In today’s tough times networking is probably an even more important marketing tool than ever before, the wider your network, the more likely you will have contacts in businesses and organisations less effected by the slow down in consumer spending. People have always bought people ‘people’. We all like to know who we are dealing with, what they are like, how they can help us and whether we trust them.
It is important therefore to be confident and able to quickly build relationships, but unfortunately, many people find networking uncomfortable. However, our confidence and ultimately our success at networking can be dramatically improved by adopting a few simple techniques.
- Have your own 30 second advert. When someone asks you ‘so what do you do?’ be prepared with a short answer. Most people will give you one minute to introduce what you do so make it count!
- Go to the most appropriate event. It may sound obvious but if you work for an accountancy firm providing tax and audit advice to local businesses don’t attend a national meeting of accounting firms, and vice versa, if you want business from large organisations, don’t attend a local event targeted at SME’s.
- Set yourself some targets.Think about the meeting before hand. How many people would you like to meet and from which types of organisations? What information do you hope to gain? Remember, preparation and planning will increase your chance of success.
- Don’t sell, network. The purpose of networking is to spend time with other people, get to know them, and find out some information that can be followed up later on. Save the sales pitch for another time.
- Stay focussed.Remember you are networking to help to build your business further, so pay attention to the people you meet and what they say.
- Don’t act as if you are desperate for business.People generally like to talk to interesting, upbeat and confident people. You certainly won’t attract any new business if you act as though you are desperate.
- Be interesting. People like to talk with interesting people so do some homework. Plan a couple of topics that you can bring up and that you will enjoy discussing.
- Ask plenty of questions. In addition, have a number of conversation ‘openers’ pre-prepared. People love to talk about themselves so ask them what they like to do when they are not at work, what the most amazing place they have ever visited is or simply their favourite pizza topping!
- Listen, listen and listen again. Pay attention to what people are telling you, and search for problems that you can solve. Follow up with your solution in business time.
- Don’t forget that others will form an opinion of you from your interactions.Treat everyone you meet with respect and don’t make negative comments about other people or your competition.
Finally, it is vital to follow up those who you have met. Send them a simple ‘nice to meet you’ message that is personalised to them. Why should you do this? Well marketing professionals claim that we need to be exposed to a product or service between 5-6 times before we remember and recognise it, and the same can probably be applied to people!