5 Steps to Jumpstart Your Business Networking

You may have heard it said that when it comes to networking the fortune is in the follow-up . . .

But how do I get started?

As human-beings we are social animals yet the majority of people I speak to shy away from networking because they feel intimidated.  They feel timid because they don’t know how to “start the conversation,” move it along, gracefully end it or how to convert a lead to a client.   

Start Business Networking

The first two steps to Jumpstart Your Networking are about what NOT to do as well as what to do . . .  

  • DON’T network to get an immediate client.  That is a limited way of thinking. It creates unnecessary pressure, and puts most people off.  Go to meet people, build relationships and grow your network. Clients WILL come later, through your follow-up efforts, and personal connection.
  • Don’t wait for people to come to you at a networking event.  Take the lead and approach them yourself.  Start by looking for someone who is standing alone.  If you could read their thought bubble it would probably say, “I’m really nervous about being here.” Or, “Gawd, I wish someone would come and talk to me.”

If you can’t find someone standing alone look for a group of three or more. There is less of a chance that they are having an intimate conversation. But alas, you are there to network. So, NETWORK! Jump in somewhere and start.  Trust yourself, and move through those scary “newbie” fears.

  • Before you go, spend time thinking about how you will introduce yourself.  At minimum be prepared to share your name, business name and why you are at the networking event (beyond getting clients). *See sample introduction template below.
  • Know your follow-up strategy.
  • Look for 1 – 3 people who you feel a connection with and follow-up with them—not to sell, but to get further acquainted—after the event. While you are talking to them, at the event, schedule a one-on-one.

There you have it. 5 Steps to Jump-start Your Business Networking and start the conversation: Go to build relationships. Take the initiative. Have a plan. Know how to introduce yourself, and FOLLOW-UP! This strategy can not only ease the nervousness that often accompanies networking and follow-up, it can also bring you a more worthwhile ROI (Return on your Investment) and grow your community, too.

Sample introduction template:  “Hi. My name is ­­­­­­____________. I am the (title)_____________ of (business name) ______________________. I help people __________________________. How did you learn about (name of networking group) _________________________________. 

How to Network Like Practical Pig

 

It’s about the Relationships: Networking, whether you are on a social media platform or at an “in person venue” should always be about building relationships!  Strategic alliances and business will follow.  I say this every month at The Enchanted Woman monthly networking luncheon, and as I walk about the room, I still hear many of the guests  introducing themselves  in that “get clients now” kind of way.

Gone are the days of “working the room,” shoving a business card or flyers in someone’s face, and gathering business cards for your personal gain.  As the founder of a network, I still see this.  I also see how most people respond. Likewise, I have been told by the more accomplished networkers that those cards go into their “yeah, no” or “thanks for the warning” stack.  So, while VERY few people would say something out loud, most people are put off by this aggressive behavior . . . DON’T DO IT!

Value your connections:  People by nature are social animals.  We like to connect.  We want to be respected and valued.  We want to be “seen,” and we NEVER want to be treated as though we are a means to an end or a wallet.

The wisdom of Practical Pig:  Do you remember the story of the 3 pigs?  Two of them built their houses quickly:  one with straw, the other from sticks.  When the big bad wolf came along, he huffed and he puffed and he blew their houses down.

As the two pigs built their quick rise structures, Practical Pig commenced to build a house of brick and stone.  The other two pigs laughed because they were done long before he even finished his foundation.  But, they didn’t laugh when his house was the only one left standing; when his was the only one that could withstand the test of time, and all seasons.

Unfortunately/Fortunately:  Yes! This type of networking DOES take more time. But, it also builds a quality network; one that will serve you for a lifetime.  The “poach a group to get immediate clients” approach might get you a sale or two, but it won’t get you loyal, life-long clients/customers.  It won’t get you strategic alliances, or referral partners, either.   So, if you want to build a quality network where people return to do business with you, refer you to their family and friends, and most importantly where you value each other, and build friendship, then you are going to have to invest the time upfront to build the relationship, and trust.

