People often think about business networking as a dirty word because it’s just not in our culture to tout ourselves of actively sell ourselves in a face-to-face encounter, but those that manage to overcome the British reserve go on to become successful business people. Nobody ever said success was easy, but knowing how to network properly definitely takes the pressure off.
Too many people simply arrive at the networking event without any sort of game plan or forethought. What successful businessperson would go into a business meeting without an objective? You must have an idea of what you want to achieve from the event and then you can work out a way to achieve it, but remember that networking is a two-way street that may require some effort to help others if you want to realise your goals.
Who Handles Your Networking?
Sales people are notoriously off-putting so sending them to a networking event is likely to alienate then from other attendees and that’s if they are doing what they are told. Your business decision makers are the best people for the job because salespeople cannot speak on your company’s behalf and instantly lose credibility with other attendants because everyone at the event is wondering…“What can you do for me”.
If the business card says ‘Sales Executive’, is it going to enthuse the recipient as much as ‘Director’ or some other title with authority? Don’t be tempted to disguise the title with business development manager, account manager or anything else similar because we all know what that means. Send someone who has a position of authority because people want to speak to the organ grinder rather than the monkey.
Here are some networking tips for smart entrepreneurs.
Decide on Objectives
People get hung up on the idea of increasing sales for their business and of course it’s important, but it’s not the only way to make more money. There will be a large number of representatives at every event and they are all desperate for a sale. If they can reduce your costs, then that will instantly increase your profit margin. Decision makers who know the ins and outs of your business are more likely to see the opportunity in a contact than someone who knows your business’ rate card.
Remember they’re All Just People
Be prepared to do help people achieve their goal because it’s one of the most endearing qualities in every business person. Your representative should try to assure each new contact that they will recommend their services or at the very least bear them in mind if they encounter someone else who could use their services. Asking for a couple more business cards ‘just in case’ is a good idea because it means your representative appears more interested and is more likely to win similar favours from people at the even simply for being sensitive to the situations of others.
Always Take Notes
This should be obvious, but you would be surprised at how many people actually expect to remember whom each business card belongs to by the time they arrive back at the office. Taking notes also implies you are taking a genuine interest in the business of the person you are meeting and it will encourage them to do the same about your business. Just to show you remember the person, always drop them an email or phone call the day after the event to touch-base and use any social network address they have on their cards to connect with them because that’s why they took the time to put the details on their cards.
This is not an exhaustive list of things to do at every event, but use them and they will put you on the right path. My all-time must is the goodbye. If you want to do business with someone again, always try to reaffirm your relationship before leaving the event. It’s too easy to lose track of faces and conversations after a few hours of pitching and listening to pitches so add wait to your encounter by saying goodbye and letting the person know you’ll call or mail soon.
About the Author
Shaun Thomas is a director of two limited companies and one LLC, but hopes to add to his portfolio this year. He currently networks with the great people at Kingdom Business Forum and hopes to see you at a meeting soon.