Here is how to get better results from Networking: a step by step guide.
Business networking events are one of the best ways of promoting your business and meeting new clients and partners. After all, there’s nothing like getting the chance to talk about your product or service to someone in person and then getting an enquiry from them. But networking is a skill and if you don’t practice it, you may come away from the event with just a handful of new business cards rather than some new potential customers.
Like everything in the world of business, successful networking requires a well-defined strategy and some planning ahead. And the good news is that this is easy to do if you take a clearly structured approach. If you follow the tips below you will find that attending networking events can become one of your most profitable ways of promoting your business.
Before the networking event
Set a goal – decide what you want to get from the event. For example, your objective may be to meet 3 new potential customers. By thinking through what you want to get out of the networking experience you’ll have a clearer idea of who you need to meet to achieve this goal.
Know who to meet – you can see the list of attendees for most networking events in advance. Look through the list and earmark the 3 people who best fit your customer profile. Connect with them first.
Top tip: take a moment to look at their profile and find out a bit about them (e.g. where they’re from, their role in the company, where the company is based etc.) so you can start the conversation easily.
Perfect that presentation – practise your 3-minute elevator speech until you’re pitch perfect and can deliver it smoothly.
At the networking event
Make the right entrance – first, introduce yourself to the networking host. This is not only polite but also helpful because your host can introduce or direct you to your 3 targets or other people of interest to your business.
Listen hard – everyone likes talking and they like it even more when someone’s listening. So when you meet your potential customer start by asking questions and letting them do the talking while you listen and take it all in.
Top tip: A good ratio to aim for is 80% listening/20% talking. And while you’re listening, take a note of problems or issues they mention so you can explain how your business can solve this for them.
Deliver the goods – this is where your pitch-perfect elevator speech comes in. As soon as they ask “and what do you do?”, make your presentation. Adapt it slightly or add a bit at the end to focus on how your business can solve any of the problems they’ve just mentioned.
Top tip: Have a call of action ready (think of it as the button at the end of an eshot) and suggest it. Keep it non-pushy but make it clear that you’re willing to help them solve the problem. Suggest meeting for a coffee or drink to discuss things further.
Build the trust – remember your 3 target customers are potential clients only not confirmed buyers. Use the occasion to start a relationship to then lead to an enquiry and possibly a sale. Business is all about trust and confidence, and few customers will spend money with you unless you’ve built up a solid relationship first.
Stay in control – although they’ve done most of the talking, you’re in control and taking the initiative. Ask them directly if your product or service is of interest to them so you can explain it in more detail. Ask for their business card or make a note of their contact details so you’re in charge of the follow-up.
Top tip: after you’ve finished speaking to someone and before you move to the next, jot down a few important notes about them on a small Post-it and stick to their business card.
After the networking event
Act quickly – follow up with an email or call soon after the event. Within 24 hours if you can. Remind them of your conversation (this is where those Post-it notes come in handy!) and your idea of a meeting. If appropriate, suggest a time and place.
Sign up for more – keep going to business networking events and return to the ones organised by the same host or association. This will allow you to forge stronger relationships and build on that all-important trust and confidence. Familiar networkers tend to get more enquiries and orders, and referrals from other networkers than one-off visitors.