If your idea of having fun is to eat an After Eight mint at 7.45pm, then don’t read this. If however, you are prepared to take a leap of faith and want to develop your business pipeline effectively, then read on.
What Is Business Networking?
Business networking is now recognised as the most powerful and cost effective form of developing new business contacts and opportunities. The attraction for many of its fans is that networking is quick and primarily a ‘time’ based initiative, with little additional cost (apart from nominal membership fees if any). There are now many networking groups in the UK and around the world that can introduce you to like-minded individuals who can help you develop your business, get leads and make sales.
Networking Is Just Like Making Friends
Is there a magic formula to networking. I don’t think so. Its like making friends. Keep in touch and they will keep in touch with you. Being a bad networker is like being a bad friend. I always utilise those moments in the day when I have time on my hands, in a traffic jam, between meetings or at the end of the day to call people I haven’t spoken to for a while to say Hi. Keep in touch – it pays dividends.
Is Networking Right For You?
Before you start, ask yourself some fundamental questions: Can I do this? Is networking the right thing for me? Am I prepared to work at it? If you have the charisma of a hermit, or the social skills of a rabbit caught in headlights, this may not be for you. It may be wise to quit before you start, as many networking groups ask their members to stand and present a quick overview of their businesses.
Get In The Groove – Its Not Just A Tick In The Box
If you do decide to attend one or more of the networking opportunities available, it’s vitally important to ensure you develop the correct mind set. First and foremost this is about getting new business. If you make new friends, that’s a bonus. Secondly, don’t treat the opportunity as a magic lamp. Just because you turn up, it doesn’t guarantee you a rush of new business. We Brits are cautious by nature; we need to get to know people before we will do business with strangers. Many new networkers see attending as a ‘tick’ in the box, all they have to do is turn up and the business is theirs. Wrong!
Be Yourself And Listen
To be the ‘King of the room’, make sure those who you meet remember you. Try to be charming, polite, courteous and more importantly, natural. Don’t try to be a clown. Develop a clear and concise understanding of your business. Know how to present your business simply, concisely and clearly so others understand fully exactly what it is you do. Further more, the first art of selling yourself is developing the ability to listen to others. Don’t become a bore. Show interest in those that you meet and start to develop a conversation that you can both enjoy.
Does Booze And Business Networking Mix?
Some of us have more than our fair share of natural charm and charisma. Walking into a packed room of strangers holds no fear. My first rule is to drink alcohol in either moderation, or better still not at all. Alcohol can dull the senses, regardless whether you think it adds Dutch courage or not. I have seen some terribly boring drunks and the smell of alcohol on the breath is mildly offensive. Remember this is a business opportunity not a stag night.
Work The Room
Try and ‘work the room’. Ensure you get round to as many people as you can in the time allowed. Keep the conversation light, up-beat interesting and don’t outstay your welcome. Latching onto someone you know or like is not the object of the exercise. You are here to meet as many new people as you can, whilst catching up with known acquaintances.
How To Butt In
It is acceptable to butt into conversation. The secret is not to hover too long whilst waiting for the appropriate moment to enter the conversation. Standing there hovering can make you look like ‘nobby no-mates’ and secondly the group you are trying to infiltrate can squeeze you out which will wreck your confidence. Decide which small group you are going to join and approach with a polite and simple opening line like ‘Hi, my names Barry Walker from NakedPR’ shake hands in turn before asking if they are enjoying the event. Let the conversation come naturally.
Getting Stuck With A Bore
What if you get stuck with the networking bore from hell? How do you get away? Firstly, note what they are doing wrong and don’t make the same mistake. Secondly, it is acceptable to say ‘Would you please excuse me’. You may add that you need the washroom, or another drink, or you have to talk to someone else. This is why it’s best to move from group to group in a brisk and polite manner.
Mirroring – Don’t Do It
You can’t make people like you. You are you and that’s it. As far as techniques like mirroring body language are concerned, unless you are an expert, leave well alone. Water finds it own level. Likes do attract, however they say you ‘have to kiss a lot of frogs before you meet a prince’. You need to meet as many people you can to find those that are on your wavelength, or are interested in what you can offer, or more importantly can build a businesses relationship with.
Keep In Touch
Business relationships develop over time. After the event, make contact with those that you meet and continue the conversation. One way is by agreeing to meet up and discussing how you can both help each other.
Business Cards Reflect You
Always carry enough business cards and never run out, but more importantly, ensure your business card reflects your business personality. Review the design if necessary and don’t be cheap when they go to print. This is the lasting impression that whoever you meet will take away with them.
Utilise Your Time Well – Build A Network
At all events try to best utilise your time, as it has a value. Decide which are the most appropriate events to go to for your business. Try and come away from each meeting with a positive number of contacts, with whom you can develop good business relationships. Start a database and enter the contacts you make onto that database, noting where you met them. This will help you to keep in regular contact with the people you meet, by telephone, e-mail, and letter or even better by regular meetings.
Don’t Be Selfish – Give To Gain
How can you make people warm to you? There is no magic formula, except perhaps ‘don’t be selfish’. Help those that you meet to find new business opportunities, they will thank you for it and you will be seen as the ‘mover and shaker’, the true King of the Networkers.
Attend All The Events You Can
Attend more than one club, group, or event each month. Variety is the spice of business networking. The list of groups at the bottom of this page are tried by me, Barry Walker. Most have groups across the UK. If there isn’t one in your area, consider starting one. All networking initiatives have their own advantage, however, some will suit the individual more than others. It’s for you to make your own mind up.
Know Where Your Business Is Going To Come From And Be There First
Being a networker isn’t just about attending events. All businesses go somewhere for advise and help. Plug in where they plug in, in your As well as attending networks
Lastly, enjoy the experience. Business Networking is great fun and can be very fruitful. If the thought of attending such an event or standing in public to present your business to a room full of strangers fills you with horror, stay at home with your coco or let us help you grow your business.