The Practical Pig Formula for Networking:

  • Network to build relationships
  • Remember the Golden Rule: Treat people the way you want to be treated at a Networking event, whether online or in person
  • Become a Member and attend regularly, whether visiting a social media platform or a networking group–as we see your avatar/face consistently, we feel more acquainted, and then confidence and trust grows
  • Ask for the relationship, not the sale (when the time is right, you can talk referral and/or sales)
  • Smile and be approachable

There you have it:  The Practical Pig formula for networking.  Now go and build an AMAZING network!

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7 ½ Secrets to Networking Success Revealed

A segment of a social network
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7 ½ Secrets to Networking Success Revealed

Networking is a key part of building community and business success. If it isn’t already a fundamental part of your Marketing and Success Plan: ADD IT!

Now-a-days there are two primary ways to network: online and in person. Commit time to both and let your efforts be driven by an intention to connect and build rapport. Remember: The quality of your network depends on the quality of your connections—that, by the way, is the second half of secret #1, and the most valuable of the secrets.

Alrighty then, let’s get on with the rest of those secrets . . .

  1. Serve: People who show-up at networking events with a desire to connect and serve, build higher quality networks. So, if you want to get the most out of your networking efforts, don’t ask for anything until you have given first, and remember: networking is, first and foremost, a social experience . . . forget that you’re “networking” and connecting will be easier.
  2. Have a Networking Plan: Networking can be intimidating. You can make it easier by having a networking plan. Go over your introduction so you know what you are going to say when it comes time to introduce yourself. Write down a few questions that you can ask to start conversations. Start with simple questions such as: name and hometown? If it feels right you can ask about children, too. When you ask about someone’s business, show genuine interest. After they have shared the preliminaries you can ask how they got into their field, what they like most about it, who their strategic partners are . . . and so forth.
  3. Show Up: I’ve heard it said that 90% of success is Showing Up. In the context of networking that means just showing up will get you exposure; just showing up provides the opportunity for you to refine your networking process; just showing up will earn you credibility, etc.
  4. Build a Network Not a List: There are two basic ways to network: You can either go to a networking event to “work the room” and build your list or you can go with an intention to build relationships. The former might get you more business cards but the latter will get you a better quality connection . . . and possibly a new client or referral. It’s the people we build rapport and relationships with that end up “playing” with us and referring their friends.
  5. Consistency: Statistics say that most people need to be exposed to something 4-7 times before they will act. Translated to networking, that means that you are going to have to be seen at least 4-times before the average person will consider trying your product or services. Additionally, the more consistent you are about networking the more recognition you get. The more recognition you get the more professionalism people attach to you. The more professionalism you have the more people will trust you . . . and did I mention that TRUST is critical in conversion.
  6. Follow-Up: Have a follow-up plan in place. It can be as simple as an email template with a call to action —a free report or an invitation to visit your blog. Follow the email up with a simple, “Hello, it was nice meeting you. How can we help each other to even greater success,” phone call. Don’t wait for them to call you. Call them. If you have sent an email you can place the phone-call 3 to 4 days later. If not, call within 2 days of the event. . . . A tip: if you are not calling to get a client, make a sale or some other form of immediate cash conversion the call is easier to make. So, follow-up with some sort of “free sample” offer that’s even better than the one offered in your email. It can be a free consultation, a free assessment, a free ticket to a mini or “sampler” workshop where you can show your value and sell them “seamlessly” into a larger package.
  7. Enjoy yourself!

There you have it: the Alchemist’s Secret Potion to Networking Success. Networking opportunities are, or can be made, available in any town from local chambers to Meetup Groups. There are fee based groups and free groups. There are women only groups, casual groups, professional groups, corporate groups, etc. If one doesn’t exist that fits your style or needs, start one—it’s a good way to set yourself up as a leader in your community.

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