Being successful in business means continually looking for new ways to improve your service and find new business. Networking is becoming more and more popular and is a great way of increasing the visibility of your business and making those important connections that could lead to lucrative opportunities. If you’re new to networking, or think you could be doing it better, here’s some practical advice on how to make the most of it.
Remember: Networking is about sowing seeds, not making sales
Yes, ultimately your plan should be to bring in more business for your organisation but that is a long term goal and should not be your objective at a networking event. Your job at a networking event is to sow seeds and build business relationships with potential clients and other business professionals. Referrals are one of the best ways to get new business so be friendly, be knowledgeable, don’t be salesy and mark yourself out as the ‘go-to’ person in your sector.
You should always have a plan when attending a networking event. Nearly all networking events should be able to provide you with a list of those people who are due to attend. You should be able to mark out at least a couple of people who would be really useful to talk to. Use networks such as Linkedin to help you find out what they look like and then you can easily locate them at the event.
First impressions count
We all know that first impressions count and this is doubly the case for networking. It’s a fact that people form an opinion on you within just a few seconds on meeting you so ensure that you are smart, confident and are well dressed. Standing tall, smiling and making eye contact, it will help people warm to you before you have even spoken to them.
The importance of questions
Questions are crucial at networking events. As well as helping you to uncover any possible opportunities, they are also critical in helping you come across as being interested in other people’s businesses. Use open ended questions rather than those that simply require a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer to ensure the conversation keeps flowing.
Use your business cards!
Don’t forget to take your business cards with you. They’re not there to hand out to everyone you walk past (that would just seem desperate). Give your card out to anyone that you have talked to at the event. Even if they’re not ever going to be a direct client or customer of yours, you don’t know who they know and they may recommend you. You might get lots of cards given to you too. After the event, it can be easy to mix up who they were from so don’t forget to make a note of the context of the meeting, it could come in very useful down the line.