Networking has had a bit of a bad time of it recently. It can feel like you’re attending a networking meeting, giving up your time, only to be surrounded by people who are all trying to sell you something.
Done right, however, networking can be an invaluable tool in strengthening your business. It’s a matter of putting in some initial effort. And remember, networking doesn’t only mean going to a meeting. Reaching out to experts and influencers in your industry counts, too.
Here’s our top tips to help you turn networking into a positive experience.
If you are specifically approaching someone, make sure you do your research. It’s likely that if you are reaching out, you have established a common area of interest, but make sure you know a little more about them, and tailor your questions so you get the most from your meeting. And for goodness sake don’t say “can I pick your brain”. Everyone is bus and no one will be keen to give away their time for free.
Visit as many local groups as you can. Try and find ones that are relevant or sound like you’ll enjoy being there. Don’t just keep going to the same meeting, especially not if it feels like you’re achieving nothing, just because it’s closest to your office. Try something new until you find one that works.
If you do pick up leads or referrals from networking groups, you need to follow them up swiftly. Don’t sit on it for too long, you need to capitalise while it’s fresh in everyone’s mind.
Don’t just hand out your business card to everyone you see. Keep a hold of them until someone asks. They are much more likely to follow up on the conversation.
You’re probably at the event to drum up some business and make valuable contacts. But remember, so is everyone else. Be polite, stay present and tone down the self-promotion. Keep it low-key and keep to short, positive points about what problem your business can solve for them.
Networking events are not only about selling. It’s also a great place to just have a cup of tea with fellow business owners and compare notes. Make the most of the ones you attend, and they can prove to be a very valuable asset to your business.
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