Sales Masters Guild Mentor, James Davey, says, it’s time to up your game and start networking like a pro.
We have just less than 90 days before the Christmas/New Year break. For many businesses, this is prime selling time and a great time to build momentum for the New Year.
I have long been an advocate of using between 6 and 8 routes to market as part of a marketing strategy. One of the most important routes to market for the Entrepreneur business is networking – meeting potential customers, introducers and even potential suppliers who can help you build the business you have always wanted.
Networking is relatively inexpensive as a route to market in terms of cash outlay, but it can be expensive in terms of your time. To make the most of the time you invest in this essential activity, it is imperative that you network with purpose. Although networking can be very enjoyable, it is not a time for you to catch up with your mates over a coffee or something more interesting. It’s an opportunity for meeting new people and forming new relationships.
Part of the art of networking is meeting people, building relationships and having meaningful conversations with new people. To do it properly, you need to develop a methodology that allows you to get great results without being seen as selling – i.e. a Networking like a Pro.
As with many things, practice makes it look easy, but be careful what you practice. The old saying ‘Practice makes perfect’ is very misleading. If you practice bad driving habits, you will become a bad driver. The trick is to practice the good habits which will help you get what you the results you desire.
The famous golfer, Gary Player, is often credited with saying ‘the more I practice, the luckier I get.’ He was, in fact, quoting a friend and fellow golfer Jerry Barber, but the sentiment remains true, whoever said it first.
I find having a structure to my networking activities helps. You can break networking down into three distinctive phases:
All three are important in their own ways. Let’s have a look at some of the points.
Before the event.
I would suggest doing four things before the event:
1. Research the Available events
There are many networking events and networking organisations operating in your area or within your industry. Some will be better than others. When starting on your networking, try as many of them as you can so that you can experience each one and identify the ones that are going to attract your target customers. Hanging out where your prospects hang out is going to improve the effectiveness of what you do.
2. Have a strategy
Before you get to the event, be very clear about what you are trying to achieve. You are there to ‘work the room’ so don’t spend too long with any one person. Have well practiced methods of ‘moving on’ if you end up talking to the wrong person. You may also need to practice ways of joining conversations if your target is already speaking to someone else.
3. Research attendees
If you can get hold of an attendee list before the event, do some research on the attendees so you can prioritise who you speak to. Checking people out on LinkedIn can help you identify people that fit your customer avatars.
4. Perfect your pitch
Depending on the event, you may be expected to deliver an introduction to the room saying who you are and how you can help people. Durations can vary, but sixty seconds is common. This is between 100 and 120 words, so make sure you have prepared a suitable ‘pitch’ which contains the key elements. People need to understand what you can do for them and what differentiates you from your competitors without it sounding like you are selling. Preferably, your pitch should be tuned to your audience and delivered in a conversational way.
During the event
1. Listen actively
People like talking about themselves, so let them do so. While they are talking, use active listening skills to show that you are listening attentively. All the time, be on the look out for those bits of information that show what problems they have that you can help solve.
2. Be true to yourself
In Shakespeare;s Hamlet, Poloniuos said ‘to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.’ In other words, be yourself. Don’t try and be someone you’re not and you will come over to others as genuine and people will trust you all the more.
3. Don’t try to sell
Why do you go networking? In my case, it’s not to sell, it’s to meet people and start relationships. The selling comes later, once you have established a relationship and when you have established that your prospect has a desire for what you are selling.
4. Be curious
Taking a genuine interest in the people you meet networking will help you build a solid relationship. Ask people to expand on some of the things they tell you. Taking an interest in them will help deepen your relationship.
5. Use people’s names
If you’re anything like me, you’re terrible at remembering people’s names. Even if I just been introduced, I often instantly forget. If you listen for their name and then immediately repeat it back to them in your response such as ‘Nice to meet you Bill. What brings you here today?’ the likelihood is that you will remember their name at least for the rest of the meeting.
6. Wear a name badge
This is the flip side of number 5. Other people also have problems remembering names so help them out – wear a name badge. They will be much more comfortable talking to you if they know your name.
7. Get out of your comfort zone
If you are one of those people who tend to be on the shy side at networking events and only speak to the people you know or you stand on your own in the corner, you are not going to get the full benefit of the event. Even if you feel uncomfortable about it, take a deep breath and go and introduce yourself to a stranger. The more you do it, the easier it will be. That’s one of the funny things about comfort zones – the more you challenge them, the bigger the comfort zone gets. If you always stay well within your comfort zone, the zone will contract and become progressively smaller.
8. Carry a business card
It amazes me when people go to networking meetings without business cards. There is usually an excuse about them being reprinted or something similar, but all that tells me is they don’t plan ahead. Handing your business card over to a new contact gives them all the information they need to remember who you are.
9. Dress the part
How you dress says a great deal about you and your standards. Dress appropriately for the event and for your chosen trade or profession. Under-dress and there is a danger you will not be taken seriously. Over-dress and you may be thought of as unapproachable. It’s all a matter of getting the balance right.
After the event
1. Follow up on LinkedIn
Most serious business people will be on LinkedIn. Follow-up with a contact request on LinkedIn, but don’t forget to personalise the message. If you use the generic LinkedIn message, people will think you can’t be bothered and are not genuinely interested in making a relationship. Refer to where you met them so they can put you in context. Once they have accepted your request, message them again and set up a one-to-one meeting over a coffee and get to know them better.
2. Don’t expect instant results
I’ve heard people say, ‘I went there once but I got nothing out of it’ and they never go again. Networking is about building relationships and getting to know people. You will not get instant results, unless you are very lucky, so stick with it. If you find over a period of time that you never meet the right sort of people at a particular meeting, consider whether that’s the right meeting for you.
3. Make notes as soon as you can
Nobody’s memory is perfect so make notes about important information you glean from your networking. If you have some kind of CRM system, you can make the notes there so the information is always at your fingertips.
4. Make referrals or introductions
You can quickly become a popular person networking if you make a point of making referrals. Just saying, ‘I think you should have a chat with Harry. He’ll be able to help you with that. Would you like me to introduce you?’. You will get respect from both people and increase the likelihood that that they will reciprocate.
5. Measure results
As with everything in marketing, measure the results you get from networking. Every now and then, I go through an exercise where I critically review the networking groups I attend and I’m sometimes surprised at how much business I do get from them. If you find a group or a meeting isn’t working for you, drop it and try another.
I hope this gives you some food for thought and helps you improve your networking. But remember, networking is only one of your 6-8 routes to market. Don’t rely solely on networking. Always follow up on your meetings and take care to nurture your relationships. Good luck and have fun!
Head over to James’s mentor profile page to find out when he is holding his next Pro-Networker Training, book yourself into one or to contact him to discuss the training and the benefits to you.
James Davey is a Sales Masters Guild Personal Business Mentor.
Having started his business career as an accountant working in industry, James decided that there was more to the game of business than just keeping the score. He’s now a mentor as well as running a successful health and fitness business with over 2,800 members,