Monday April 18, 2016
Why You Should Be Networking Your Biz
Does the idea of networking make you cringe? You aren’t the only one, I assure you. While some people are networking mavens and you could watch them work a room all day with an awestruck expression on your face, most professionals are just jumping into the foray and putting on their best game face. With a room full of people all hoping to get attention, understanding how to network effectively is essential.
Why You Should Network
I’m sure there are plenty of you out there who have been avoiding networking like it’s contagious. Others have tested the waters but know they could be doing more to really make an impact. First, you need to really understand why networking is important. As a business owner, there are a variety of ways to market your business. Networking is just one of many avenues your marketing could take.
Doing business today has changed significantly from the way it worked in the past. In days long gone, people would choose brands or companies to do business with. Today, customers and clients choose people to do business with. This makes it essential that potential clients know who you are, what you look like and what you strive for.
How to Network
The whole goal behind networking is to get out there and get to know people. While the ultimate goal is to close a sale at some point, the networking event is not about selling. You need to mingle and get to know the other individuals in the room. Ask questions but be sure not to do all the talking. Some great conversation starters are: How did they find out about the event? Who are they looking to meet/connect with? What do you need to know most about them to make connections? Or, one of my personal faves… where’d you get those shoes! (Truly, I use that often because there are tons of women with rockin’ shoes).
This interaction won’t always mean gaining a new client. Sometimes it means adding people and companies that might partner well with what you do. Occasionally, it means a referral to someone they know instead. The point is that everyone at the event should aim for getting to know and, hopefully, like the other people in the room.
Don’t allow one conversation to monopolize all your time. You should work towards talking to as many attendees as you reasonably can. Have updated business cards available at all times.
While the adage “Be Yourself” may seem overused and cliché, there really is no substitute for being genuine and authentic. Personality stands out and people are drawn to who you really are, not some persona you’ve developed. Your vibe will absolutely attract your tribe. And, if you just pay attention a little closer, people give you a ton of information about their likes/dislikes etc. if you just open your eyes a bit wider. For example, at a happy hour event check out what type of drink they are carrying around, also a great conversation starter!
Where to Network
If you are new to networking, start small. Large networking events are going to be intimidating and overwhelming. Ask people that you work with where they network and what groups they are associated with. This could be your “in” and a great way to break the ice in a room full of strangers. Always start by asking around first. If someone does give you a recommended group to attend, ask if you could be their guest and if they’d mind introducing you around.
Look for local groups that are affiliated with what you do. Look for them on Facebook, LinkedIn and Meetup. Your local chamber of commerce will also be organizing these types of activities.
Once the networking event is over, your work is not done. Don’t let all those great connections go to waste! Have a system in place for follow-up. Otherwise, you’ve only done about 50% of the work and you’ve squandered those great contacts.
Networking might seem scary, or even a waste of time, for some professionals. However, business owners that understand how to network well have to invest less time and energy in marketing and sales. Building a community of people that have a vested interest in what you are doing will pay off in spades.
If you are feeling like you are getting 50% of the way there with your networking but are leaving them hanging when it comes to follow-up, check out our upcoming Virtual Conversation Life Cycle class. We will show you how to go from wooing to dating your prospects in no time! http://crconversations.com/preorder/