Most of us remember our first time. Sweaty palms, mumbled words and a series of clumsy mistakes. When it comes to business networking, no one gets it right first time.
The good news is you should get better each and every time you attend an event. And in doing so – bit by bit – you increase your circle of contacts and establish valued relationships.
Networking isn’t just about attending a single event and enjoying instant returns. Like most things, it takes effort, commitment and a fair degree of preparation and planning. One thing is for sure – it’s not selling. It’s about building relationships with a view to gaining opportunities.
For me, business networking has four simple, yet effective, parts. And by following these steps you can achieve results:
Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? You’re attending an event with dozens of other people; of course you would be prepared. However, how many times has the event crept up on us, whether you’ve been in meetings all week or been head down on a big project? Before you know it, the networking event is upon you. Well in advance you should check the delegate list and confirm time, date and venue of the event.
Prioritise who you would like to meet. A well-run event will have designated delegates who can make introductions. Be sure you have your elevator pitch – that short summing up of your business – ready and be prepared to adapt it. Keep it short and simple … you don’t want to be the only one speaking. In fact, you want to do a lot of listening.
At the event
So, you’re at the event. You’re here to meet people – not SELL to them! Do not go into sales mode. This is an opportunity to develop relationships with other delegates, share information and have a little fun.
Constantly talking about yourself and what you do isn’t dialogue. It’s not starting a conversation that could possibly lead to opportunities – in fact it’s likely to reduce the prospect of future engagement.
Let’s talk further
You’re unlikely to come back to the office with a signed contract after attending one networking event. It’s about building relationships and understanding products and services that are available to you from your new-found business contact. Therefore, it’s absolutely vital that you follow up after the networking event, either via email or with a phone call.
You’ve had the short conversation at the networking event; now – if both parties are willing – it’s time to take it to the next level and really get to know each other. How can we help each other? Do we require each other’s services? Is there someone I can introduce you to? You’re looking to build your connections and extend your reach.
Keep in touch
This is the part where most people trip up. Staying in touch on an ongoing basis is vital. This can be achieved by attending other networking events, holding another one-to-one meeting, or catching up via email, phone calls or even through social media.
The goal of networking is to develop long-term, mutually-beneficial relationships. Too many people think it is attending an event and a follow-up email – only to then moan that networking doesn’t work because it didn’t lead to any contract wins. As with most relationships, there is a courtship period.
I’ve seen first-hand how small companies have won business with large organisations, how companies have set up collaboration projects through networking and even how people who have met at networking events have gone on to set up businesses together.
To sum up – prepare, follow-up, keep in touch and, with a little bit of patience, your time attending networking events should be rewarded as more and more people fully understand what you can offer and how you can add value.
ABNCommunity is an online and face-to-face networking business that holds more than 20 events each year in the Aberdeen area.
More than £12m worth of business has been won by members attending events, or engaging in conversation with 6,000 others on www.abncommunity.com.
ABNCommunity is an online and face-to-face networking business that holds more than 20 events each year in the Aberdeen area. More than £12m worth of business has been won by members attending events, or engaging in conversation with 6,000 others on www.abncommunity.com.