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Wannabe Networkers Listen Up
By: Lynette Palmen AM - Women's Network Australia
Compare the results networking achieves up against other forms of acquiring business and you soon realise that the grape vine can become an absolute gold mine. LYNETTE PALMEN shares tips on how to maximise results for you and your business when actively networking at events.
With most businesses seeking ways to reduce costs whilst increasing their market penetration and sales, it is no surprise that networking online through social media sites and offline by attending events has exploded.
However, the secret to achieving results regardless of whether you are networking online or offline is to use the correct networking techniques. If you find that you are constantly pestering contacts by trying to sell them something, please do not pretend that you are networking! Because the truth is that you are actually making a nuisance of yourself and basically giving the concept of networking a bad name.
Listen up – ‘networking’ is not about ‘selling’ or ‘marketing’ yet all three combined are needed to reach a successful outcome.
- Marketing creates awareness
- Networking narrows down the scope of the market, and
- Selling provides a solution to a problem.
It goes without saying that ‘selling’ becomes so much easier when you have taken the time to identify problems that need solutions through effective networking. The issue most people have is that they start the ‘selling’ process before working their way through the first two steps of the process.
For novice networkers, the most important rule to remember is that networking is not about making a sale and it’s certainly not about you! Networking is all about strategically positioning yourself and assisting others to meet their goals whilst creating a profile so that you stay top of mind in your circle of influence.
Being consistent when networking is where most people fall down. They do it for a while and once they find out how much effort and commitment it takes they drop the ball. Hence, those who are willing to put the hard yards into their networking activities reap so many rewards. The fact being, they have very little competition once the lazy wannabe networkers fall by the wayside. The question is are you prepared to work your networks for two years in an effort to build a contact portfolio of more people than you will ever need in your lifetime to meet your business and personal goals?
Networking and building connections via social media have certainly taken off over the past five years, however many businesses report they are experiencing a mixed bag of results for the time they invest into social media. Mind you, this could have a lot to do with their lack of networking skill when using social media opposed to the medium itself.
Face-to-face networking at events runs parallel to networking on social media and for most of us mixing and brainstorming with others at events will always play a significant and vital role in meeting our business, communications and connectivity needs.
The facts are that by applying effective networking techniques you will produce results.
So how can you turn every event you attend into an effective networking exercise?
8 Tips for effective networking at events:
- Relationships – Most people are not clear on what the concept of networking involves. They attend events with the assumption that networking is about themselves and selling. A good networker knows that networking and building relationships is about taking the time to find out about others and from there any future business relationships evolve.
- Branding – Once you have made the commitment to commence networking actively, think about how you wish to represent your business or your employer. Keep your branding and the message you communicate simple and consistent.
- Planning – Always arrive at networking events on time. This allows you to introduce yourself to the event organisers whilst also getting a feel for the environment. It also gives you time to assess the event format, organise your action plan and preview name tags of attending guests to see if any are your existing contacts.
- Respect – If you wish to be taken seriously always have adequate business cards on hand. Never be known as a card collector it looks desperate – treat your business card with respect, only handing them on to those you have engaged in conversation.
- Stand alone – Sometimes taking a friend along for support can work well but most times it is a stumbling block to achieving any outcomes. Inevitably, you and your friend will use the event as a catch up, convincing yourself afterwards that the event was a good networking exercise as it gave you both the opportunity to catch up with each other. The truth is you were never going to achieve any results from attending the networking event and you should have simply had coffee together elsewhere. There is nothing wrong with inviting a colleague to attend a networking event with you but ensure you split up on arrival and catch up after the event to discuss outcomes and any personal chit chat.
- Follow up – Great networkers follow up those they meet. If you tell people you are going to call, do it. But in saying this, there are always going to be times where you are so busy that sourcing extra business is not a priority. So, if this is the case, when you meet a new contact simply tell them, “It was great to meet you and I would like to find out more about your business or career aspirations so can we catch up at next month’s networking event?” It is really important within networking groups that you display exceptional networking ethics, manners and show other people respect.
- Vision – Switched on networkers don’t attend events based on who is guest speaking or the topic of the day, they know it is all about who is in the room. In any case, if you cannot open your mind sufficiently to learn something from even the worst speaker, you are probably not in the right space to start networking.
- Connect – Savvy networkers never show prejudice towards those in the room. For example, if you are an employee of a large firm attending a networking event never discount the potential of small or home-based business owners in attendance. Yes, at first glance you might accidently assume that you have nothing to gain by connecting with them, however someone in their network could possibly introduce you to your biggest client ever. Remember, every person you meet has a network of at least 300 contacts – you just haven’t met them yet. Networking is about building relationships so that others are willing to invite, refer and welcome you into their circle of trust.
In the end, networking at business events is a tried and true method to grow your business and career prospects. With the right commitment and an ethical attitude, anyone can learn to reap the professional rewards effective networking has to offer.