How to Network Successfully
Selling business to business is all about relationships - and going along to local networking groups and mingling with potential corporate clients is THE best way of creating those relationships. But beware. Effective networking is about more than just turning up, shaking a few hands and leaving in a shower of business cards. Give it some thought, follow these simple guidelines and watch your contacts grow!
Be clear about why you’re going and set objectives
- This is business, not just a social jolly, so go in work time with a business head on.
- Your aim is to meet new people, so don’t go with a friend or the temptation will be to stay with them.
- Move out of your comfort zone! Set yourself a realistic target – say, five new relationships you can follow-up later. More on that in a bit.
Be prepared – and be yourself!
- Look presentable. Seems obvious, we know, but looking smart does make a difference. You also need to feel comfortable, though.
- Be authentic. You will form the best relationships when you are being yourself – in reality, those who fake it, rarely make it. And certainly don’t sustain it.
- Ensure you have sufficient business cards. Your aim should be to collect more business cards than you hand out – that way, you are in control of the follow-up process. Even so, running out would be really awkward and we have seen it happen.
Work that room!
- Remember, your aim is to make new business relationships, so focus on those people whose businesses are appropriate.
- Make eye contact, tell them your first and last name and ask theirs – and then use it.
- Let the other person speak first – ask them about their business, their role within in it, what brought them to the networking group, about future projects and objectives. If you talk first, they will be thinking about what they are going to say and won’t pay full attention.
- When it’s your turn to speak, get your key message across in a few sentences (you can elaborate later) and avoid jargon – this is an introduction, so they might know nothing about your specialist subject!
- Keep notes. You won’t remember who said what, so once you have collected a few cards, find a quiet space and make brief notes on the back of their cards. And maybe have a notebook in which you can make fuller notes in the car before you leave.
- This is key – networking is only as effective as the genuine leads you create.
- Connect more permanently through social media, text or email.
- Aim to make an appointment – and then to take a booking (we’ll look at tips on closing the deal in a future blog)!
This might all seem a little cynical and calculated, but your window of opportunity will be limited and if you remain your true self, with perhaps just a little more structure than you might usually apply, you can form the basis of strong future business relationships.
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