Networking for your business is about making friends (you don’t have to kiss them…).
Unfortunately most people don’t really ‘get’ the whole networking thing, which makes going to networking events sometimes very painful. As an example, at an event I was at last week there was a woman that was waiting in a corner and if anyone made eye contact or walked to closely to her she immediately jumped into her sales pitch. Sadly she may have felt like she had a productive meeting – she cornered at least 3 different people that I saw, but I guarantee none of them left with a positive impression of her.
Networking is a great strategy for small business owners – people want to do business with other people (that they know, like and trust) not with some faceless company, so the playing field with the big guys is really leveled. Networking is a marketing strategy that facilitates developing relationships that can generate referrals or business.
But what’s the right way to go about doing that? Read the rest of this article and feel free to download my in-depth (18 page) report if you’d like to learn more.
10 Steps to Effective Networking
Although I’ve got 10 steps listed here – the reality is that there are 3 that are extra critical and generally get missed, so cover the whole list (and download the report) but make sure you pay special attention to #’s 1, 7 and 10!
1. Develop a Networking Mindset
Free your mind and the rest will follow! There are plenty of techniques and tips to make you a better networker, but the real key is approaching it in the right frame of mind.
2. Develop a Great 30-Second Commercial
What’s your unique selling proposition? Can you get across what you do in an interesting and concise way? Just like on television, you need to grab attention quickly.
3. Identify Your Target
Have you ever seen a fly fisherman that pulls in fish after fish? He knows what he’s fishing for and he knows what those fish like. Do you know what you’re after?
4. Identify Where to Network
Sure you can network almost anywhere, but there are only so many hours in the day so you should identify what will work best for you.
5. Prepare Your Meeting Strategy
One of the best ways to overcome fear is to be prepared – decide what you want to do.
6. Work the Event
You weren’t planning on just showing up, having a few drinks and throwing your cards around were you?
7. Ask Questions
People enjoy being listened to. The secret to being a great listener is to ask the right questions. Go with open-ended questions that will get people to talk.
8. Don’t Sell
Don’t do it…at least not at networking events, it doesn’t work and it’s likely to annoy people! Don’t be ‘that’ guy (or person)!
9. Go With a Team Approach
Not only is there safety in numbers, you can get a lot farther with teamwork than you can on your own.
If you were a farmer, you would have spent a lot of time determining the best thing to plant, preparing the field and going to pick out the seed. However there will be no crop if you don’t actually plant the seed and water it. There are a lot of ways to follow-up, including phone, email or even LinkedIn – the key is to make sure you do something with the contacts that you make to keep the ball rolling (when it makes sense).
Obviously this list is high level – but it should give you some ideas on what to focus on. Remember the end result that you’re looking for is developing relationships – mutually beneficial, win-win relationships and that starts by helping other people out first.
If you’d like to learn more about this approach – please download my free report on Explosive Networking (I was looking for a catchy title). If you like it, feel free to share it (and let me know your thoughts).
Shawn Kinkade Kansas City Business Coach