Have you ever walked into a room and felt so uncomfortable that you wanted to walk straight back out again? (That’s obviously when you can walk out – not so easy on a zoom call). I certainly have and walking into a room full of people is still one of my least favourite experiences. That’s why I always turn up to meetings a few minutes early to meet the host and others as they gradually arrive – it’s a much more comfortable experience!
Business Networking has become a vital part of our marketing as a small business, but we know it can be a daunting experience whether digitally or in person. The first step to successful networking is to decide on the best group for you. There are many different ones with different formats and we always recommend that you try a few as, in our experience, each group has its own uniqueness that may or may not feel the right fit for you.
So, you’ve chosen your group (Fab Networking we hope!), what next? Preparation as with anything is key, so here are a few tips to help networking work for you.
- Set yourself a goal, – for example – how many contacts do you want to make?
- Prepare and practice your pitch. This is your chance to create a positive first impression and sell yourself so make the most of it – see our previous blog for some hints
- Do your research and find out what you can about the members of the group. Are there any you specifically want to meet?
- Dress appropriately – remember it is a business meeting so look as though you mean business, what you wear should be appropriate for your profession
- Safety in numbers. If you are feeling a little unsure try and visit with a friend or ask for an introduction from an existing member. Even on screen it can be a boost to be introduced as a contact of an existing member.
- Consider introducing yourself via social media – by commenting on posts you will get known and respected without being too “salesy”
- Remember to listen to others – by listening and understanding what their needs are, you will be more able to help them and to refer their product or service to others. By asking open ended questions you will engage with others better and learn more about them
- Find a reason to follow up. Even if its just a “lovely to meet you” message – everyone appreciates being remembered and if you mentioned you could help them, then please remember to do so. Perhaps organise some 121’s (a private meeting with one other person to find out more about what they do and how you can help them) with people you enjoyed meeting
- Make a referral or introduction – if possible, put them in touch with someone who they may be able to work Remember to tell the person you have passed on their details, they will be grateful, and are likely to consider if they can return the favour.
- Be genuine. People will want to work with you because of who you are, so be yourself.
- Honesty is the best policy! Sometimes you just have to say no.
- Be specific when asking for referrals. By telling others who you want to speak to and how you would help them, its easier for them to put you in touch.
- Attend regularly – experience tells us that you need to attend a networking group for at least 6 months to build up trust and develop relationships
Finally, remember that networking is not just about the people in the room or on the screen, it is about who they know in their networks of friends, family and contacts. Make sure your message is clear so they understand what you do and can pass on your details to someone who may be the ideal client for you.