I’ve often found with networking – you either love it or you hate it!
I’ll admit – it used to be something I hated. I’d go to events, grab a drink, stand on my own (awkwardly) & only dream about being the popular kid easily chatting to everyone in the room!
When I first started, I was wrongly under the impression if I didn’t come out with a new client or a lead I was a failure. I saw all these people sharing cards, arranging meet ups & there was me…just grabbing ANOTHER coffee…still on my own!
However, over the years I’ve learnt it’s just another part of the job. It’s something you have to work at – like all those other people would’ve done previously.
Networking is about building long-term relationships and a good reputation over time. You have to invest time – at the event but also in the follow up to get to know people who you can assist & who will potentially want to assist you in return. That’s not always by giving you their business but maybe sharing a connection that may be of interest.
One important thing I’ve learnt is that it’s not always about who’s in the room but the wider networks that open up to you via that contact you’ve just met.
With the business challenges that we’re all facing at the moment – whether its too much work or not enough work, it has become apparent networking is now more important than ever. So here are my three top tips for networking success that I believe I have learnt and taken on board from the best networkers I know:
- Ditch the sales pitch. Networking is all about relationship building. Keep your conversations light and informal but professional – especially the first time you meet people. You don’t need to do the hard sell within minutes of seeing anyone – if you do they’re likely to run a mile!! Your aim is to get the conversation started. People tend to want to do business with or partner with people whose company they enjoy and those they remember – for the right reasons !!
- Me, me, me, me, me…..Don’t take over the conversation! I understand you’re nervous but don’t try to overcompensate by taking over the discussion. Your aim is for people to remember you – again for the right reasons! The most successful networkers make other people feel special, they’ll look at people when they’re talking, will use their names and often repeat what was said to confirm they were listening. You obviously want to tell people about yourself but make sure you get the balance right.
- Remember to follow up. This is really important. Events are often short and maybe once or twice a month – by only engaging at that frequency you will never build up great relationships! So make sure you follow up afterwards. Email, phone, social media, one to ones – there are many ways to keep the conversation going. Try to get in touch within 24 hours of the event to show you’re interested and keen to build that relationship. Try to reference something you discussed so that your contact remembers you.
I used to be daunted by networking and even now when I’m sat on my office in a virtual event (which have their own challenges!!) I sometimes still get butterflies and wonder what I’m going to do or say but I now take it in my stride. Most people attending would have been in the same situation (maybe still are). Everyone is human and always very supportive so I just get on with it – I sometimes even enjoy it!!
I attend some great events regularly – would you like to join me? Have a look here to see the events/groups I go to and if you’d like to join me give me a call.