Author: Greg Hewitt-Long – TableTop Networking
So, you went to a business networking event, and you met some great people… what next?
Remembering that ‘people do business with people they know, like, trust & value‘, it’s important to know your networking contacts better than you could possibly get to know them in your one minute elevator pitch exchange. The perfect way to do that is to … do a buddy meeting!
We suggest a “Buddy Meeting” as the way to learn more about your new networking contact. These meetings can be held face to face over a coffee., tea, soft drink or beer… if you both agree, even a cocktail can be a great way to “break the ice” and get down to learning more about your networking buddy, how to refer them and for them to learn how to refer you.
With the pandemic and all, we’ve even done buddy meetings with new contacts via Zoom or Microsoft Teams. These types of ‘virtual buddy meetings’ can be useful if you and your contact have schedules that don’t sync up easily, or if you’re impatient and need to start the co-learning before you have a mutually convenient time slot to hold that face-to-face buddy meeting. You can still do cocktails or coffee together while sat at your desk!
- Prepare for your meeting before it takes place
Check out your contact on LinkedIn or Social Media sites. Learn about their company and make a list of questions that you feel you need to have answered. Write them down and you can jot down the answers if they come up during conversation or ask them yourself during the buddy meeting.
Conversely, you should make some notes about the important information you want to convey about yourself – that way you have at least an outline of the important things you want to get across to your networking partner.
Finally, if you’re meeting somewhere in person, make sure that you check out the location so that you can know how long you need to leave before your meeting – it’s important not to be late when holding one of these events, we must be respectful of each other’s time.
- Divide the allotted time equally between your buddy and you
When we hold a buddy meeting, we normally shoot for a 30-minute meeting. Sometimes we might allow longer – especially if we’re doing an ‘after work’ buddy meeting over beer or cocktails. Regardless of the timing, we suggest you allocate say, 15 minutes each for the first portion of the meeting. Set a timer on your smart phone or watch and use that to guide how long you talk for about yourself and your business. There’s nothing worse than going to a buddy meeting and it being very “one sided” so that one person doesn’t get to explain how their business works.
With a guideline and a timer visible, both sides can plan their ‘pitch’ and we think it’s a good way to ensure that a buddy meeting is ‘equitable’.
- Limit your questions so you don’t use up your buddy’s time
Unless you have both agreed to let your buddy meeting go longer than the initial time allocation, say the 15 minutes each; you should limit your questions unless the other person has indicated that they have allowed time for them. But getting your questions answers is certainly important, so even a 15+15 minute buddy meeting might benefit from a little ‘flex time’ for questions. This goes both ways, you can suggest when it’s your time to talk, that you have allowed time for questions, or that you’re OK to stay longer if questions arise.
If you don’t have time for questions in the initial buddy meeting, jot them down so you can get answers, either by email or a follow-up phone call.
- Find out if your business ‘click’
It’s important to ask your buddy meeting partner if they got their questions answered, or if they think they can refer business to you. Be prepared to have a second buddy meeting if they are not 100% sure. Remember, we have to get to the full “know, like, trust and value” phase for a successful referral partner. It might take more than one meeting to get there – and that’s totally fine!
- Don’t refer a bad fit lead
We all like to get referral business – but a bad lead can be a waste of everyone’s time – so try to refer a best-fit referral and do your follow-up.
When you make that referral, you need to follow-up with both the person your referred and the one you referred to. Find out if your referral got what they need, and if the lead was a good fit, average customer or a fantastic referral. Ask the question, what could I have done better?
Always remember – networking isn’t ever finished. We can always afford to do a buddy meeting with an old contact as well as a new one. At least once a year, circle back with your business contacts and make the time to check on them in their business and their personal lives if they’ve become friends. We’re all busy, but don’t forget – know like, trust and value!
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