Formal’, to Me, Networking is Fun, welcoming, and supportive. I look forward to the network meetings I run, and it doesn’t even feel like networking, at times it feels like meeting with friends.
Let’s take a look at what networking is, and is not!
Here’s a definition of Networking:
Interacting with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts.
When running live workshops we often begin by asking people what works well for them in networking, and what they feel doesn’t work well.
So, let’s imagine we’re at a networking group, and we’re talking to people in the group, you meet a person who gives you their card and gets chatting, they start to tell you all about their business and start giving you their sales patter on their best selling product straight away, they hardly let you get a word in edgeways, and when you do, they are looking at their watch, or glancing over your shoulder looking for their next person to talk to. How does all this make you feel?
It’s a great example of what networking is not!
If we pull this apart a little, here’s some of the things that might make you feel uncomfortable or less likely to want to network with this person, let alone send them business or referrals:
– Not listening
– Talking too much, and not giving space for the other person to talk
– And so it goes on….
Can you think of any other networking nightmare’s you’ve seen before? Or maybe even things you’ve tried yourself that didn’t work?
When I go networking, I often like to go second when chatting to people, I like to listen to the other person first, and ask them questions about themselves and their business, and really listen to what they have to say, giving them good eye contact with a relaxed body language to make them feel at ease. This way, I can also listen for any clues as to how I might be able to help them (however I never jump straight in with this! It’s something for me to make a note of for later) When it’s my turn to talk, I can then chat informally with a little more about me, and perhaps spark an inquisitiveness in the other person, depending on what the other person has told me, I might talk about how I love to help people, and what I do. Remember, you’re not there to necessarily to do business straight away, but to begin a long standing business relationship.
Have a think about some of the key points there:
– – Relaxed body language
– – Eye Contact
– -Taking a genuine interest
– -Asking relevant questions
– -Bring friendly
– -Keeping things open and light hearted to build a relationship
– – Be yourself.
Where to Start:
When you decide you’d like to try networking for your business, think about the type of group that is right for you. There are so many to choose from:
– Informal groups
– Family Friendly networking
– Formal networking
– Lock out groups (This means only one person per industry)
– Free v’s Paid groups
If you are new to networking, you may want to try an informal, free networking group, if you need to take your children with you, there are plenty of family friendly groups out there, and you’ll also find lots of women only groups available if you feel more comfortable, or your business appeals to women. Then if you have been networking for a while, and are looking for a bit more structure, then there are more formal groups, or the lock out groups which are brilliant for businesses where there is a lot of competition in your industry. Formal networking can sometimes involve a membership fee. This is an investment into the group, and often involves a commitment to look for opportunities to refer other members to your contacts forming a win:win for each of the business owners who buy into the group, as if you are looking for opportunities to refer a fellow networker some new business, they will be doing the same for you.
How to choose the right group, and get the most from networking:
Think about exactly what you want from networking, remember, it’s not necessarily about getting immediate sales, but forming long lasting relationships with people.
I’m sure you’ll have heard the phrase:
‘People buy from people’
It’s about getting to really know your fellow networkers, and finding ways to help each other on a longer term. To build up that ‘know, like and trust’ principle.
What do you want to get from networking?
What kinds of people would you like to meet?
Who can you help?
What are their main challenges?
Where do these people hang out?
These kinds of questions can help you find the right kind of networking group to suit you.
Networking is not scary if you go in with the right mindset, think of it as making friends, be yourself, smile, and chat informally with people. Many people can become very ‘turned off’ by someone who simply talks about themselves and what they have to offer, as I mentioned before, I often like to ask lots of questions about the other person first, learn all about them, they will be sure to ask you too, and by this time, you know enough about them, to know if your business is relevant, or think of different things you may have to help them.
Once you have chosen the right networking group for you, and have tried out a few, make sure that you attend the group as regularly as you can, this way, you will be fresh in peoples mind when they need something, they will think of you, and you are more likely to receive referrals from them. (Many of the paid networking groups offer a freebie for you to try them out and see if they are right for you) We’ll talk about your introduction later, but you may want to pick a different part of your business each month to keep things interesting for people. Rather than trying to tell people everything about your business or products in one go, knowing you’ll be seeing them regularly, you can focus on showcasing a particular product or service each month, people will find that much easier to remember.
Take a note pad & Business Cards.
Jot down names of the other people at the networking meeting and what they do, as you may be able to refer them to another friend or colleague. This in itself is often a great way of networking, as the law of reciprocity means that the business you referred will be grateful of this, and keep you in mind for their friends and colleagues. Keep note of anyone you would specifically like to contact, make sure people get your business cards, but they know the person behind the card, as they could end up in another box or drawer or bin.
A useful tip is to write some notes on the business cards that you collect to remind you of that person, perhaps something they said, or something to remind you of what they look like, so that when you pop the card away, if you pick it up at a later date you’ll find it easier to connect the business to the person. Try not to simply throw it in a box, and forget about it. Why not find a way to keep a log, a spreadsheet perhaps, or there are some app’s for your phone where you can take a photo of the card and store it to your contacts.
In a few days time I’ll be writing to you again with some further tips, we’ll look into referrals and follow ups, and how to introduce yourself. So until then, bye for now!
Have a brilliant day, until next time…..