Saturday, February 6, 2010

Is Networking an Effective Way to Grow Your Business?

You can have fun and make networking effective for your business if you are intentional in what you do. Many aspects of networking are common sense, however, if you do not have a plan when you go to the event, you will find yourself talking to the same people every time and never finding those new prospects for your business.

Are you aware that every person knows an average of 250 other people? If you connect with five new people at each event, you are potentially introducing your business to 1,250 potential customers/clients for your business.

Keep a few simple don'ts in mind:

Don't make it about you. How many times have you been at a business after hours and someone comes up to you and tells you their life story? You can't get a word in edgewise. All you want to do is escape. It is important that you show interest in them. Be a good listener.

Ask them questions. People like to talk about themselves. If they are a business owner, ask them why they chose their type of business. Who would be a good referral for them?

If someone were looking to get into their industry, what words of advice would they give? Try and avoid personal questions that would be inappropriate.

Don't give your 60 second elevator speech. Many of us who attend a professional networking group on a regular basis are accustomed to giving this speech. However, a networking event is not the place for this speech. When someone asks you "What do you do?"

Give them a response that evokes the question, "How do you do that?" For example, if you are a painter, you may say "I beautify homes and office buildings." This encourages a continued conversation.

Don't offer your business card. At an appropriate time during the conversation, ask the person if they have a business card (you may want to ask for more than one.) If possible, I write a few notes on the card while they are talking, such as what would make a good referral for them.

One other item I try to get is the day and month of their birthday. This will take them by surprise when you ask!

Don't interrupt conversations where a few others are gathered. Don't monopolize their time. If you see two or more people are gathered in an area and you know one of the people, walk up next to them and wait to be recognized or acknowledged.

Always introduce yourself - never assume the other person will remember you. Once you have met someone new, offer to introduce them to others at the event that you know.

Don't return to your office and throw the business cards on your desk and forget about the other person. Send them a follow-up note. This should be a snail mail note, not email. You will be remembered for your personal note. If possible, be a connector. Look for others who could benefit your new contact and try to connect them.

You may want to include the business card of someone that would be a good referral source - thus the reason for asking for more than one business card. Call and ask to meet for coffee or lunch to get to know the other person better. Add them to your contact manager and make a note of their birthday. Won't they be surprised to hear from you months later!

Networking takes practice. If you are a naturally shy person, I suggest you read Bob Burg's book Endless Referrals for tips on breaking the ice.

By : Sue_White

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