Networking can be immensely rewarding – if you do it right!
I’m passionate about networking, in fact at AsOne Design, along with referrals and recommendations from existing clients; it is our major source of new business. Planned and handled intelligently the payback can be impressive, but don’t run away with the idea that all you have to do is just turn up at the event, chat to a few people and dish out a handful of business cards. The likelihood is you’ll just be wasting your own and company’s time and money. Over the many years that I’ve been a serious networker I’ve established my own list of Golden Rules, and I’d like to share a few of them with you here.
1. Target your event
Time is money and not every networking event will be right for you. Ignore the ‘coffee and business card’ get-togethers where you’ll be extremely fortunate to encounter and get opportunities to talk to prime targets. Instead, be selective. Identify the events where your valuable time will be best invested. That means doing research. Checking out who’s likely to be there. Will the delegates match your target profiles? If they do, decide in advance the people you would most like to meet and prepare your approaches accordingly.
Networking can be wonderful or wasteful and the level of success all depends on your approach, preparation and presentation
2. Don’t expect something for nothing
Remember that virtually everyone attending the networking event will be there for precisely the same reason you are. To build their business. Be prepared to listen as well as talk. The possibilities are that in addition to prospects you’ll also meet new contacts who could be useful suppliers for your own company. So keep an open mind. Don’t be too aggressive in your approach. Cultivate rather than coerce. The secret of good networking is to build good relationships.
3. People need to trust you
Don’t forget when you attend a networking event for the first time you’re just like a doorstep salesman and anyone you speak to will naturally be wary of any claims you make. Don’t be pushy and expect to make a new business contact at the first meeting. Find some common ground, maybe a shared contact you know will give you a good recommendation. Try to arrange a further meeting at their offices. Build trust.
4. Become a regular delegate
When you have identified that a particular networking event is good for you, make sure that you become a regular attendee. That way you will become known and be seen as serious. People will feel more comfortable with you and are more likely to develop an ongoing business relationship.
5. Find an event with a structured agenda
Many networking events are just market places where people mingle and chat. In my experience, the type of event that has a formal agenda for presentations and business referrals is much more productive. At these events, it is generally the same group of people who meet every time and if you’ve done your homework you will know that the group includes prime prospects for your business. With regular attendance, regular contact and regular opportunities to present, you should generate valuable benefits.
6. If you delegate, ensure they’re well prepared
Any person you detail to represent your company at a networking event has to fully understand the company message. That means training. If your staff member is off message or is a poor representative of your business it is unlikely that they will convert potentials into positives and they could even seriously damage the reputation and profile of your business. Preparation and training cannot be over stated. Networking can be wonderful or wasteful and the level of success all depends on your approach, preparation and presentation. If you haven’t tried it my recommendation is to do it, but make sure you go for it in a serious and businesslike way. Do networking right and you should net the rewards!