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The mere mention of a networking event can cause some people to turn into a cold sweat. Let’s be honest, it can be a daunting prospect to approach a stranger when we don’t know how. Even the most confident and seasoned business person can be intimidated when entering a networking environment unprepared.
Despite of our fears, networking remains a fundamental and necessary skill for those in professional services companies.
If you hold a senior position in a professional services company, the chances are you will have a role and responsibility in business development and therefore expected to do more networking. And yet, networking is not something covered in your professional training.
Whilst social networking has certainly changed the way we network such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, the fact remains that nothing could replace face-to-face interaction. Traditional networking has the potential to build personal rapport for professional services companies that social networking cannot.
Here are ten tips to help you network successfully:
1. Find the right events
Before you even attend an event it is vital to find groups that will suit you and your business. Ask yourself what are your goals in attending networking events so that you will choose groups that will help you get what you are looking for. There are many different types of networking events organised in Cheshire from informal meet-ups over coffee to the regular structured business networking groups.
2. Do your research
I would always recommend that you do your homework before attending a networking event. You can usually get a list of attendees from the organisers before the event and then you can use LinkedIn to read up and target the people you really want to meet. Knowing who you want to speak to in advance will help you to get the most out of the event. Why not ask one of the organisers to introduce you?
3. Prepare your introductions
You arrive, you go over to a group of people, you introduce yourself but what do you say? To make the right first impression, make sure you prepare and practice your introduction before you go. Focus your pitch on who you are, what you do, for whom and what makes you different. At some events, you will be asked to make an elevator pitch (aka as a 60 second pitch) so it’s always wise to check with the organisers in advance.
4. Remember your business cards
Make sure you bring along with you an ample supply of business cards and make sure you give them out. Always try to take other peoples cards as well and make a note on the back of them any important information such as where you met, what you discussed, any follow up.
5. Start with small talk
Don’t feel you have to start talking shop straight away. Find a group in the room and start talking about something general such as the venue, the weather or the refreshments.
6. Show interest
When somebody is speaking to you, give that person your undivided attention. Listen with focus. You can find out more about the person you are talking to by asking questions and in return they will be more receptive in hearing about you.
7. Ask open-ended questions
Open up the discussion and show listeners that you are interested in them with questions that ask who, what, where, when and how as opposed to those that can be answered with a simple yes or no.
8. Become known as a connector
Look for ways you can help others for example by giving referrals, introductions and advice instead of just focusing on selling to them as this will naturally follow. When you are known as a strong resource, people remember to turn to you for suggestions, contacts etc which will keep you visible to them. Remember, networking is not just about selling, it’s about being genuine and authentic, building trust and relationships and seeing how you can help others.
9. Make use of social
Social media is a great way to maintain contact with the people you meet after the event. Connect with people on LinkedIn, follow them on Twitter or like their business page on Facebook.
10. Always follow up
The purpose of networking is to build up connections. Therefore in order to get the most out of networking you need to follow up with your connections. If you have promised somebody information, an introduction or a phone number, make sure you keep your word. Follow through quickly and efficiently on referrals you are given. Start by turning up. Finish by following up.