relationship to last longer than the average Vegas vows
9 tips to get you on the right networking path
- Be interested – in them. Business people do business with PEOPLE they know, like and trust. Help that person trust you better by being helpful to them.
- Involve the other person in the conversation. Be interested in them and their business or their career. Let a conversation flow between the two of you, don’t just keep it one sided. Find something they’re energised by about what they do and you’ll never be short of a topic to talk about.
- Introduce people who haven’t met yet – you never know what great things might come from it.
- Get out of your comfort zone – don’t just hang with the same crowd. Talk to as many and as varied people as possible. Every person you meet in your day, business related or not, has the potential to be a great supplier or customer for you or for someone else you know. But if you don’t get out and about, meeting new people, you’ll never come across those opportunities.
- Some people might consider them old hat, but swapping business cards is still an easy way to keep what you do in front of the person you’ve just met. Just make sure that you’re using your business card real estate well.
- If someone buys from you, go out of your way to buy from them and if you can’t, find someone who can. What goes around really does come around.
- Join networking groups – not only will you find like minded people – you’ll get to meet the same people and get to know them over time – and that makes for good, longer lasting relationships. Groups like BNI may seem like a big time commitment at first, but they can be very successful in growing your business. It’s responsible for around 20-25% of mine.
- Make sure you follow up. Following up lets the person know that you valued the conversation and that you want to stay in touch. Don’t try to sell at that point. See if you can send them a referral first before you attempt anything. If not a referral, maybe an interesting piece you’ve come across in your daily reading.
- If you’re connecting with people on social media forums such as LinkedIn, always, ALWAYS, attach a personal message with your request. Collecting big numbers of ‘connections’ on linkedin isn’t the goal. Staying in touch with interesting people that you can help is and you can’t do that if your network is polluted with people merely out to collect numbers.
Next week we’ll look at what not to do in your networking endeavours.
Of course if you’re looking for a great way to meet like-minded business owners who will always be on the look out for how to refer business to you (and you live in Sydney’s north), I’d be delighted to shout you breakfast on a Friday morning so you can experience what a truly great BNI group looks like. Drop me a note.