Top Ten Business Networking Tips (Part 1)
I’ve been called a serial networker, a networking wizard and a super connector in my time. What it all boils down to though is that I’ve been making friends at business networking events for a long time. It has been great for my business, my personal profile and my public speaking career too. Here are my top 10 business networking tips for making networking work for you.
1. Make a Plan
Ask for an attendee list beforehand and plan your networking. If you can’t get a list from the organiser, make this the first thing you do on arrival. If they still can’t or won’t give you one, take time to scan the room with your eyes. See if you recognise anyone you need to connect with. Then make a plan of action that includes meeting them all before you go. Bear in mind that reality often intrudes on plans so don’t be worried if you don’t meet everyone on your ‘list’, there’s always another time.
2. Prepare Your Elevator Pitch
Your elevator pitch, 30 second advert, personal profile; whatever you want to call it, you will at one time or another need to be able to tell a room of people what your do and what makes your business special. The only way to get this right is by crafting a great pitch and practising it until you know it inside and out. Joining a public speaking club can really help here (there’s more on that further on in this article). But here’s a hot tip for losing that I-am-a-robot tone that so many less able networkers have. Get your pitch right, then try to forget it (if you’ve learnt it properly you won’t really forget the important parts) except for 1 key point. That’s the one that people will remember you by.
3. Be Memorable – For the Right Reasons
No matter what your field is, there is always plenty of competition. Particularly when economic times are tough. There’s always another plumber, web designer, accountant, or marketeer after your clients. You job is to stand out, so that clients can spot you straight away. But that doesn’t mean you should dress as a chicken or a clown. That’ll make you stand out, but probably not in a good way. Unless you sell fancy dress outfits, in which case let me know when you’re next turning up. I’m going to want to be there.
4. Follow up within 24 hours
If you think you’re at a networking event to sell, you’re wrong. That’s probably why it’s not working for you. Top business networkers attend meetings for the same reason: to meet new people and help them through your own connections (see Tip 5). So, when you meet someone at an event, make sure you get their business card and follow up with an email, note or phone call within 24 hours (48 at the most). Any longer, and the impact is lost.
5. Help Other People Make Connections
And here’s the thing, once you’ve made a connection, what are you going to do with it? Are you one of those people with a bulging business card folder, full of names of people who you’ve never spoken to since? Here’s a tip; it’s something that I’ve used from the beginning of my networking career, and it’s something that the world’s best business networkers do too. When you meet someone new, don’t just ask yourself if they could be a potential client for you. Consider whether one of the businesses in your network could do with meeting this person too. Is she a potential client or supplier for one of your connections? Often, I meet people who may not be a client for Design Inspiration, but I like playing business matchmaker for those people in my network that I admire and respect. Over the years this way of connecting people has generated thousands of pounds for them and I highly recommend it. Of course, being a source of great connections will bring rewards for you too.
The Next Step
These are my first five tips for business networking. The next five business networking tips (and a bonus one) are in the second part of this article. I suggest you read that too, but until then, just bear in mind that the most important goal of a networker is not necessarily to make a sale, but to make a relationship. People prefer to buy from people they know, like and trust. If they know you, like you, and trust you, they MAY buy from you; but you still have to earn it.