If you’re serious about making more contacts and establishing better relationships, business networking will undoubtedly be part of your “fight plan.”
That means networking events, chambers, business meetings, conferences, mixers, clubs, groups, meet-ups, and even online communities will be a part of your networking campaign.
Here are five business networking musts that you must embrace to get the most bang out of your networking buck.
1. You must know your “specific” purpose.
Why are you there? Are you looking to attract more business? Land a job? Learn about an industry or profession? This may seem obvious, but how about the specifics? As in your specific purpose? Knowing your specific purpose is the first step to determining where you need to go, what you need to say, and with whom. What industry, profession, market segment, niche, dynamic, demographic, and geography are you targeting? Just saying you’re looking for more customers or clients isn’t enough information to be meaningful. Be specific. The devil is in the details!
2. You must communicate powerfully.
Be prepared with conversation starters and great opening questions. Have your elevator speech prepared so you can speak intelligently about your work and specifically what you want. (There’s the specifics thing again.) When meeting others, be genuinely interested in learning about other people with a willingness to help them achieve their purpose. When you listen to others, it’s more likely they’ll listen to you. That’s communication! Be clear on next steps – if there are next steps. Tip: Make the next step yours!
3. You must be active.
Don’t expect to just show up and have business simply fall into your lap. It doesn’t work that way. This is the work aspect of net-work. Become a member. In fact, become an active member. Head up a committee, volunteer to take on tasks, make positive suggestions, solve problems, and become a go-to person. Being active drives activity and also attracts the right people to you. Shakers and movers like to hang out with shakers and movers.
4. You must follow up.
“Follow up” simply means an attempt to continue a conversation after the event is over or to follow through on a promise. It could be a promise to make an introduction to an important contact, a promise to send important information, or a promise to coordinate a future meeting. Without follow up, nothing else happens. Make sure you’re the one that makes the promise to follow up. Keep in mind that follow up starts at the meeting, not after the meeting. So make your promises before shaking hands and saying your goodbyes.
5. You must stay in touch.
Out of sight is out of mind. Believe it! Staying in touch is the key to getting to know others better and ultimately developing important relationships. After meeting someone, make a promise to speak again in a week or a month. Mark your calendar and make it happen. Take it upon yourself to develop a connection, but at the same time take it slow. There is no easy way to say this, the development of a genuine relationship must “feel right” and takes time. Relationships don’t just happen by themselves. Developing mutually beneficial professional (and yes, personal) relationships requires a lot of work, so invest the time to stay in touch with the right people for the right reasons.
Here’s another must for no extra charge. You must not sell. Focus on learning from and helping those you meet. Not selling them your products and services. The contacts you make are not there to buy from you. They’re looking to grow their business just like you. Of course, if they become your client, that’s a different story. Collaborate, compare notes, and look for ways to help each other. Over time, you might refer one another business. How cool is that?
Put these musts into practice today and you might just generate more prospects, more referrals, and more business!
— Read 7 Business Networking Reminders, on ThinkAdvisor.