8 tips for successful business networking
It’s been said that Picasso, Salvador Dali, and Hemmingway, wouldn’t have become who they are today if it weren’t for Networking. The Saturday night salons at Gertrude Stein’s (a prolific art collector) apartment were famous amongst a small group of budding writers and artists, who would gather to discuss art, philosophy, and literature. Participants got to meet new people, build relationships and partnerships, learn new things, and bounce ideas off of each other.
Your network is one of your most valuable assets but having one isn’t enough, you need to know how to maintain and leverage your connections to really get ahead. With that in mind, I’ve come up with 8 tips to help you get the most from your networking efforts.
Research shows that people decide whether or not they like you within 7 seconds of meeting you and that facial expressions (along with body language) play a big role in influencing their initial impression of you.
Smiling is the quickest way to make a good first impression because it communicates warmth, openness and trustworthiness.
Studies also show that smiling is contagious because people in social situations subconsciously simulate other people’s facial expressions. This is an evolutionary trait that enables us to interpret emotions and empathise with others. When you smile, other people subconsciously mimic your behaviour and even if they don’t smile back, they still experience emotions related to smiling which puts them at ease.
- Prepare in advance
Networking can be a bit daunting but preparing in advance could help calm your nerves. Preparation also maximises the number and quality of contacts you make. Ensure that you do the following before heading to your next event:
– Have a goal
Before you attend a networking event, ensure that you know exactly what you hope to accomplish from networking and the types of people you want to connect with. This will help you to measure the effectiveness of your networking efforts later on.
– Know your avatar
An avatar is a profile that represents your ideal client. Getting clear on the type of people who buy your products or services or sell complimentary services will help you identify people in the room that it would be worth making a connection with.
– Research the people you want to meet
If there’s an attendee list, go through it, research the people attending the event and then note down those you’d like to meet.
You can look them up on Google or Linkedin to learn more about them and their work. This information will make a great conversation starter for when you finally meet.
- Get an elevator pitch
If you got into an elevator with your dream client, what would you say? “Waffle on” and you’ll probably never get the opportunity to sell again. It’s the same at a networking event. You’ll lose the crowd in seconds. People’s attention spans are short, so make sure what you say is impactful. Try this formula at your next event and let us know how you do.
We help X do Y by doing Z.
At Oi, our elevator pitch is – “We help business owners create brilliant profitable businesses by helping them plan, set goals and stay accountable so they can spend more time with their families.”
It’s short, clear, and it addresses the problems we solve, who we solve them for and why.
- Be Authentic
Simply put – people do business with people they like. It’s ok not to appeal to everyone and far better to attract a small group of people that know you, like you and trust you. The easiest and best way to be authentic is to avoid scripted conversations. When you meet a new contact, don’t dive right into business talk, get to know them as a person first and try to engage on a more personal level.
This doesn’t mean that you should avoid bringing up your profession. You’re at a networking event after all so everyone expects it to come up at some point. The idea here is to avoid ‘what do you do for a living’ questions and aim for meaningful, relationship building conversations instead.
- Look to help, not take.
People can smell self interest a MILE away, and some people get this bit so wrong. If you walk into a room and just start pushing yourself and what you do on others, it’s likely that you’ll put more people off than attract them. The best networkers are the ones that always look to give more than they take.
You might be able to help by:
- Listening and being genuinely interested in people’s responses
- Introducing them to people who you think can help them.
- Introducing them to new clients.
- Giving them advice.
- Alerting them about opportunities in their industry.
- Play the long game
Networking legend – Ivan Misner, the founder of BNI, always says that networking is more about farming than it is about hunting.
You wouldn’t start farming on the day you expect to make a harvest, would you?
To benefit from your network, you need to cultivate relationships with the people you meet. A person will only ever do business with you once they know you, like you, and trust you. Building these sorts of relationships takes time so don’t attend a networking event right when you need help with something. Make it a habit to meet new people and to stay in touch with those you already know.
- Success comes from the 1-2-1 afterwards, not the meeting
Turning up to an event, making a connection and then doing nothing with it will delay your success in networking. As a rule of thumb, try to follow up with your new contacts within 24 hours of meeting them. You’ll be fresh in their mind then and won’t have to spend time reintroducing yourself.
Pay special attention to your customer/strategic partner avatars and if you spot any in the room, be sure to book a 121 when you follow up.
- Measure your effectiveness
From time to time make sure you ask yourself, ‘is this group giving me what I need? Take into account the opportunity cost of the hours you spend at a networking group, plus the costs of membership and meetings and then compare that cost to the money you make as a direct result of networking.
It’s important to give it time to develop relationships, but there’s no point in doing something that’s not working. If the numbers don’t stack up, it’s time to go fishing in a new pond.
In summary, networking is a relationship-building process and the more authentic you are, the stronger your connections will be. These tips should help you make better connections and receive more value from your network.
If you’re looking to connect with other entrepreneurs, we run a networking event twice a month and we would be happy to have you join us.
Click here to sign up.