We all love fresh starts and that’s the best of what a new year brings. This is the perfect time to professionalize our networking through planning before we attend events, piloting our activities with skill and learning to pursue connections wisely. Below are a few ideas I find very helpful for new or established networkers.
- First, before you go to any event determine what you wish people to remember about your product or service and put this into a 15 second statement.
- Plan ahead of each event the type of businesses you wish to meet. Usually this is a prospective client or a referral source. Plan to meet at least four new people.
- Plan networking as part of your advertising budget. Expect a rate of return from your investment of money and time. You will be more efficient with your networking.
- Plan to track networking events. Most chambers have websites. Find the events that will draw referral sources and clients or are being produced by owners of organizations you wish to meet.
- Plan to have a WING person.” Two or more of you attending a function, working for each other. You split at the door following a disciplined plan to meet new people. You may not be able to work with a person you have just met but just maybe your WING person can. Facilitate an introduction.
- Plan to bring business cards. Your best marketing tool.
Next step is Piloting events.
- Never assume that just because people are talking with others they are not interested in meeting you. That is why they are attending a networking event. They want to meet new people. Introduce yourself.
- Look at the name tags the attendees are wearing. Some could be referral sources and others potential clients or someone has a product of service you could use.
Some of us need help initiating conversation; Here are a couple of ice breakers:
Hi my name is Kay Bates. I work for McHenry Area Chamber of Commerce. Stop here. Ask Questions. What is your name? What is the name of your organization? What does your organization do? Where is your company located? Are there particular companies you are here to meet.
Then draw connections between what your organization does, its location, companies you plan to meet. Build relationships on what you have in common.
Couple of tips:
- First time attendees should tell those at the reception table that this is their first function. This works well with chambers because they have people trained to help.
- Always look for easy to approach singles especially at your first few mixers.
- Listen – we too often think about what we want to say next!
- Look people in the eyes.
- Try not to spend more than 10 minutes with each person. “I don’t want to absorb all your time. There are lots of people you need to meet.” Then move on.
The Pursuit or follow-up.
- Stand apart from your competition. Send a card, coupon, or memorable specialty item to people you wish to know better.
- Call them. You wish to know more about their organization and have the opportunity to share yours as well.
- Invite contacts to an event that would be profitable to both of you.
- Send an article pertinent to a contact’s business or hobby he might have.
- Like their social media pages. Invite them to like yours as well.
- If there are changes in your product or service or a special sale make certain contacts get this information.
- Ask them if they would be willing to try one item with you with tangibles or with intangibles a complimentary session.
- Give it a rest. After three times of attempting to connect with a person you met, let it go. He or she just isn’t interested!
Remember the three p’s planning, piloting and pursuing of networking. Networking can be your best sales tool. It raises our credibility in the market place and develops loyalty among customer groups.