Networking, love it or loathe it your business will benefit from you doing it. It might bring you new customers, it might give you different business and personal opportunities or it might just give you a like minded bunch of people to talk to and socialise with (by the way, don’t underestimate the value of that last group).
But how can you make the most of it? How can you make networking work for you? Some advice follows below…
Adjust your expectations
A lot of people go networking and expect to get business straight away, that’s very unlikely to happen. It’s a cliché but the saying “people buy from people” is true. You need to build a relationship with someone before they’ll buy from or recommend you.
When you’re networking commitment is key. Your focus should be entirely on the people there and who you’re talking to. Put your phone away and be prepared to be there for the duration of the event. If you’re not in the mood to go or you’re distracted with work it will show and you’ll leave feeling worse than you did when you arrived.
Don’t talk, listen
The biggest mistake people make is treating a networking event as an opportunity to hand out business cards. These are the same people that feel the need to pitch their business to everyone in the room too. I can’t imagine that any good results come from it.
People like to talk about what they do, so why not make your first question “what do you do?” After this it’s important that you listen and maybe even ask some relevant questions. You’ll get your chance to talk and that person will listen to you too. It’s a far more effective strategy than pitching to everyone there.
Find a niche group
There are likely to be lots of networking opportunities in your city. Instead of the bigger events why not try the smaller, niche groups. You’ll find that those who attend are likely to be the people that can make a decision to buy your product or service anyway. A smaller group will give you time to build a personal connection with people that will lead to better quality referrals.
A networking event that you enjoy and get value from is out there, don’t be put off from past experience or the hearsay of other people. Get out there and make your own decisions.