Friday, October 16, 2009

Business Networking Tips

Networking has been good to me over the years. Apart from referrals, it has been the single most successful way of generating new business and building my professional network. It must be the salesperson in me, but there is nothing more rewarding than meeting and connecting with new people who end up as friends, associates or clients.

I just love the randomness of networking and the fact that you never know what fantastic people you will meet.

However, networking can be a very time consuming and very costly exercise if your not maximizing the opportunity you have in front of you. I often tell the staff of clients that networking is not about putting a beer or wine in your hand and talking to people. It's about talking with a purpose and seeing what common interests or common ground you have.

As my good friend Maurice Gilet from BNI says 'it's called net-working for a reason - it's not 'not-working'!

Here are some tips and information that you might find useful - so get out there networking!

Tip 1

When choosing an event think about what type of companies are likely to attend (large or small) and the position of the person that will attend. It is well known that Senior Managers of most medium to large companies won't engage in business networking (because they think they don't have to) unless it is for a specific industry event or because the guest speaker and topic are of interest to them. Typically, they send their junior staff or sales staff but, don't be put off by this because you can still get a lot of the information you need you just need to get them talking and ask some questions. For example:

1. What do you do?
2. How's business?
3. Is it a large company? How many people do you employ?
4. Do you have more than one office?
5. What kind of clients do you deal with?
6. How do you find new clients (i.e. marketing, advertising or direct sales)
7. If I was to contact your company, who would be the best person to speak to regarding......

Tip 2

If you want to get the most out of any networking group, you will need to attend more than once so that people get used to seeing you and talking to you. When you have been about three times you should notice that people will start to recall your name and business name. Using the service of a new contact or sharing business referrals is based on trust and credibility and trust takes time to establish and build.

Tip 3

Have a goal for each event, i.e. two new contacts, one meeting, or two potential candidates. This way you can judge whether the event was worthwhile and whether it's worth doing again.

Tip 4

If the thought of networking and walking into a room full of strangers is intimidating for you, ask a friend or colleague to join you. This way the event will be more enjoyable and you will always have a 'safe haven' for those times when you are on your own or looking for people to talk to. Just make sure that you don't just talk to each other!

Tip 5

Arrive early so you can look at the name tags on the registration desk and see what type of people will be attending. There may be someone attending from a prospective client; by standing near the desk you can save time searching for them by watching who picks up the nametag.

Tip 6

Stand near the registration desk when people are arriving; people may think you are part of the event and will feel more comfortable talking to you.

Tip 7

Most importantly, always remember to follow up the contacts you have met within 24 hours. A simple email to those who just briefly chatted with or a phone call suggesting a meeting to those who expressed an interest. If you don't follow up the people that you have met, you are wasting the time and effort you put into going in the first place.

By : Karen_Andrews

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