Business Networking is an amazing tool, but doing it wrong can seem a chore!
We all want our business networking to be successful, but what if you could apply these 10 top-tips to make it more successful than ever?
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- Being Genuine
Please bear in mind that people do business with other people who they know, like, trust and value. This means if you’re not genuine about wanting to help others to grow your network, you’ll fall short. Be Genuine!
- Set Networking Goals
If you don’t set a goal for your networking activities, how can you possibly know if you have met or exceeded them?
Setting your networking goals ahead of time will quickly allow you to determine if a new networking group can even help you at all.
- Visit Multiple Groups and Locations
Every networking group is a little different, the lunch-time networking group in a chamber of commerce might feel very different to the breakfast time group.
Each town, Chamber of Commerce, BNI or other networking group can feel very different to the next. You might feel at home based on the format, the people, the location or time of day, even some other factor could affect you and without visiting multiple groups, you won’t know which ‘fit’ and which don’t.
- Volunteer within the groups you participate in
Volunteering helps you remain visible to the group memebers. The moderator, or the person who arrives early to setup the tables and chairs etc. It doesn’t matter how you volunteer, because taking a leadership role will get you noticed.
- Ask open-ended questions
Questions of the type who, what, where, when and how are much better at getting information from people you are networking with. When you ask closed questions you can end up with yes or no answers and it can make conversations extremely difficult.
The asking of open-ended questions also gives the impression that you’re interested in the person you’re networking with, which is essential if you want to have a good relationship with them. Avoid looking at your watch, phone or elsewhere when networking. Keep your focus on your conversation and even taking notes can help you with your follow up later.
- Become a source of information to others
When you’re known as the person who knows answers, or people to meet, it will yield introductions without even having to work for them.
Consider using your daytime organizer, or phone, laptop or tablet as your backup source of knowledge, but try to have a person or resource for almost any topic, whether it be a caterer, a sign person or even an idea of how to market for your contacts. Be the ‘answer person’ in your group(s).
- Have a clear understanding who what you do, why you do it, for whom and what make your business ‘special’
If you can quickly and concisely explain what make your company different and why they should engage in a consultation, a quote or even a coffee meeting to learn more, it will make networking much easier.
It’s far better to know your reasons for business than having a meandering conversation without a clear path to “so, let’s do business” or “I’d like to setup an appointment to quote you on services for your business, does Tuesday or Wednesday work better for you?”
- Be articulate and have a strong ‘ask’
Don’t ask ‘how may I help you?” – it puts someone on the spot and the most common answer is “I don’t know.”
If you have a strong introduction or elevator speech, you can point out ways in which your business might help them, rather than asking and getting the “I don’t know.” or worse still, “You can’t.”
If you can think quickly on your feet and have the other person introduce themselves first, you might have similar businesses as customers. Without naming them, you might highlight what products or services you supply to that similar business and why you get that business. It prevents the dreaded “I don’t know” from coming up, because you already know at least one way you could help them.
- Follow-up quickly and efficiently with referrals
Setup your processed and procedures for follow-up so that you can execute them quickly and easily, that way you’ll get your followups done and appear professional.
If you wait many days or weeks after a meeting, it seems like you’re not interested or you come off as lacking in professionalism. Even something as simple as preparing an email template which can be quickly altered and sent right after a meeting will make you look business-like and professional.
- Call those you meet who may benefit from what you do and vice-versa
When you’re networking, take some time to follow up with people you meet, even if you haven’t discussed how you can work together or refer each other.
A quick conversation or email exchange after meeting someone lets them know that you were thinking about their business, how to refer them, or to use their services in your business. You can also highlight an area of your business which they might benefit from, which can lead to a follow-up meeting or quote opportunity.
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