Networking for Business: Top Tips for Success
In business, it’s not always what you know but who you know. And the most effective way of improving your business connections is to regularly attend professional networking events.
Not everyone finds this an easy undertaking and enlarging your network takes time – you have to kiss a lot of frogs to find a Prince – but don’t get despondent and do take the long-term view. If you follow our tips for business networking success you will soon develop an easy routine that makes working the room enjoyable and rewarding:
Preparing for a business networking event
Tip 1: Research the quality of the event
Ask if you can view an attendance list before deciding whether you should attend. Look for high-quality prospects and research them and their businesses in advance – can you find a photo of your prospects so that you will recognise them at the networking event?
Tip 2: Check that you have enough business cards to give out.
Your business cards are the first piece of marketing material that a prospect will receive from you. To make the best possible impression via your business card head over to our blog on making your business card a keeper.
Tip 3: Plan the ideal moment for handing over your business card
Creating an opportunity to hand over your business card is simple – initiate a discussion that you can follow up and hand it over at that point. Giving out your card within a couple of minutes of an introduction comes across as too pushy and impatient.
Tip 4: Enlist some help
If there’s a high number of business prospects on the attendance list, we recommend asking a colleague to accompany you – this means you’ll have the capacity to make twice the number of connections.
Tip 5: Set some networking goals
Once you have confirmed your attendance it’s time to set some achievable goals. For instance, how many new contacts are you planning on speaking to? How many leads are you hoping to secure?
Tip 6: Practice summarising your business
Make it memorable so that it naturally rolls off your tongue when you meet people.
Tip 7: Know your networking limits
Acknowledge that not everyone you meet is going to want to do business with you. Don’t take it personally when a long-awaiting prospect comes into view but isn’t interested in talking to you.
Tip 8: Use your business attire to make you stand out from the networking crowd.
In a networking crowd, something as simple as a brightly coloured accessory could be enough to help you stand out. A striking handkerchief or statement glasses might be just the thing to help fellow networkers remember you and your business.
Making the most of a business networking event
Tip 1: Be prompt!
Make sure that you arrive early; it gives you the chance to pick a prime position in the room as well as more time to make those all-important connections.
Tip 2: Use existing contacts wisely
The event may include people that you already know and it is very easy to gravitate towards them and socialise instead of doing business. Push yourself out of your comfort zone by saying a quick hello and moving on to new introductions. Or ask a familiar face if they can include you in a conversation with someone that they know but you don’t.
Tip 3: Spot the networking groups
There are usually 2 types of groups at networking events; you should aim to introduce yourself to an open group:
Closed group: Normally 2-3 people who are deep in conversation with their backs to the rest of the room, standing in a tight formation. Introducing yourself to this group would require you to interrupt their conversation.
Open group: This group will stand in an open formation, allowing you the physical space to include yourself. Their body language is open and relaxed and reflects the tone of their light and inclusive conversation.
Tip 4: Spot your prospects
Once you have ‘read’ the room, have a look to see if any of your high level prospects are in an open group.
Tip 5: Use positive body language
Having decided which open group you are going to join, approach the roup with open body language and catch their eye as you walk towards them.
Tip 6: Explore shared interests before talking business
Get to know the person before talking business. Pre-prepare a discussion point or two that will help you tune into shared interests – a news headline, a recent read, or a local exhibition.
Tip 7: Avoid the hard sell
By using open-ended questions and resisting the urge to sell you will generate a positive conversation that lays the foundations for a good working relationship in the longer term. People buy from people and they do not enjoy being pitched at.
Tip 8: Keep moving
The art of good networking is never to stay in one group too long (unless you are talking to a high potential prospect and it is proving a worthwhile connection).
Tip 9: Leave a group politely
No one likes an abrupt end to a conversation so wait for a lull, which will give you an indication that you can be excused. Don’t forget to express how much of a pleasure it has been to meet the members of your group and summarise any actions that you have promised to take after the event.
Tip 10: Make a note of agreed actions and review the event
Whilst the event is in progress, if you think it is appropriate, discreetly make notes to help you remember what you have promised and any other details. If you have bought a colleague along, do go through feedback together while it is still fresh in your mind.
Tip 11: Have a clear desire to help others
Building a good reputation as a reliable source for others will take time but it will also lead to more business in the long-term.
Tip 12: Keep a good record of networking contact
Organise the details of contacts that you’ve made. there are many good pieces of software readily available, some of which even file an image of a contact’s business card.
Now you’re ready to put yourself in as many good quality networking situations as possible. Widening your circle of influence and increasing the number of contacts your business can communicate with will pay dividends.
Try attending a BNI Networking event as a visitor to see whether their business networking events work for you. Alternatively, your local Chamber of Commerce always has an excellent calendar of networking events.