Published on 30th Dec 16
Investing time in building and maintaining your network will benefit your business in the long run, but patience, perseverance and passion are all key to making it really work for you.
Ultimately, people want to buy products and services from businesses run by people they like, know and trust. By attending networking events relevant to your business, you can make new connections, improve awareness of your company and its USPs, and ultimately build long-term relationships which will enable your business to thrive.
Preparation is everything
There are so many networking events and groups out there that it can be all too easy to fall into the trap of signing up for everything on offer and putting yourself under pressure to attend. Instead, search for events that suit you – from seminars to speed networking – and choose one or two that you know you can comfortably fit into your schedule.
Also consider exactly what you want to achieve. Do you want to make twenty new contacts or one real quality contact? Are you looking for a new supplier, an investor, a mentor or new customers? Your reasons for attending should define how you approach the meeting and help you judge whether it has been a success.
Always ask ahead for a list of attendees – that way you can prepare for meeting any specific people or businesses relevant to you – and create a simple pitch for your business of between 30 seconds and one minute which succinctly describes what you do, your USPs and core values.
Ahead of the game
Set off in plenty of time and aim to arrive early, as this allows you to maximise time spent networking and speak to as many people as possible within the room.
It can be quite tempting to stand quietly in the corner and wait for someone to come to you, but for the best results you will need to be proactive. After all, the point of networking is to talk to other people about what you do!
Remember to make eye contact with people and, once in a conversation, listen to others and show interest. By listening and helping others, they are more likely to help you…
One of the most important things to keep in mind is that networking events are not designed for direct selling. It’s about building relationships and trust within the room.
Of course, talking about your products and services is essential, but don’t try to sell to the room. Your aim is to represent and articulate your business in a way that is memorable – that way others are likely to put in a good word for you or remember you at a later date.
When you arrive at an event, look out for those standing on their own, as they will often be the most open to meeting new people. Bring them into the conversation.
Never assume that certain types of business people won't know someone who may be interested in your products or services. Who do they know? Do they know your ‘perfect’ contact or lead?
But beware of getting stuck with one person throughout the whole event. If there is the potential to work together in future or organise a meeting, exchange cards and contact details, but avoid letting the conversation drag on and eat into your valuable networking time.
The worst thing you could do after a networking event is simply get back to the office with a stack of business cards and forget about it.
The follow up is more important than anything, ensuring you maximise every opportunity and maintain momentum and setting the foundations for not only new contacts, but established relationships. A quick phone call or a short email can make all the difference in achieving this.
There is no one formula for success at networking, but following these key points should provide a perfect start and allow you to get to grips with the business of making connections, and if you do commit to a weekly or monthly networking group, much of this will soon become second nature.
The Directory Group covers the following areas within Hampshire and West Sussex: Petersfield, Clanfield, Hayling Island, Cowplain, Waterlooville, Denmead, Purbrook, Widley, Farlington, Cosham, Drayton, Havant, Rowlands Castle, Emsworth, Southbourne, Westbourne, Bosham, Portsmouth, Alton, Alresford, Bentley, Four Marks and Meon Valley