When you are trying to grow a business, there is no doubt that networking can be a very useful tool. But if this is not something you are used to doing on a regular basis, it can also be very daunting. The main aim is that you give off a good impression and hopefully generate some new leads for your business.
There is obviously a lot more to it than simply turning up and handing out a couple of business cards! So, you need to be well-practiced and comfortable in what you are going to say when you get there. Here are some handy hints to give you that added boost of confidence you are looking for.
Have a Goal in Mind
There is no point turning up if you have no idea about what you are hoping to accomplish in the first place. So, try to write out some potential outcomes that you hope to achieve when you are there. It may be that you are looking for new suppliers or new customers. Alternatively, you may be looking for someone to outsource a particular area of your business to. Knowing what your main goals are will help to focus your time better while you are at the event.
Different networking events have various themes and activities, so you want to make sure you are dress appropriately. If it is just a simple food and drinks event, you will want to dress professionally – it doesn’t necessarily have to be overly formal though as you are still there to enjoy yourself too. You want to be comfortable as this will help you to exude confidence when you are talking to people.
Bring Plenty of Business Cards
It may seem like an obvious one, but a surprising number of people don’t bring enough business cards with them. Remember that you are much better off bringing too many along with you rather than too few! If it is a particularly big event, you may want to wear a lanyard with your company name clearly on display so take a look at this website for some ideas. Another option is to bring along some other branded items like stationery, but you want to make sure you don’t bring anything too bulky so you aren’t stuck having to drag it around with you all the time.
Make an Effective Introduction
You should always try to make eye contact when you are making an introduction, stating your name and giving a firm handshake. After you have made a bit of smalltalk, you can then go into more detail about your company. Remember, people tend to do business with people that they like so you also need to do your fair share of listening rather than just blurting out a sales pitch about yourself. Try to use the person’s name in conversation to show friendliness and that you are interested in what they are saying.
Listen First Before Speaking
We have already talked about this a little bit in the last point, but the reason that you want to listen first is that people tend to pay less attention when they are preoccupied with what they are going to say next. Ask a few questions to the other person before steering the conversation back to yourself. This way, you will have allowed them to do their fair share of speaking and they are more likely to listen to you when it comes round to your turn.
Show Sincerity and Interest
People tend to warm to others who show display sincerity and genuine interest in what they are saying. You should come armed with a few good questions that you can ask to get to the heart of what they do and how your two businesses can better work together. You should try to make sure that your questions elicit more detail rather than ones that can just be answered with a simple yes or no.
Don’t Miss Out on Making Your Point
Obviously listening is very important, but you are still there to sell yourself and get across what you do in a clear and concise way. You should try to boil everything down to two or three sentences which give a good overview of what your company does. You can always go into greater detail at a later date, but people tend to lose interest if they don’t understand what you are talking about fairly quickly. Ultimately, think about what it is that makes your company unique and how you can express this.
As you will be meeting so many people, it can be very difficult to remember all the important details that you need to. Remember to collect as many business cards as you can and prompt people if it seems likely that they will forget. You could also carry a small notebook around with you so you can write down some more information about the people you have met and what sort of follow-up you have agreed to make. Even if you don’t have an opportunity to do this at the event itself, try to do this at the first opportunity you get. You don’t want to forget about an important connection you have made.
Follow Up After the Event
Attending the networking event is only half the battle – you also need to make sure you follow-up with all the connections you have made or it will have all been a waste of time. Start composing some emails that you can send out to the people you have met. Even if the main body of text is fairly similar, you should try to personalise each one so it doesn’t look too formulaic. This is also the time you can suggest a further meeting or phone call. Wait a reasonable amount of time if you don’t receive a response. But if you don’t hear anything back, it is worth sending a polite reminder as it is quite probable that your email has gotten buried.