Networking is an important tool for business people. Its benefits are undeniable. Successfully networking on a regular basis means you are constantly learning, establishing mutually beneficial relationships, improving your interpersonal/communication skills and more.
However, a lot of people start with the wrong idea about networking. It’s not a case of turn up at a random event, chat to a few people, dish out some business cards and leave. There is a lot more to it than that. Below are my five tips to successful networking.
1) WHO and WHERE are your audience?
Remember, networking is only one strand of your new business development plan. If you are seeking out specialist manufacturers, they are unlikely to meet in any numbers at the local chamber of commerce breakfasts. So, find out where they are gathering. Do they have a trade association? Identifying who your audience are and where to find them is a crucial starting point for successful networking.
With networking, just like anything else in life and business, 90% of success comes from preparation. The question is, how do you prepare? Firstly, you need to know who will be attending. Find out if there’s a delegate list the day before the event. Do some searching around the event on Twitter or ask your ever-increasing LinkedIn network if anybody will be attending. Once you know who will be there, you can do your research and prepare for conversation.
3) HELP before you SELL
Build a rapport with people you meet and get to understand their market and challenges. Share your knowledge and intelligence, introduce people to contacts from your own network and if you agree to do something, do it. Networking is NOT about thrusting business cards into someone’s hand the minute you meet them. Listen to them, help them, and the chances of developing a great relationship will increase significantly.
4) The F Word
Good networkers ALWAYS Follow up – and they do it promptly! Something as simple as a short email will do, maybe suggesting a more detailed meeting over coffee. Failing to follow up quickly can mean you lose any interest from the initial meeting.
5) Be yourself
Finally, just be yourself. Really effective networkers don’t have silver bullets or a magic wand, they simply engage and build relationships. Do it right and this WILL lead to referrals, introductions and new business!