10 Networking Steps That Build Solid Business Connections By Peter G Williamson
Networking excites some and frightens others; it's not for everyone. Still, if you are avoiding networking because of discomfort, power through that uneasiness and make networking work for, not against you.
1) There are plenty of fish in the sea, it's true. But how will you stand out? For one, determine what you want out of the networking experience. Is it to let people know about you? Is it to learn about other people and what they do?
2) Have a goal in mind, including the number of cards you are going to give out and the number of meetings you plan to arrange, though you want to be sure to bring extra cards as well.
3) Look at businesses through different eyes. Do you know who is planning to attend? If so, do your homework. Who at the networking even might make a great joint venture partner? Use the time valuably to find out more about their company, its size, type, and location in relation to your company. If you don't who will be there, still have questions in mind that will give you the information you need about the company you want to meet, and act as a referral for the businesses that don't meet your needs, but might meet someone else's that you know.
4) Look for a common denominator. What about you and your business is similar to the business or person you are meeting? What about each is different? How can you complement each other?
5) What immediate offer are you bringing to the event? Who gets it? Everyone? A specific types of business? Know before you go and have a clear-cut plan.
6) Everyone loves a story, but make it short and memorable. Mixers now sometimes have 5-minute restrictions (speed mixing/networking) for talking with people. What's a one-minute story you can tell that will help that person remember you, your business, and want to connect with you again?
7) Remember, networking is not the end-all to sales and marketing connections. It's the beginning. Be the first impression you want them to remember.
8) Networking success is all about follow up. Not every connection is about making a sale. Sometimes it's simply about making a connection and putting a face to a name and a name to a business.
9) Have fun. You're getting out. You're meeting new people. It freaks some people out, but fear projects negative energy and will actually keep people from approaching you! So, breathe deep, go in with the attitude of connecting with like-minded people and, as Larry-the-Cable-Guy says, "Git 'er done".
10) Track and measure your efforts and results. How many people did you connect with? How many cards did you distribute? How many did you collect? How many follow up calls/meetings did you set up? What was your offer? How many responses did you get? Track and measure everything.
Networking can "work" for you in many ways. It doesn't have to be about sales. Maybe you need to hire a bookkeeper or IT specialist. Networking gives you an opportunity to meet someone face-to-face, or lets someone else attending refer someone. Networking is about connection.
Above all else, go into networking--whether they're events, mixers, or even social media-- with a clear strategy in mind. It's the only way to measure whether the process has worked and to glean insights on how to improve your efforts.
So, now that you know the key networking strategies, what day and time work best for us to talk further? I look forward to connecting with you.
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