All About Networking: Engagement Essentials, Week One
For the next four weeks, I’m going to focus on the essentials of ENGAGEMENT.
Or, in other words, I’m going to explain more about how you can inspire and encourage people to connect with your business, on a deeper level than by simply clicking ‘Like’ on social media.
Ready? The first engagement essential I’m going to tackle is business networking.
The very idea of networking can strike fear into the heart of even the most determined business person, because they can see it as aggressively sales-driven. But this really shouldn’t be the case.Believe it or not, it is actually possible to have fun and interesting conversations whilst networking – and develop your business at the same time! #blog Click To Tweet
Business Networking = Easy Relationship Building
What thoughts do the word “networking” immediately conjure up for you? If it’s loud, slick salespeople thrusting their business cards into your hand over cups of weak coffee, it may be time to think again.
Networking is simply about building like-minded relationships that have the potential to develop business. Networking happens anywhere and everywhere, from formal events and coffee meetings, to an easy chat with the person behind you in the supermarket queue!
When done well, networking can create strong partnerships, and a supportive group of business allies, as well as more customers.When done well, networking can create strong partnerships, and a supportive group of business allies, as well as more customers. #blog Click To Tweet
So relax: you don’t have to be a professional salesperson to get the best out of networking. But you do have to put the effort in. It takes time to build rewarding relationships, so networking should never be seen as a quick, or one-off, business ‘fix’.
How to Get the Best Out of Business Networking
The golden rule of business networking is to listen more than talk.
(Yes, you read that right!)
If you go into a networking meeting with the sole aim of selling your products or services, you’re likely to alienate people right from the start. Nobody goes to networking with the intention to buy, so you shouldn’t go there to sell.
Instead, listen to others. Aim to find out more about who they are and what they do, then try to think about how you might be able to help them.
This way, you’ll be more likely to have interesting conversations that feel easy and fulfilling, which is the best foundation on which to build a new business relationship.
Plus, it’s far more fun!
Choose Your Networking Tribe
You’ve probably noticed that there are lots of networking events, and lots of different groups to join. So how will you find the best ones?
There’s no such thing as a universally ‘good’ or ‘bad’ networking group or event. Instead, it’s all about finding the ones that will work best for you and your business.There’s no such thing as a universally ‘good’ or ‘bad’ networking group or event. Instead, it’s all about finding the ones that will work best for you and your business. #blog Click To Tweet
This means it’s a good idea to do your homework – particularly before spending any money on membership or meeting fees.
First, ask yourself if the event or group is likely to help you reach your target customer. If it is, try attending a session to see. Most groups offer a free, no-obligation trial session for newcomers, in which you can judge the group’s chemistry and dynamics before you join.
Note: while free networking events can be very useful, I would be wary about only ever attending free meetings. Payment is often indicative of commitment, so you may have to work harder to build meaningful connections.
Narrow Down Your Business Networking Specifics
Go to every networking meeting with a specific call to action in mind, and you will be far more likely to get what you need.
For example, if you know exactly what kind of people you’d most like to be introduced to, it will be simpler for others to understand if they can help.
I remember a recruitment consultant standing up to introduce herself at a networking meeting I went along to recently. She told the group that she was looking to work with manufacturing businesses that employed up to 50 people.
Because she had been specific rather than vague, it was much easier for the rest of us to think of people we could put her in contact with.
Networking Happens in the Follow-Up
Hopefully, you will have met at least a few people you’d like to follow up with after your networking event. Send them a friendly email inviting them for coffee or a chat over the phone, so you can find out more about them.
Do this ideally within a couple of days of the meeting. Not only is it more likely that you will be remembered, it will give you the excuse you need to sort through all those business cards you received!
Is there anything you’ve always wanted to ask about networking? Feel free to post your questions below, and I’ll do my very best to answer them.