Do you know how to network effectively? If yes, bravo for you. If not, don't be discouraged as this is a skill that can be learned. The reality is if you are an entrepreneur, professional or anyone really who is looking for clients, new business contacts and opportunities, you have to “put yourself out there.” There meaning different types of business and professional events. Regardless of what type of business you have or are in, you are in the sales and marketing business. Networking can play a role when it comes to promoting and making sales for your business.
Networking to me is about building a relationship with someone to see how you can mutually help or benefit each other. It is not a one way dialogue, there is reciprocity involved. Here are five networking tips that I've learned through my entrepreneurial journey. They are:
1. Effective Networking is About Reciprocity
When you first meet someone at an event rather than going straight into a promotional spiel about your program, product and service, think reciprocity. How can you mutually benefit from knowing each other? Is there a resource, book, website or referral that you can recommend or make to the other person. Once you nurture that relationship, then it is possible that the person you met at the event could become your client, business associate or even over the long term friend.
2. Tools of the Trade
If you are going to an event, ensure that you have the tools that you need so that people can contact you. These tools are at a minimum your business card and perhaps a promotional brochure. Even if you don't have a website, it is fine to have cards printed with just your name, your title, your phone number and email address. Also make sure that your business cards present the type of image you want to convey. They don't have to be fancy, just professional. I have been handed business cards that had liquid paper on them, with the phone number whited out and a new number written on top. This does not leave a professional image in your potential business associate's or client's mind. A professional business card is an essential tool.
3. Be a Good Listener
I've been told that I deliver excellent feedback. The feedback could be for colleagues at work, for my coaching clients or for colleagues in my volunteer work. One of the reasons that I am able to deliver excellent feedback is because I am a good listener. When you are at a networking event use your listening skills to the full capacity. Be genuinely interested in the person you are speaking with at the event. Ask questions in a non-intrusive manner. For example, what is their professional background? Why did they start their business? How does their product or service help or benefit people? Truly listen to what the other person has to say.
4. Use Positive, Rapport Building Nonverbal Communication
When you meet a person at an event, make sure that you use positive, rapport building non-verbal communication. What does that mean? For example, when you first meet someone when you greet them make sure that you smile, look at the person directly, deliver a firm handshake and say your full name. Before you describe what you do, let the other person introduce themselves. In general, remember to smile, have good eye contact, nod from time to time (so that the person knows that you are listening) and have relaxed body language. You want your body language to convey that you are confident and attentive to the other person.
5. Go to the Event Early.
Even though it may be fashionable to arrive late, when you attend networking events, arrive early. When you go to networking events you can make some of your best connections early on at the event. Also at the earlier stage of the event, it is not as noisy as there are less people so you can have longer conversations.
When you meet someone new at an event that you are interested in keeping in contact with, follow up. Whether it is for a potential client, business associate or potential friend, make contact with the person as soon as you can. In an ideal world, follow up should happen the next day. Sometimes though that is not possible, try to make contact as soon as you can. You can send an email or call to follow-up on the interaction that you had at the event where you met.
For the more introverted among us, while networking is not the easiest skill to master, it can be learned. Networking effectively can help you promote your business, makes sales and gain new clients. Happy Networking!
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