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One of the most fundamental parts of Marketing is Networking. Good networkers can and do rely on their networks for new business, finding staff, promotion and even for advice and mentoring. I often hear people say they don’t need to network because business is good, however we’ve seen the economy turn on a dime, or legislation change an entire industry overnight. Those who have trusted and strong networks in place at times of uncertainty can rely on their network to get them through. The alternative? Often it’s to shut shop. Networking should be important to everyone who is a business owner or who is in a high-level position.
Many people get nervous about attending networking meetings because they worry about what they need to say. The most effective thing to do when networking is to listen. Listening means you can hear about other people’s businesses, evaluate if they are like-minded, and hear about their client base. Most importantly, you want to work out if you want to stay in contact with them or not. Do you “click”?
We see people make great connections at ShireWomen, but we get frustrated when we hear at the next meeting they didn’t follow up with each other! You have to work at business relationships, just like you do with personal ones. Follow up with everyone you make a connection with, regardless if you think you’re going to do business with them or not. At our last Coffee & Connect meeting there were 60 people in the room. It would be reasonable to assume that every person at that meeting had at least 50 contacts each. That means that in the room there were potentially 3000 contacts available. Those contacts can’t be accessed without the gatekeepers who were standing in that room.
A misconception about networking is that it’s all about selling yourself and your business. It isn’t. It’s about listening to people talk and identifying their needs and pain-points so you can work out if you can do business together, or sympathise with a common issue. Either way you’re building a rapport.
If you’ve listened effectively and identified people’s needs, you can offer solutions. An email or phone call saying “I was thinking about the issue we were talking about, and I think I might have a solution for you” is a good place to start. If you offer solutions when you first meet them, make sure you follow up with them to arrange a time to catch up and take it a step further.
Do you like to be sold to? I’m guessing the answer is a firm no. There’s a reason the used car salesman has a bad reputation – hard selling is no longer effective. It makes everyone uncomfortable and it usually has the opposite effect to the desired one. Talk to someone at a networking meeting like you would an old friend you hadn’t seen in years. Think of the “what do you do?” question as the same as an old friend asking you “so what are you up to these days?”. Genuine beats rehearsed sales lines any day of the week.
Think of it as two normal people having a normal conversation without expectation of sales or referrals. This normal conversational approach makes everyone more relaxed and more comfortable.
This is a big one. Think about how many times you need to visit a café or pub before the staff know your name and have your drink ready when you walk in. Is it 10 times? More? The point is, it doesn’t happen in an instant. To gain recognition and trust takes time, and to do that you need to be seen repeatedly.
We’ve had a few people attend our networking events once or twice in the past, and when we follow them up they say they didn’t make sales in those couple of times they attended and don’t want to come again. Others have said they met someone they didn’t like, and therefore it put them off. If your expectations are that you’ll make instant sales and will like everyone in the room then your expectations are just not realistic. It takes time to get to know people and for them to trust you, and just like life, you won’t click with everyone you meet. Also keep in mind that you may not meet anyone you want to connect with one week, but might meet several the next. One to two thirds of people attending our networking meetings have never been before. That means a potential of 40 potential new connections each meeting.
How? By offering advice when people need it, and making the effort to catch up with their network. They refer their clients and friends and this is reciprocated both ways. Phone calls, personal emails, texts and coffee meetings are all important.
They go to each others events, award ceremonies or information nights. When times are tough they offer each other emotional support.
Just to recap, I’ve put together the 5 cardinal sins of networking:
And if this all sounds too scary and daunting – get in touch with us for help. That’s what we’re here for! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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