I love networking. You might even call me a social butterfly ( Did I say that?)
If you go to a networking event and you return with no business cards in
your pocket or some jotted down notes then why did you go? While these events
are good for leads, they are also good to help other associates who might be
having a tough time with a sale, idea, job loss, staffing issues, or other events that
occurred in their business. These folks want more than a pat on the
back and a "I'm sorry to hear that." Relationships are built on developing trust
and if you can help them, they will help you. I understand competition in
today's world seems to be cutthroat and its all about survival in this
entitlement society we seem to live in but also SMB's who network see the same
familiar faces and from that, we learn to help each other.
Networking helps you succeed and yes, there is a
level of knowledge you need to be good at it. If you go to an event and sit on
your hind end drinking a beer or soft drink and wonder why nobody is talking to
you, then you don't belong there. You are selling yourself and your business.
You should come with business cards, look presentable (business casual for most
of these events) and smile. Some of my colleagues have suggested that at
networking events, don't go handing out business cards left and right and I tend
to agree. Most of these events are informal and a time to relax. If they ask for it
by all means then exchange cards but do not go handing them out to every new face you see.
Say hello, ask them what they do, and say how glad you are to meet them and also if they are new,
Introduce them to others you know to make them feel welcome and at home.
This will help them feel good about coming. One final note, if you do receive a card
with their email address is on it and you feel they may be a viable lead for you,
send them an informal email saying it was great to meet them. Dont load itup with
everything you do. Hopefully you have a business signature that explains that.
keep it simple on your first email contact and just say it was a pleasure to meet them
and you hope to see them at future events. Now you broke the ice and left an impression.
Another quick item with networking is what I like to term the A to B connection.
When you network, take charge of the conversations, listen, and always have an address
book in your head open. When you coordinate people with other people at
these events, you are remembered and it comes back in dividends to you. Just
because they may be looking fo something you don't offer, don't be a jerk and
say fine and walk away. If they need a hammer and all you sell is screwdrivers,
maybe someone at the event sells hammers. Put them together. If the new face
came looking for a job, ask them about their skills and maybe a temp agency or
you know of one of your contacts may be looking for someone with their skills.
Networking is more than meet and greet. It is looking at the big picture each
and every time.
My last comment is this. This is a no brainer but it has to be said. Do not over indulge
in the adult beverages if you drink. I have seen this one too many times when the
booze flows then the "Mr. Big Shot" takes over or the flirting starts and this
is not the time or the place for that. Most networking events offer an open or
cash bar but be responsible. You represent your business. Even if your friends
are there, say hello but move around and do what you came there for. Network!
I hope these tips were helpful and now go try them out. Let me how it works for you.