10 Top tips for successful networking

 In Networking

Successful networking in the 21st century is a must do for any business. Marketing is getting less personal – unless you are using inbound marketing services (sorry, a little plug there!) and more difficult and so to increase your business network, the people you know and who can help you gain more clients attending networking events is a growing skill to master.

Attending any old networking event and mingling with the crowds, trying to sell to everyone you meet, is not the best method in fine tuning your networking skills. If you try to sell to everyone, “sell to the room”, then people will see you as needy, desperate and boring.

Top tips for successful networking:

Tip # 1. Listen

By listening to your contacts you will succeed in numerous ways. You will seem caring, people love to talk about themselves and will tell you their problems, their pain points – allowing you to do a number of important tasks. The first is that you can make notes and after the event write a blog answering these pain points and show that you can be the “go to” person for this contact’s issues; and they’ll not be the only one! This will produce decent quality content for your website, increasing traffic and leads.

By listening to your new contacts, you’ll also have ammunition to approach them with after the event.

Tip # 2. Do not sell.

Remember that mostly, the people in the room, at any networking event, might not be the ideal clients for you. So why go to that particular networking event, I hear you cry? Because it’s not always about the people you meet but who they know, who they’ll meet at other networking events.

We are supposed to be 6 degrees from knowing everyone in the World. Wow – hard to believe unless you are on LinkedIn – which kindly tells you how you are connected to almost any member. So remember, the dog walker or cleaner might not be able to afford your nice new Mercedes car or marketing services but they know people, they have clients, family, friends and it’s those that might be able to afford your services/products.

Tip # 3. Prepare

At some networking events, you might be expected to stand up and for 30 seconds, or a whole minute – introduce yourself and say what you do, offer and are looking for. So practice in the mirror, or to your loved one, partner or colleague before hand on what to say. You might not get a microphone, so project your voice as best as you can, sound confident, even if you are not – act! Mention your name, your company, and services – what you offer; and importantly – what you are looking for – it could be a printer in the group for business card or a website designer, or the type of clients you want to work with.

Remember you will not be the only one who dreads this, standing up and talking in public. Don’t have an alcoholic drink before hand, one might increase to several and you do not want to be slurring your words – think of first impressions. Write down what you want to say, read from it, and with time you’ll grow in confidence. Good luck, go for it!!

Tip # 4. Connect via Social Media

After any event, with business cards received, connect with these networkers across all social media, LinkedIn in particular but also follow their business Facebook and Twitter accounts. People often do not bring enough business cards, run out or actually forget to bring them…. (am guilty of that one!) so ask the organiser for a list of attendees.

Pre-attendance – ask the organiser for a list of attendees, check them out – is there anybody who catches your eye, is your target client? Connect with them via social media, advise of your attendance and ask for  a possible 1 -1 meeting after the event. OR ask the organiser if you can have an introduction or sit at the same table.

Need help with social media?

Tip # 5. Take your business cards.

Make sure your business cards are branded, preferably not free ones – what does that say about your business? If they are free ones or the cheaper variety, make sure it does not say so on the reverse. Make sure all your contact details are correct, not scribbled out using a biro or black pen; think about image, and how your simple business card can be so important for first and lasting impressions.

Tip # 6.  Attire – What to wear

What is the networking event? Where is it? What is the theme? All these questions should be enough information for what you wear. Is it a dog walking event – wear smart but appropriate clothing, business suit and high heels might not be suffice. If the occasion is a A Chambers of Commerce or  similar business lunch – wear appropriate dress. Not always a suit but if your ideal clients are suit wearing people, then dress accordingly, do not stand out for the wrong reasons. Smart jeans, shirt with collar and a jacket might be a little too casual for some but a suit with tie might be over dressed for others.  Jeans and Tshirt are probably not the ideal fashion to wear to any business network.

Hygiene is another – let’s leave that to common sense!

Tip # 7. Drink. Sensibly.

Quite often alcohol is served at networking events but common sense prevails here too as drink driving laws will stipulate that drinking will result in a dangerous and illegal activities. However, even if you get a taxi to an event or share a colleague’s car, drinking too much at an event cannot only promote the wrong signs to any potential client but damage your reputation. By all means, after the event, retire to another venue where you may carry on drinking with like-minded new acquaintances but do so after the event.

Nobody wants to meet, especially on the first occasion a drunk, lecherous, garbled, incoherent contact. Think of your business and its reputation.

If the event is centered around alcohol, drink sensibly, mix your drinks with water or fruit juices and pace yourself.

Tip # 8. Food.

Quite often events are featured around a breakfast, or a meal but do include networking time before and after, so use these times wisely. Some people do not like talking whilst eating. Some are put off by flying food, spittle and the site of open mouths; remember what your parents told you – do not talk with a mouth full of food – quite wise when trying to set an example. However, pace yourself, as there will always be someone who will talk non-stop and want to get the most out of the event. That could mean the most networking, the most food, the most drink etc.!!

Tip # 9. Memorable Greeting.

Do you kiss, two kisses, shake hands, wave, cry? Several options and scenarios here, if you are meeting for the  first time, or meeting an old friend.

Probably the best greeting will be with a handshake, not a bone cruncher or limp wristed; but a nice firm grip, look into their eyes and smile, whilst also saying hello, perhaps with a  mention of your name, leaning slightly back to the other does not think you are about to kiss them. OK, slight lean forward, head slightly back…. no pouting!

Meeting somebody again, hand shakes all round are the safest option – who wants to give the lecherous old git (and some young ones too) a kiss, with their smokers breath, bear breath or worse black teeth!! Two kisses like the continentals – what could be worse. Unless it’s  a dating event and you’ll probably want to go in all guns blazing! Yayyyy good luck.

Tip # 10. Find the right networking event for you.

Is all networking, good networking? There are lots of networking events out there and growing. The local Chambers of Commerce might be a great place to start but will it bring you the right size of client? I know I have mentioned that the “cleaner” might know people, and have friends etc. but to ensure you get value for money and time away from your business at meaningless networking events might not be cost effective marketing. So choose wisely. Do you like sport? Already you’ll have an infinity with your target clients, or fellow networkers and have common ground when first talking with your new colleagues/friends.

Find the decision maker

Do you offer a service that targets the decision maker, The Business Network offers great networking opportunities where the costs will wheedle out the smaller companies. Local networking events, usually but not always breakfast networking like the BNI offer local opportunities. The Chambers – depending on your locality can vary from quite often small businesses with one man bands prolific to larger organisations, it’s generally pot luck. Look out for other location based networking organisations that might include really large companies. These might attend just for their marketing and public image. Look around airports like Gatwick with some very large companies, like Norwegian Airlines at The Gatwick Diamond.

Networking in Sport

Your local football, rugby, cricket, golf clubs will have networking events, you do not have to live in that area. However if it is your target area where your ideal clients might be based, why not trial these out too.

Most networking events will offer a trial visit before having to commit to full membership. These may be at cost, or sometimes free, it depends on how they are run.

More Networking Tips?

Do you have any other tips successful networking? If so, please leave a comment below and I’ll add these when I update this article another time. If you know of any other quality networking events, email me.

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