Business Networking is generally a badly executed skill by most Business Owners. More often than not they suffer from five killer networking deficiencies. These are 1, an inability to present themselves with confidence, so they wait for others to come to them. 2, they collect in groups of those that they already know. 3, they have no clear idea of what benefits they have to offer a prospect. 4, they engage only to see if they can make money out of someone and 5, they hand out hundreds of business cards in the hope that one will fall into the right hands.
None of these five Networking methods work. There are two primary objectives: Firstly to present yourself professionally, confidently and consistently, and secondly to see if you can discover relevant contacts that you can use to support your business, or that are likely to use your services, or that can refer you to anyone else they may know that is likely to use your services.
- Firstly, you need to throw away all inhibitions. You cannot afford to be afraid to meet new people. Look them in the eye, speak clearly and behave professionally.
- Don’t attend only one networking forum. Make sure you commit to regular attendance. Networking is like advertising – sometimes you have to show up many times before people begin to notice.
- Do not stand in a huddle with people you know or wait for someone to come to you. Step forward confidently and meet everyone. Listen to their short presentations and list who is most likely to be of interest.
- Show a real interest in what they do. This, more often than not, opens a door to your own story.
- Dress appropriately i.e. smart-casual.
- Engaging people is best done while getting snacks or drinks. It allows you to open the conversation with something about the catering. And always be positive, no matter what!
- Do not hold too much food and/or drink in your hands. Keep one free to shake hands and express yourself. Besides, there is less chance you will spill or mess. Remember you have attended in order to present yourself and your business, not to eat and drink.
- Always, and I mean always, have your business card ready to hand out. Do not hand out bent or damaged cards. Don’t just walk around collecting and handing out cards, you must engage in conversation to establish personal credibility before swapping cards. Collect only relevant business cards. Scribble key information on each card as a reminder.
- Join the dots. Don’t just find one opportunity, see if you can find a few companies/individuals that your business could collaborate with. Help others to connect. It’s not just about you.
- Keep good pictures of the products you sell on your mobile phone. Let technology work for you.
- Turn complaints into opportunities. Avoid feeble excuses.
- Follow up the very next day with those that you feel you can do business with. And don’t be put off after the first call – make at least three calls and do your best to establish an appointment.
- Never burn your bridges i.e. always leave a good impression even if there is no opportunity to do business. Remember, they may be so impressed that they refer you to someone they know.