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Habits of Highly Effective Networking

For most solo professionals, in-person networking is a significant piece of their ongoing marketing strategy.  Getting out and meeting the right people is often the quickest way to enroll new clients into your program and generate additional revenue.

Though networking can open the door to numerous opportunities, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s one of your favorite activities. I know a fair number of entrepreneurs who dread networking and consider it to be a necessary “evil” of running a business.

Whether you LOVE networking or do it out of sheer necessity, I’m confident you want to enjoy the best possible results at every opportunity. Here are some  Smart, Simple Tips on how to use this strategy effectively to connect with your ideal clients and create opportunities to grow your business:

1. “Fish in the Right Pond” – Don’t attend a networking event just for the sake of doing so. To get the most bang for your buck (and use your time efficiently) make sure you are ONLY attending networking events where your target clients and referral partners are hanging out. Remember, to be extremely successful in business you can’t market to any and everyone. You need to focus your attention on providing specific solutions to your ideal clients. Which means you need to do targeted, focused networking. You’ll enjoy yourself much more, have better conversations and create more opportunities when you’re talking to people who “get” what you do and are already looking for your product or services.

2. Get your head right – Networking isn’t about selling yourself or pitching your services. It’s about making connections with people, getting to know them, finding out what they need and creating opportunities. Be clear about your objectives BEFORE you attend the event so that you “show up” as a friendly, gracious and helpful resource. If you are a person who doesn’t LOVE the experience of networking, adjust your mindset. A lack of confidence and a negative attitude are highly unattractive and will repel others from wanting to connect with you. Instead of dreading the experience, look forward to the opportunity to meet other people and educate others about what you do. Set the intention before you head out the door that you’re going to have a GREAT experience and enjoy yourself!

3. Have reasonable expectations – Don’t attend the event desperate to close new business on the spot. If you do, each person you meet will “sense” it on you and will likely be turned off your approach. Instead, focus on having meaningful conversations with the people you meet and getting to know them so you can follow-up as appropriate.

4. Resist the urge to “work the room” – I know you’ve seen this. There’s always a guy someone at networking events running around the room, almost tossing their business card at every person they pass. Don’t be that person. Take your time. Enjoy meeting various individuals. Allow the conversations you start to develop and end naturally. You’ll feel much more relaxed and have a better experience. Plus you’ll create deeper connections with the people you meet and have a much easier time following up with them after the event. It is far better to have 4-5 fabulous conversations than to run around the room passing out your card to everyone in your path.

Network for SUCCESS! Have a PLAN!

Large-scale networking events can help you bolster your Rolodex and make connections that can land you a wealth of new contacts, connections and clients.

Coming across as both professional and engaging to those new contacts, however, isn’t as simple as it may seem.  Did you know that it takes about 200 times the information to undo a first impression than it takes to make one. Landing new clients or investors at an event requires more than just a pulled-together pitch and some original ideas.

It might seem like a lot of pressure, but remembering the things you shouldn’t do may help make networking a bit easier. Here are networking’s biggest no-no’s:

1. Arrive ON TIME.

To make things easier on yourself, time your arrival so you can maximize the interactions you’re most interested in having.
People who typically shy away from networking, the inclination is to arrive on the later side. The opposite is a much better strategy. Being the first person there, it’s calmer, laid back, and people haven’t yet settled into groups. You won’t feel like there’s no one to talk to.

2. Don’t just stand there.

This is not the time to wait around for people to approach you. You need to work the room—even if you’re on the shy side. There are ways to step outside your comfort zone and avoid awkwardness.

Start off by asking questions. And don’t worry about impressing the person you’re speaking with—just act naturally.

3. Don’t feel like you need to talk to everyone.

As a budding business owner or executive, you might enter a networking event with a “more the merrier” mentality when it comes to making new connections. However, it might be advantageous to take a “less is more” stance instead.

It’s better to meet fewer people and create a deeper, lasting connection than simply talking to everyone in the room.  Instead of going to a networking event and grabbing 40 business cards in two hours, speak with fewer people for a longer period of time. Give each person you talk to at least five minutes to get to know you—and you them—before you move on, she advises.  This way, you’ll leave networking events energized by new, true connections rather than tuckered out from meeting too many people.

4. Don’t come unprepared.

Once a new contact tells you what they’re specifically looking for in terms of products or services, you need to be ready to tell them how your specific experience lines up with their needs.

Your goal isn’t to hard-sell them right then and there—instead, it should be to get them interested in you and what you have to offer. To do that, you need to be prepared with an understanding of what everyone from an investor to a potential client will need, and be armed with the most relevant, useful information to show that you have a solution that works for them.

