Many people think that networking is simply handing out cards. They give them away in exchange for a handshake, or leave them in small reams on the tables. In fact, if they opted by distributing flyers at the doors of subway stations, communication might be more effective, especially because a flyer can contain more information than the small rectangle of paper on a business card.
Developing a good network requires you to invest time in creating relationships with others. By making the right choices and following some basic rules, it is possible to develop a very effective network that will help you to expand your business, either because these contacts can recommend you clients or alert you to new opportunities. Also, by establishing close relationships and trust with people who are in the same activity, will be able to generate benchmarking and discover solutions to problems they have already faced.
Whatever your activity, networking opens doors that will help you grow your business. But first, take note of the three things you should not forget:
1. Make a plan
Before leaving for a networking event, spend time seting up your goals. Identify what you are looking for and what will be the best message you want to convey. And because time is money, you shoul always assess whether the event in question contributes to achieving those goals, or whether it's better to stay in the office and work.
Look always for trade shows, meetings or events related to your activity. If you're in the franchise business, go to specialty fairs, but if your franchise is in the restaurant business, consider events in that sector as well. If, on the other hand, you want to hire a marketing specialist for your business, you can naturally place an ad in the newspaper, but if you have the opportunity, go to a marketing event to understand what you should prioritize in your needs and, eventually, find the person who demand.
Another way to plan for a networking action is to look for people you consider a reference in your activity and follow their agenda. You can, for example, schedule a Google alert to be notified whenever they have an activity or a conference scheduled. Influential people always gather many followers and that will eneble you to integrate into the community in which they are experts.
Study and write about it. Not only will it be useful to document your activities and thoughts, but also it can be a good opportunity to make yourself known. It is worth keeping a blog with some reflection on your field of activity. Use it to write about your speaches or interventions, your opinion articles for the media, or to send your communicates and press releases. It is a 'homework' that will help you to consolidate your position in you network of contacts.
2. Focus on your interlocutor
In networking there are always two kind of people. The ones that go just to socialize and the others which are focussed on connecting and creating new business opportunities. On both groups there are also the extrems: on the first group it is normal that you find people who are there just to talk to their friends and, in the second group you can find the aggressive sales specialists, for whom more than an exchange of contacts, it is necessary to close the deal right away.
What we just explained is to help you understand that, as with everything in life, virtue is in the middle.
Once, after a global event that took place in Germany, an Australian colleague – in a very Saint-Exupéry philosophical register – said goodbye to me at the airport, saying 'we're going to opposite hemispheres and maybe we'll never see each other again. , but wherever you are, I will never forget you, because, for me, you came into existence.” Networking is precisely that: coming into existence. Become memorable.
Don't just hand over the card or debit the rehearsed pitch to investors. Be natural, build a relationship, invest attention. Look your interlocutor in the eye and address him by name. Repeating someone's name helps to memorize it and at the same time holds the attention of the person you are talking to. Above all, avoid looking like you're just talking to him because the person you wanted to talk to is busy!
On way to star conversation is to begin saying something positive and consensual, for example, praising the topic of the talk they just heard. Ask your interlocutor, what he does or what brought him there, and compare it with your situation. Briefly talk about your business and ask questions about the activity of the person you are talking to.
Also it is very important to make yourself available to help, even before asking for help. Above all, avoid appearing self-interested, or approaching critical issues without being sure that your interlocutor shares the same opinion.
If you know more about the skills of the person you are talking to, don't let it show so much. You shouil be cordial and give a moderate compliment, in the same way if you want to talk about your successes, also describe them with moderation and sincerity.
Being honest doesn't mean saying everything that comes to mind, so never say bad things about someone when you're talking to someone for the first time, even if your interlocutor takes the conversation that way. It's good to avoid swampy terrain when you're not sure who you're with, rather than saying something you might regret.
3. Do the Follow up
I have a drawer full of cards, but the ones that really count are in my email contacts. Or better yet, they're on my cell phone. To get out of the drawer and level up, my contacts had to go through a follow up process. Interestingly, most of the contacts registered in my email account or on my phone resulted from a follow-up given on my own initiative, rather than from the people who gave me the card.
My experience as a journalist has shown that most people don't follow up on a card exchange after a networking event. And, what is most extraordinary is that my email box is full of press releases sent by marketing automation every day from companies of people who have my contact and know me.
I'm not saying that once having the contact gives you the right to be boring. None of that. But you should do what few people do: the day after the event, write a nice email saying that you found the conversation you had the day before very interesting and if, eventually, you have a solution to a problem that your interlocutor has expressed, present it -The. If you think the person is relevant to your business, propose a meeting or invite them to lunch. Don't forget that networking is a network of relationships that has to be continually nurtured (even if you don't have to go around paying for lunch).
Now that you know the three essential things to develop your network, don't miss any of your contacts. If you know how to use them, you always get something in return.
More than doing business, try to make friends. This will make you memorable and open up business opportunities that you could never get by just handing out cards.