Business networking tips
Face to face marketing via business networking events can be a useful tool to build your network and bring in more sales for your company. However, it is a skill that can take time to master. Here are our top business networking tips to get you started.
Be on time
Be on time or even early if it’s somewhere you haven’t been before. Walking into a room in a rush, when groups have already settled, and you feel on the back foot is not conducive to representing yourself and your business in the best way. If you arrive near the very start of the meeting, it will be quieter and easier to converse with people who are also just arriving. You will have time to get refreshments and mingle with more than one person.
This one sounds simple, but it’s often overlooked. By smiling not only do you feel more at ease, but you also look approachable and friendly. Nobody wants to chat with a sullen looking individual. Be happy and confident, and others will approach you to talk.
Take some time to prepare for the meeting. Make sure you have up to date business cards and that you take enough to the meeting. You don’t want to be running out and unable to give someone your details, losing out on potential business. Have them somewhere accessible during the networking event so that you can easily pass them on to someone.
Remember to take other promotional material with you if relevant. You can always contact the event organiser beforehand to see if you are allowed to display a roller banner or leaflets. Make the most of marketing your business while at the event.
If you are required to pitch your business, often with a time limit enforced, then practice before you attend. If you need to write it down just in case, then do that. Make sure you know exactly what you wish to say and that it conveys what you do and what benefit you can bring to your customer.
It can be tempting to do all the talking at networking events, especially if you are new as everyone wants to find out all about you. However, ensure that you actively listen and ask questions to also find out about the other people in attendance. The more you know about them, the easier it will be to spot an opportunity to help, collaborate or sell your service in a way that is relevant to them.
Speak to people you don’t know
Business networking can be daunting, and the temptation to just stick with the people you know is strong. Remember that you are there to make new connections, which means speaking to people you don’t know. Step out of your comfort zone and converse with those who you have never met before or those who are new to the meeting.
Look for ways to support your fellow networkers. Is there some expertise you have that you can easily share to help someone out? It might be as simple as showing them how to share a photo on social media, but the value to the other person could be significant. Alternatively, you might know a good contact for someone and can put them in touch with each other. By giving back to the group, others will be more inclined also to provide you with assistance or look for connections and referrals that would benefit you. The more you give, the more you receive.
Share your passion
Don’t let nerves get the better of you and clam up, share your passion for what you do. Enthuse about why you started your business or how your service really improves the lives of others. Let others see your belief in your company. Be genuine and people with trust you more easily.
Contrary to what some believe, networking is not all about sales. It’s also about building relationships. As humans, we do business with people who we know, like and trust. Going in heavy handed with a sales pitch when someone doesn’t know you are is unlikely to result in a sale.
Take the time to build relationships with those in your networking circles organically. The more they understand your ethos and brand values, hear testimonials about how you helped others and get to know who you are, the more likely they are to either use your service or refer your company to others. After all, they want to be sure that the person they are sending their friends and family to will be the right solution for them. Not just in what you provide as a product but how you look after their loved ones and support them through the sales process.
You are going to meet a lot of interesting and useful people while networking, so it’s essential to follow up after an event. Connect with those who you have spoken to on social media or send a short email inviting them to coffee to find out more.
Try and follow up as soon as you can after a meeting, especially if that person looked very interested in what you had to say. Look for opportunities to meet people outside of the actual event so you can chat for longer and get a better idea about how they do business and whether there are opportunities to could be mutually beneficial.
If you have a customer relationship management system, then enter the details you collected into it. This will help you remember where you met people, and you can add any useful notes that will aid your future interactions with them. For example, if you make a note that Sheila has a pet dog, a good in when you next see her may be to ask how her dog is doing. Making her feel valued and listened to.
Find the group that’s right for you
There are many different types of networking events out there. All with varying styles and formats. It’s essential to find the meetings that suit you, your business and provide benefit for your company. You may find that one event leads to lots more business than another, or one group provides amazing business support. Identify the networking opportunities that offer the best value for your investment.
If you found this information useful, you may also want to check out the following:
- Business structures in the UK
- Why getting to know your customer is essential
- 10 tips for managing cash flow
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