Business networking seems to fill a big part of a successful manager’s life. But is it really worth it? If you look at the business that’s directly generated from networking it’s negligible or even non-existent. So if it’s not going to generate business then why bother?
The thing is that if you go to a networking event looking for new leads, then not only are you there for the wrong reason, but you have a completely missed the point.
Of course, you want more business, but that is a spin-off of networking not a direct result.
So why should you network?
- To become part of the local business community.
- To meet positive people who want to do business.
- To generate ideas.
- To generate stories.
- To increase your knowledge.
- To help others in the business community.
- To motivate yourself.
If you are a good networker it’s amazing how many times in a business meeting you will say “Oh, I know him/her” or “I was discussing that with someone this morning” or “I know someone who can help you”.
This gives you massive credibility points with a new prospect or introducer.
Get the right mind-set
If you go to a networking event for the first time expecting to get a lead you will probably be the most annoying person in the room. Think about it; some life coach walks up to you and starts telling you all about what they do and who they are, really giving it the hard sell and then asks to come and see you: “when is good for you?”. Not only will you want them to go away but you will make sure that you avoid them at every future event.
Another person start talking to you with “I’m not very good at networking” and then proceeds to ask about you and what you do, and then says “I know someone who might be interested in what you do”. You will probably want to kiss them! You will certainly want to talk to them again and there’s a good chance that you will start looking for business for them.
So once again, don’t go looking for business. Be interested in people and what they do, look to help people first, if you can introduce them to someone, then great. You will get a reputation for being positive and helpful and people will naturally want to deal with you.
This actually makes networking a lot more fun and satisfying and you won’t leave the event thinking “what was the point of that!”
Start the day with a networking shot
With this attitude, a good networking event is a great way to start the day. It gets you buzzing and boosts your motivation. Because you meet different people, networking widens your focus. You may never deal with the photocopier salesman but talking to him might give you a new idea for your own marketing.
- Choose the right event – one that has lots of banks and accountants.
- Get a list of attendees if you can and target the most useful.
- Leave your mood at the door. I knew someone who smacked themselves on the head with a newspaper before a networking event. You may not want to go that far, but gee yourself up, no one wants to talk to a misery guts. Be energetic, positive, and outgoing.
- Bring in people who are standing on their own, a good ice-breaker is “why are you here today?”
- LISTEN, really listen and be interested.
- Have a short ‘pitch’ rehearsed in your head. When someone says, “What do you do?” tell them about how you help people rather than the technicalities of how factoring works. You could start with “I help businesses to grow”. Tell them who your perfect prospect is and why.
- Don’t stick with one person. Even with a really useful introducer, take a card and ask if you can meet later.
After the event, make sure your link with your new contacts on LinkedIn. Send a thank you card or email to each person that you had direct contact with. Mention something from your discussion in the thank you card (it helps if you jot notes on the back of each person's business card that you collect). If there is a referral that you can supply to someone you've just met, include that in the follow up note. Showing up and following up are the two most important parts of networking. Showing up, in most cases, is the easy part. The follow up is, sadly, the most neglected part of networking. Since so many people fail to follow up, you can really stand out by just doing this simple act of reaching out to remind someone of who you are and what you do ... and that you are interested in exploring a relationship.
With this attitude networking becomes less daunting and as you do more of it, you will enjoy it more. So go on, get out there and network!!