Networking is a great way for entrepreneurs and professional sellers to generate leads and get appointments with prospects. More leads- more appointments- more sales. The formula is pretty simple.
Why then are so many not taking full advantage of the networking opportunities they have?
I hear a lot: “I’m just not a good networker.” That’s an attitude issue which has a fairly simple fix. Change your thoughts and believe something different!
Another reason is lack of skills and knowledge. That’s a simple fix too! It involves learning networking best practices and applying them. After all, when you learn something new, you can do what you were doing better. Better actions lead to better results.
Networking can take many forms. While these principles apply to most networking opportunities, I am primarily addressing the networking mixer in this article.
I’ve broken networking “to do’s” into 3 time frames:
1) Pre event
2) During event
3) Post event
I’m not going to tell you what to do. I’m going to share with you what I do. It will be up to you to decide what you will do.
Before getting into the event details, here are two of the best definitions of networking I’ve come across. Ad three fatal errors to avoid:
1) Networking is an attitude involving building relationships and resources. A positive attitude is everything. In the bigger picture, its an approach to life and not just a thing to do. Your attitude toward networking will impact your results. If you would rather not be at an event, do one of two things: Don’t go or change your attitude. If you choose to go, make it a positive experience. It may pay off big time! I had a networking connection turn into a client who has engaged with me for over $25,000.. I think that’s pretty cool.
2) Networking is a method of accomplishing goals through the power of synergy and teamwork. The goal of building networks is to contribute to others. It requires a shift from focusing on yourself and your needs to the Joy of Giving. I regularly give referrals to colleagues in my network. They think that’s pretty cool!
3 Fatal Errors to Avoid!
1) Networking is not about you. It’s about building relationships. To paraphrase Dale Carnegie, you will make more friends by being interested in others than you will by trying to get them interested in you. Remember this well.
2) Networking is not about selling. Remember the “it’s about building relationships” part? You don’t want to spend your evening being “pitched.” Neither does any body else. If, you are selling and/or pitching at events, stop now.
3) Networking is not about giving and collecting business cards. One time I met someone at an event with a stack of business cards who said “I’m not leaving here until I give out all of these cards.” I told him he just doesn’t get it. Only give your card when appropriate, like when you have connected with someone and they have offered you their card.
Suggestions for Pre Event “To Do’s”
This section is about being proactive. If you do these things, you will really be ready to have a successful event! You know what is said about proper preparation, right?
Be positive. Check your attitude.
It should radiate passion and confidence. Making sure you are in the right frame of mind will pay huge dividends!
Look at how you are dressed. Look at how you carry yourself.
This is a function of attitude. Remember, you never get a second chance to make a first impression!
Do your homework.
Identify your target market. Be clear on the results they want that you can deliver. Know what sets you apart and have a powerful way of proclaiming your differentiation. This is also known as strategic thinking and has implications across your whole business.
Plan who you are going to meet and how.
Have you ever thought about asking the event planner for the attendance list? If you don’t ask, you certainly don’t get. Or you can show up early and look at the name tags on the table. I do this all the time to see who I want to make sure that I meet.
Set a goal for the event.
Have you ever thought about this? The goal could be the number of qualified people you will meet that you want to follow up with. The clearer you are on what you want to accomplish at the event, the better chance you have of actually getting that result.
Be ready with conversation starters.
Some open-ended questions to ask could be:
- What do you do?
- When I meet someone, how would I recognize they may need you?
- What industries do you specialize in?
- How did you get into…? This is a great question because it opens the door to allow the person to talk about themselves!
Prepare your framing statement: What do you do? How do you do it? How do you say what you do in a way that uses the same words that your ideal client is thinking? Have a variety of commercials for whoever you may speak with.
Suggestions for During The Event “To Do’s”
Once you have done your pre event preparation, you are ready to execute at the event. Here is what will make your investment in time pay off.
Focus on having the right mindset. The people you meet will always be thinking something of you. It will be one of these four things:
- This person is kind of shaky.
- This person is adequate.
- This person is really solid.
- This person is terrific!
So, be yourself, and nail your introduction including eye contact and handshake.
This will go a long way towards people thinking you are terrific!
It’s about the other person and not you. So allow people to talk. Just make sure to ACTIVELY LISTEN. The best networkers are the best listeners. It’s been said that listening is the single greatest act of caring.
Find areas of mutual interest wherever possible. Avoid controversial topics.
Ask permission to follow-up where appropriate.
Better yet, since most everyone has a smart phone, set an appointment on the spot if there is a reason to have a further conversation.
Avoid spending time with people you know well.
It’s really easy and comfortable to just talk with people who you know. You can even feel that you are being productive. But it’s easy to justify anything away. Don’t do the easy thing. Remember your purpose for being there- to make new connections!
Don’t monopolize someone else’s time (or your own.)
One to five minutes is a good rule of thumb for a conversation.
Focus on the person you are with.
The best way to get someone to like you is to like them first. It’s important to note that people do business with people they know, like and trust. Paying attention to someone you are talking with is the first step of connecting.
Be aware of your nonverbal communication.
What your body says speaks volumes about you. Maintaining eye contact as opposed to looking around for someone else to speak with is a great example of this.
Make a graceful exit.
You can sense when the time has come to leave a conversation.
Don’t be a “Dive bomber”.
This is a phrase I coined for a recent seminar. It’s when someone drops in on an existing conversation, interrupts the people there and proceeds to puke all over them about what they do and wont stop. Have you ever been “dive bombed?” Most people have. Have you ever “dive bombed” someone else? Stop it immediately. It is the quickest way to get people to NOT LIKE YOU!
Your top goal for the event should be to give something to somebody. Something that is of value to them specifically. Take this as a challenge!
Suggestions for Post Event “To Do’s”
Certainly, this is where so many people let their efforts go to waste. Follow up is the key to networking success.
Did you meet your objectives? What did you learn? What can you do better next time?
Was the organization worthwhile in terms of seeing a connection to your targets?
These types of questions will help you decide if this is a group you want to invest more time with or not.
Reach out to everyone you met.
Send a LinkedIn invite within 24 hours or send a nice to meet you email. I always try to be the first one to contact people I have met. If someone connects or emails me first, I know that they understand the purpose of networking and are most likely somebody I want to have a further conversation with.
Arrange to meet in person if they are a prospect or a possible referral source.
Remember: Leads-Appointments-$$$$$$$$. Stop dropping the ball by not immediately getting meetings with people who are potential prospects! How much money have you been leaving on the table? Ouch…
Furthermore, call or email at least quarterly to provide something of value. Always be thinking “What can you do for them?”
There you have it, my best practices for networking success. I hope that this will help you formulate a plan to help you be more successful as well.
If you would like me to elaborate on any of my strategies, feel free to contact me. HLitwak@ParadigmAssociates.US or 518-664-5033.
Would there be a fit to facilitate this as a workshop for your organization? I’d be happy to talk about that as well!
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