I touched on the ‘how to’ part of networking in this post which dealt with how to turn a networking acquaintance into a friend. However, I didn’t really get into why it’s a good idea for you to spend the time and effort to network.
If you’re anything like me, you drag yourself out of bed to get yourself ready for work, fight the traffic to get there, work all day long, then hop back in your car to face more traffic. When you finally get back home, you need to throw yourself in to your home commitments which may include working out, making dinner, taking care of children/spouses, etc. So why do you really need to add a networking event to your busy day?
Do you want your business to succeed? Do you want to succeed? Well, then you should probably throw some networking events into your mix. It does take time, but if you use that time efficiency the benefits could definitely make it worth your while.
For most types of business, you’re not really selling your product (even if you do have a product-based company), you’re selling yourself. No, not in a Pretty Woman kind of way, but in the way that people want to be around/purchase from people they actually like.
Think about it, you could be an account representative for a printing company, a photographer, an insurance agent, a mechanic or even a dog walker. If people don’t like you, they’re not going to purchase something from you.
Tips on How to Network:
- Choose your venue wisely. There are tons of networking events out there, from chambers of commerce to industry-based associations. Make sure you pick one that is a good fit for both you and your business.
- Don’t Glide in Like a Shark. Deals are rarely sealed at a networking event, but are frequently born there. Don’t walk in with the intention of throwing a business card at everyone in the room and adding appointments to your calendar. Come with the goal of building a relationship with someone.
- First Impressions Count. Dress appropriately for the type of event you’re attending and don’t huddle up with people you already know. Make sure that you’re open and approachable. Also, this is not the time to throw back at the bar, you want to be sharp and not be the drunken fool that people are pointing at.
- Be Yourself and Be Curious. Everyone likes to talk about themselves, but don’t make it all about you. Ask questions about what their company does, what types of clients they service, what sets them apart from the competition, etc.
- Don’t Forget to Follow Up. Make yourself a note on their business card so that you remember who they are. If you feel like they’d be a great connection, follow up with them a few days after the event to invite them to lunch. If you spoke about something in particular like a 5k that’s coming up, shoot them off an email with the information
Remember, a network of contacts is not a collection of business cards, but of people. If you take the time to build lasting relationships with your contacts, you will not only earn their business but often they will refer you to others as well.