I suppose we all agree on this one point: “Business networking is an onerous job”. Yes, it takes a lot of guts and courage to approach a total stranger and bond with him.
On the other hand, the significance of networking is undeniable in any business, and for entrepreneurs its importance is even much greater. In this overly complex world no one can work alone. Networking is mandatory.
Having said that, many people use social media to connect with other potential parties and clients. According to Pew Research Center around two-third of Americans use social networking sites. Seems like a fair deal?
Make an attractive profile at LinkedIn. Start connecting with people, job done!
Soft target right?
But do you think it’s enough to connect with people through LinkedIn and Facebook for the purpose of business networking?
The answer to that is no because adding people on social media does not have a long lasting and sustainable impact on your venture.
Social media has its due importance but the essence of business networking is to know people and mix up with them, make real connection based on true value.
Ivan Misner contends that “Business networking is much more than showing up at networking functions, shaking a
lot of hands and collecting a bunch of cards”
Bottom line is that there’s no shortcut to it.
As important as it is, people are fearful of networking with strangers and potential clients. But if they adapt the following 10 steps, the fear can be curbed and then one can take advantage of this splendid marketing tool.
For starters you need to identify events related to your field of work. Start attending conferences, seminars, gatherings and so on.
You can also throw a party at your place and invite your target audience. People love free food and free drink no matter what stage of life they are at.
I will share my personal experience about how to network with people complete strangers for your good. If you follow these ten easy steps, it will take your business networking cycle to new height:
You don’t want to mess up the first encounter. I have met people who get clueless when they meet someone, not aware of what to say.
Simple tip: Jolt down a list of points which introduce you or the company you are presenting. Memorize them just so if in case you meet someone you don’t look for a brochure about you.
In simple yet creative manner you introduce yourself.
Not to forget, be confident work on your outlook.
You need to know about your potential clients. If you want to approach a person for a business deal, make sure you find some commonalities between you and him. build your client’s persona.
It makes the job much easier by providing you something to begin the conversation with about which the other party is also interested.
It is a simple yet effective hack, to persuade people towards you. Common interests do not necessarily include hobbies or leisure activities; they could also be work related.
What is something special that you are offering? Some value added services or unique product? Special deals?
If you are not offering something different, only then you can draw people’e attention in a competitive market. And if you are offering mundane stuff, unfortunately for you, it won’t draw masses’s attention.
How can you beat that?
Well, there’s a simple solution to it:
Identify you Unique Selling Proposition (USP) which sets you apart from others. You may be offering lower cost, ideal location, first every product of high quality.
Once you figure out your USP, your job gets much easier. Now connect with people though your USP.
Do not wait for people to come to you.
Take a step and go to them. Break the barrier and start a conversation.
Trust me it will not hurt. They won’t bite you. They are normal human beings like you.
Ask simple questions:
“may I join you gentlemen?” or “what brings you here to this occasion?” They will start a conversation with you. No one is going to be rude and say “go away”.
They are there to interact too. Once the talk begins you need to pay attention to what they say and gather that information in your mind.
People love it when you pay attention to them. If you are an introvert then you’ll be good at listening already.
Always be on time to any such event, it has many pro:
When you arrive early, you can have an overview of the entire scenario.
On the contrary if you arrive late you’ll miss valuable piece of information. You will be worried about being late and would be able to focus on the right people.
But wait-there’s more
If you arrive on time you will have time to gather your thoughts and rehearse for the big occasion. You will have time to calm your nerves, breathe some air and look around.
Be on time, it is way better than being late.It is very important for business networking.
For the purpose of business networking you’ll have to drop your sales pitch and be casual.
No body likes a desperate person. Try not to like a typical salesman, instead adapt self-promotion techniques.
Business networking is all about building a relationship. Have a meaningful, light and fun conversation instead of hard selling.
Be patient, it will come up in the conversation itself.
The idea is to make the conversation started and keep it active. People are more interested in doing business with lively partners.
If a potential customer asks you about your product and service, be ready to provide him an easy description of your product.
Before any such event, keep in your mind your latest achievement and progress which you can share with other customers. This will encourage them to trust you.
It is a simple point but often overlooked.
It is my personal experience whenever I want a favor from my boss, I wear a big smile on my face and approach him. The outcome is mostly an encouraging one.
If you approach someone with a dull face, you send these negative vibes which have dismissive results.
Same applies to business networking; when you meet new people meet them with a smile. You will see the difference.
Smile helps you in getting rid of the anxiety. It also boosts your confidence level. Remember this rule of engagement: as you enter the room or approach a person, do that with a smiley face.
Fix your negative attitude (if you have any) before entering the room.
People always appreciate enthusiasm for your product or service.
If you are passionate about something you should tell them how much it means to you. Leave an ever lasting impression on others by telling them your success story.
E.g. if you wanted to have your own brand; you tell them how brands always fascinated you. How much you loathed 9-5 jobs. Why did you want to be different than your parents!
If you share your story in the conversation it will leave a memorable effect on them and they will remember you and your talk in the future.
people like to feel special.
When you are networking with others, do not try to steal the conversation and focus just on yourself.
Listen to what others say.
Engage them in the conversation, have a steady eye contact with people, repeat their name and give them respect.
All successful networkers do that. Don’t just talk, develop a fruitful conversation.
Now that you have done the hard work.
Had a healthy conversation with your potential clients/partners, you need to follow that up afterwards. You can ask the person which medium he prefers to get in touch with.
Some people like email other enjoy a direct contact such telephone or being in touch through other social media site.
Get in touch with them after a couple of days not to look too desperate but don’t over-delay it because people tend to forget about things easily.
Never underestimate the power of business networking. It will bring you enormous gains in the long run in small time and less effort.