Hi, do you mind if I join you?
So at long last, networking face to face is back on the agenda and we are all trying to make up for lost time and build some new relationships.
Some may disagree with me here but in my view, networking is about building mutually beneficial relationships. It’s through these strong relationships that you find new clients, whether that is by directly meeting a client or through introductions or referrals.
Networking is not about selling or pitching. It is all about building your network.
I really like the principle of “pay it forward” when networking. The best relationships are built on added value. Really consider what you can do to support your new contact and be generous with your time and knowledge. These behaviours usually pay dividends and build long lasting mutually beneficial relationships.
We have all experienced networkers who just want to sell to us. They are not interested in building a relationship and are often disinterested in having a conversation outside of identifying whether they can sell to us or not. This is not a pleasant experience for either party and seldom leads to success.
Below are some thoughts on how to approach networking.
1. Pick your events carefully - There are many great sector specific networking events out there. You want to increase your chance of building a great relationship by being amongst those most interested in your product or service.
2. Practice your introduction - Have a clear and interesting answer to the question “What do you do?”. Make it personal by providing some relevant examples. (I usually try and ask my new contact what they do first, so when I am explaining what I do I can make it relevant to them and their business).
3. Don’t monopolise the conversation – A conversation is an exchange between 2 or more people. Ask your new contact what they do. Ask questions to fully understand their business.
4. People buy people – Some people get quite nervous and treat networking like a 2-hour sales pitch. Relax, be yourself, have a chat about what interests you, holidays, the weather, what’s happening in the news etc. Try not to get into long debates but a bit of small talk goes a long way when building new relationships.
5. Work the room – There are lots of people to meet and you don’t know who else is in the room. If you meet an interesting person arrange to follow up after the event. You may also see some of your existing contacts. Remember these are valuable relationships so always say hello and keep building on the relationship, but don’t forget you are there to meet new people too.
6. Use the attendee list – Many event organisers provide a list of the attendees. Use it to identify potential relationships at the event and to follow up afterwards. This is particularly useful if there was someone there you would like to have met but didn’t get around to it at the event.
7. Make good use of the event organisers – The event organisers are usually incredibly well connected and will know most people in the room. Don’t be afraid to ask them to introduce you to the people you wish to meet. That is their job, and, in my experience, they are always delighted to assist in making connections.
8. The follow up – Always follow up. Whether it’s a quick connect request on LinkedIn or arranging another meeting or a call, it is vital to remain connected with your new contacts. Also remember to follow up with any existing contacts you may have seen at the event. Just a quick “it was good to see you at the event yesterday” is nice way to stay engaged.
9. Don’t be a one hit wonder – To build good relationships with a networking group you must attend regularly. Going to lots of different events once or twice will seldom pay off. You need to invest in the group and build relationships over time to get the best out of your efforts.
10. Not all Networking Groups are equal – in business development it is vital to understand the return on investment for all the BD activities you undertake. Networking is not the easiest to measure in terms of pure leads generated but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. Track leads back to the source wherever possible and allocate to networking events or groups rather than just “Networking”. You will then be able to work out which events work best for you and do more of them.
Recently I have had a few people ask me how I approach people I don’t know at a networking event. To be very honest my advice would be, “don’t over think it”. You are at an event where the main goal for everyone there is to meet new people. Everyone is in the same boat. I usually just walk up to a group, or a person on their own, and just say something like “Hi, do you mind if I join you?”
In all my years of networking I have never had someone tell me that they do mind and ask me to go away. You will not be surprised to hear that people who go networking are usually very welcoming and friendly and are just as keen to speak with you as you are with them.
If you are really nervous about walking into a room where you don’t know anyone, arrange to go along with a colleague.
My last piece of advice is to make good use of business cards and to carry a note pad to make some notes on who you met, those you promised to follow up with and some personal information so you will remember the conversation you had. There is nothing worse that knowing you had some great conversations but by the following day you are not sure who you had them with.
If you would like some help with your networking, we would love to have a chat with you about your needs and how Pro-Team BD could help. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org call me, Julie Barry on 07885 911877