What’s “useful,” you ask? Results. “Don’t stand there and tell them what you do, tell them what results you get,” says business coach Craig Jennings in New York. “Have examples of a situation, a problem and a solution that you can say in two breaths.” Also, keep in mind that what an investor might find useful is likely different than what a customer wants to hear—so having a mental catalog of a wealth of your previous experiences will help you fill all kinds of niches.

5. Don’t forget the big picture.

The bottom line is that, once you leave a networking event, you want the contacts and connections you’ve made to follow up with you and your services in the future.

“You should know your production and delivery capabilities, and be able to set a realistic expectation for potential customers,” says Frank Dadah, general manager of financial contracts with Winter Wyman, a Boston staffing firm. You’re trying to maintain the image of your company, and if you’re not prepared to answer detailed questions that cover the ins and outs of what you have to offer, or if you can’t offer it to them in a timely manner, they’ll move on—fast—to someone who can.

6. Don’t try to multi-task.

Within the first few minutes of meeting someone new, you probably don’t whip out a notebook to write down what they’re saying—and that should be a rule for networking events, as well. Instead of being distracted by a pen and paper, focus intently on the conversation you’re having. After you’ve grabbed a business card and stepped away, jot down a few things that will help you jog your memory when you follow up with them later.

7. Don’t forget to follow up.

If you’re not following up, you’re not networking!  You should stay in touch, without thinking about what you’ll get out of the relationship.

Within 48 hours of your first meeting, you should email a note that pinpoints the most important parts of your earlier conversation, so your contact remembers who you are specifically. A timely turnaround will show that you’re both interested and available to continue the conversation.

Simple Rules Every Networker Should Follow!

Networking has been around for just about as long as business, in various shapes and forms.  It can be an extremely effective, low-cost marketing strategy – when done correctly.  Unfortunately, many people lose out simply because they don’t quite know the game.  Don’t miss a great opportunity to boost your business!  For networking success, always follow these simple and steadfast rules of play:

  1. Be genuine & authentic.  People like to do business with people they like, and nobody likes a pretender.  Savvy networkers can spot a false façade a mile away, and they instinctually steer clear.  No matter how great you are, no matter how fantastic your product is, it won’t matter one bit if others feel you may have something to hide.  Always stay true to your personality, represent your business honestly, and build genuine relationships with your fellow networkers.  Authenticity will set you apart and leave a positive impression, which will encourage people to do business with you… instead of your competition.
  2. Listen more than you talk. Have you ever met someone new – at a party, in the grocery store, standing in line for the movies – and they did nothing but talk nonstop about themselves?  Did it make you want to run in the other direction?  When networking, your mission should not be to prove how cool you and your business are.  It should be to find out as much as possible about the person to whom you are speaking, finding a way to make a connection so a relationship can be built.  The next time you meet up, whether it’s at another networking function or in person one-on-one, you should at least have some talking points so you can pick the conversation back up and continue building the relationship.  Good networking relationships lead to trust, and trust leads to business.
  3. Bring only five business cards to any function.  There are many experts who will disagree with this way of thinking.  However, if you have ever attended a typical networking event and walked away with a stack of cards, you’ll recognize some truth in what I’m saying here.  Thinking of that stack of cards, how many of the people behind the cards can you actually remember?  How many did you follow up with? How many did you actually do business with?  For most people, that number is pretty low.  Remember – networking is about building relationships.  Reserve your cards for those people with whom you truly connected and plan on following up with.  It’s always more important to make solid connections with a few, than meaningless connections with many.
  4. Don’t be that guy. You know the one.  He goes around to every person in the room, intrusively of course, and shoves his business card in your hand.  He interrupts your current conversation to tell you who he is and why you need to know him.  And then, before you even have a chance to respond, off he goes to the next unsuspecting victim.  Sound familiar?  Don’t be that guy.
  5. Get on a first-name basis with the event organizer.  I cannot stress this enough: the most important person in the room is the one who brought you all together.  Seek out the organizer (respectfully), strike up a conversation, and make the connection.  A good leader will point you in the direction of some key people he or she feels you should know, and a really good leader will make the introductions personally.  Once he or she knows who you are, what you do, and who you are interested in connecting with, you may even get some great referrals and post-event introductions.  Want to know the best way to cement the relationship?  Reciprocate.Encourage people you know to attend the leader’s events, introduce him or her to potential clients and alliances, and do whatever you can to help support his or her efforts.  A good rule to follow with any networking connection.

The bottom line is simple: Networking is a great tool, and can make a huge impact on your business.  It’s up to you whether that impact is a positive one.