The business world is changing in every way, especially in the areas of prospecting, cold calling, marketing and productive networking. Networking is defined as ‘a socioeconomic business activity by which groups of like-minded business people connect to act upon business opportunities’.
In the past, corporations would do this by attending networking events where they might meet people who were potential business opportunities. Some local networking business venues include the Chamber of Commerce, the Board of Trade, Rotary and industry trade shows.
Today, many businesses are re-evaluating how much they are willing to continue funding these activities since, on the surface; it just looks like corporate sponsored socializing.
Krista Walsh, a local businesswomen, who was named an Atlantic Canadian Emerging Leader by 21 Inc. and 4Front Atlantic, says: If you are going to do it, do it right.
She facilitates workshops that provide attendees with skills to hone their image, make a positive first impression, ignite a conversation and nourish business connections.
Walsh says: “These skills are essential to enhancing your business network and personal relationships. People want to do business with someone they trust, so we need to develop connections using proper techniques.”
Here are a few ideas that will increase the effectiveness of your efforts:
1. Prepare in advance. If you can, find out who will be attending and why. Identify three people you want to meet, this way you can be confident when introducing yourself.
2. Our brains work fast – it takes people seven seconds to decide if they will do business with you. Dress professionally, but in a way that you are noticed, and do not forget your business cards.
3. Ask engaging questions about them first. Build a relationship before launching into your elevator speech.
4. Have appropriate stories about yourself that others would find interesting or amusing.
5. Don’t over indulge in food or drink and stay focused on the reason you are there.
6. Never leave without a few high-potential business cards, a follow up meeting, and at least one new connection.
7. Keep a record of each person you engage with, and establish a follow up system so that no one you meet falls through the cracks.
8. Make a long-term commitment to network with others either face-to-face or virtually.
Networking is a key part of marketing for many businesses and many report it is an important factor for developing professional relationships. As well, it plays a big part in raising the profile and reputation of your company. Therefore, it is critical to do it right.
To be a successful networker, you must be a good communicator. Charismatic people share their feelings and are always positive. People like people who are most like themselves, so successful networkers often engage in mirroring others mannerisms and speaking style.
Finally, do not expect big results right away. You will need to attend a number of events with each association for people to become familiar with you. It’s about building relationships first. Only when they know you are sincere about becoming part of the community, will they will trust you with their business.
My question for managers this week: “Are you looking strategically at which associations your people should belong and are they attending the networking events most congruent to building business?”