When I say networking, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? Maybe handing out loads of business cards, or battling your way through a “power hour”?
Networking has gotten a really bad reputation as being something sleazy or obnoxious, but actually, really effective networking is nothing like that. It’s much more of a win-win-win situation: you benefit, they benefit, and your business definitely benefits.
The most important thing to remember: networking is NOT about pitching!
A lot of people tend to go to networking events, throw their business cards around, and make the same pitch to everyone in the room, hoping that they’ll get lucky. But that’s completely missing the point of networking!
Networking is about connecting with people, not pitching to them — that only comes later, if ever. Think of networking events as chances to start a lot of relationships, not to close a lot of sales. This approach takes a lot of pressure off of you. Even better, it makes it easier to form deeper connections with people. People know when you’re really trying to connect with them instead of just pitching at them, and they respond really well to it.
While you’re at the event…
… focus on conversations and next steps. There’s no point in going to a networking event if you’re not going to talk to anyone, so dive in! Don’t only talk to people in your industry or a few customers that you already have connections to — you never know who you can connect with, so don’t limit yourself.
When it’s time to end a conversation, create a concrete next step that you’ll take with them. For instance, you could tell them that you’ll send them a link to a blog post you talked about, or a copy of your book. Whatever it is, make sure you write it down quickly on your phone (or even on their business card) so you don’t forget!
You should always follow up with anyone you meet at a networking event within a few days so that you can keep building rapport with them. This is why it’s so important to determine a concrete next step before you end your conversation with them; otherwise you’re back to square one, essentially cold calling the person. And by following through on what you told them you’d do, you’re already putting a positive “credit” into your relationship “bank” with them.
Until next time,