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The Art of Networking
Good looks and charm may be the key to many people’s success, so if you happen to look like Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie then good for you. On the other hand, if like myself you are not so blessed, then another strategy needs to be pursued in order to achieve success. The truth is that business owners who have a good network of contacts can find it a lot easier to take their business through to success, and actually it’s not rocket science to do so. In this article I will outline some of the key points to remember when networking and trying to get to know people. The main theme running through everything though, is that the one key rule to remember is not to go in with the hard sell. The key is to remember that you are trying to help people, not just sell to them. If they feel that you are trying to just get a sale then there will almost certainly be no buyers anywhere in sight.
Different people have different personalities of course, so the way we behave and feel comfortable behaving will be different for us all. Some like to be put on the spot and ad lib their way out of any situation, whereas others start to panic about 5 seconds after saying hello. Saying that though, it is a common misconception that the best networkers are extroverts. Yes, someone like that has more confidence, but that in itself can put people off as it seems like they are not able to listen to anything anyone else has to say. Ultimately being able to listen is the skill that is required at a networking event, not the ability to talk. What you want is for people to recommend you because you can understand their needs and requirements as opposed to forcing yourself on them. So building a trusted network is key and to help to do that I have ten suggestions:
1. Choose your event carefully
Dashing along to each and every networking event that is on within a 50 mile radius is going to cost you a fortune and mean that after about a month you will need to take time off to recover. So select the events you attend carefully.
2. Don’t force the sell
This can’t be emphasised enough. Focus on building the relationships, not trying to force a sale. It is also important to talk to a range of people, not just those that you think are going to be useful. After all, you don’t know where the next opportunity might come from.
3. Listen, listen and listen again
It is often said that we have 2 ears and one mouth for a reason. So listen far more than you talk. Active listening will develop trust and result in a long-term relationship, whereas talking at people, even though you are excited about what you are doing, will not.
4. Select the right opportunities
Some of the people you will meet at networking events are going to be putting opportunities in front of you that even Del and Rodney Trotter wouldn’t touch with a bargepole. It is important to select the right opportunities for you.
5. Leverage your connections
You never know where the next customer or opportunity is going to come from. So it is important to spread your net widely, but remain sensible. Once you have sorted out your elevator pitch and know how you are going to introduce your business and idea to people, then tell the world about it. Everyone you speak to is connected to their own network and if they like what they hear then you can be sure that word will spread. This is the power of being part of a network.
6. Be a connector for others
If you are seen to be trying to drum up business everywhere you go you will soon develop the kind of reputation that it is really not good to have. However, if you are able to listen to the people you talk to and help them to solve the issues they have, then this is great. You will be seen to be investing time and energy into developing a relationship, rather than simply trying to sell something.
7. Don’t just collect business
It is really tempting to go around networking events and see how many people you can meet by collecting their business card. The problem with that is that you might find you are more focused on quantity rather than quality and simply dash around like a headless chicken. A far better approach is to focus on spending time with a few people that really are worth talking to and building just a few relationships. This will pay greater dividends further down the line.
8. Tell others about your achievements
Simply telling everyone how great you are all the time is obviously going to be tedious to listen to. However, good news and enthusiasm are great to hear, so don’t be shy. If you have something exciting to share, then share it. Just remember to ask them about their business and what great things are happening in it at the moment.
9. Keep track of conversations
It is very difficult to remember all the conversations that you have had, and if you are anything like me then remembering names can be a bit of a nightmare at times. So take some notes or jot down on the back of their business card some key words about the conversation you had with them. It will them be a lot easier to remember who you spoke to and about what.
10. Don’t just leave it there
Finally, it is really important to follow up after meeting someone at a networking event. After all, if they have spent time talking to you, then there must have been something that interested them. Send a follow up email or give then a call and suggest meeting up again.
There are many ways that contacts and connections can be built, with some being more effective than others. The important thing to remember is that you only have a finite amount of energy and hours in a day. So being more selective about where you network and how you spend your time at the networking event will be time well spent.
Please click here to contact Peter Mardon, Commercial Law Partner at WSP, for further information regarding your business.
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