Networking Rocks!! If done well, it can be an incredibly powerful and economical arrow in your marketing quiver. If done poorly, it can amount to an unrewarding evening of frighteningly unidentifiable finger food. From the perspective of a business coach, here are a few gratuitous hints and tips for networking. Please note that they are based on the axiom that, all other things equal, people like to deal with people they like. So,:
Know your event. Choose events where there will be people you can do business with (please note that this does not mean only those to whom you can sell.), or those who share an interest or passion you have. The latter group can be enthusiastic advocates for you.
Know your objectives. If you go with the goal of selling at the event, you may as well stay home. At a minimum, you should consider the following objectives: to meet people with whom I can follow up for the purpose of introducing my products/services; to meet people who can refer me to prospects; to meet people to whom I can refer to others; to meet people with whom I can create a strategic relationship; to meet nice people whose company I enjoy.
Know your focus - When attending an event, don't try to meet as many people as possible. Trust isn't built from a stack of business cards.
Have an adequate supply of business cards and make sure you get a business card from every person you meet - This will allow you to follow up and to help build your database.
Listen and ask questions - You have two ears and one mouth so remember to use them proportionately! Its like dating: no one is interested in those who only talk about themselves.
Be positive and enthusiastic. Those who complain about the event, about the frighteningly unidentifiable finger food, about the weather well, they tend not to be the most highly sought-after company.
Give referrals whenever possible - A good networker gains by giving. So, because most successful businesses grow from referrals, be the person that does the referring.
Write notes on the backs of business cards you collect - This will help jog your memory when you make contact with them and will help in building rapport.
Follow Up - If you've discussed following up, contact that person within 3 days.
Keep promises - If you've made a promise, keep it! No one likes to do business with an unreliable person.
Think differently - Focus on just meeting people and not finding new customers because that's what everyone else is probably doing.
Have Fun!! While networking is work, it can also be a very enjoyable way to learn, to share and to profitably grow your business.