Do you run screaming from the room when someone mentions going to a networking event? Are you one of the many who have to work up the energy, get into the right mental space to attend a networking gathering?
The last three, five, or ten have not resulted in any new business for you. Are you thinking it is a waste of time? Think again.
‘Connecting’ in business has a different context than in the social milieu of today. Connecting with people for business purposes means seeking new contacts through business associations, social networks and community contacts. Once you’ve made contact, find out what they are focused on, want, need. Done well, can mean big success. Read through to the end of this article; then assess what you have or have not been doing for networking with the little quiz at the end.
Most people have trouble getting into the swing of networking; but it is worth your while in almost any business to spend time stepping up to this plate, and up to the challenge – effectively. Face-to-face meetings are still the best opportunity to gather new business, despite all the online access to people and other networks.
“Electric communication will never be a substitute for the face of someone who with their soul encourages another person to be brave and true.” -Charles Dickens
Let me first set you straight about what is not effective networking on first meeting:
- Introducing yourself to someone and then spending the entire time talking about you, what your company does, and how great it is
- Jumping in to your ‘elevator speech’ to tell them what you can do for them
- Attempting to ‘push’ your company and your product or service
- Attempting to ‘close on the sale’ rather than asking if there is a time you two can meet to see if there is something you can do for them
The Rules of Effective Networking:
1. Ask Questions!! Find out who the other person is while being aware of body language and facial expressions that tell you when you may be crossing a personal line – everyone’s line is different. So what to ask? Some suggestions:
- Are they a member of the organization sponsoring the networking event?
- What business they are in? It’s for you to find out how it relates to yours. And if there is absolutely no connection, smile, shake hands and do both of you a favor – move on.
Find some points on which you can both connect or relate.
- What problems might they be facing in their business – economic downturn, coming election, small-town, big city politics?
- What community do they live and/or work in – is there a commute? What can you say about commuting?
- What age group are they in (Boomer, Gen-X, Gen-Y, Millennial)? (Direct questions about age are a no-no. Think about your approach.)
Recognize the beginning of a ‘getting to know you’ conversation? Sound strangely familiar – as in one of those online surveys you may have filled out? Do you recognize this as possibly the beginning of a marketing survey for your company?
Tread carefully and pay attention to any signals you pick up from your contact. Opening questions are always important. Think out your approach strategy before you head into a networking event.
“It is not good enough for things to be planned – they still have to be done; for the intention to become a reality, energy has to be launched into operation.” — Walt Kelly
2. Listen carefully, and pay attention to what they are saying. Try to direct the focus to something you have some experience in. The more you know about their life and business, the more likely you are to make a real connection, and have the knowledge and opportunity to determine how your company might be able to help them out.
3. Ask more questions! You really have to sound casual and authentically interested as opposed to playing the grand inquisitor in this situation. Finding one point, interest, or connection that you have in common is the key here. It’s called joining, engaging, or in a more social environment, meeting someone new. When you want to attract a new client, this is the inroad.
4. Find out what’s happening in this person’s life or business. Is there a connecting point to the business you are in? This will be your opening to find out if you have something to offer them that will make their life easier, more fun, more effective.
5. Do leave them with a clear memory of you -Decide in advance what impression you want to leave, and how you believe you can best achieve it – in a good way.
6. Leave the person feeling good, believing they can perhaps trust you, that you have experience, training, and knowledge behind you that can work for them.
7. Time your conversations. If you have twenty people in the room and only an hour or less to network, all of you want to meet and make contact with as many people as possible, to increase the chance of actually getting a new client.
Not every contact you make will bring you immediate business. If you have made an impression, you may not get the person you talked with, but you may get their referral of a friend, colleague, or neighbor down the road. You just never know. Burn no bridges!
“To give real service, you must add something which cannot be bought or measured with money, and that is sincerity and integrity.” — Douglas Adams
Practice makes perfect. It takes time to develop the skill for asking the right questions in a way that says ‘I am interested in you, your business – or life (depending on what your business offers) and helping you do what you do in a more efficient, effective way. Being able to do that without seeming nosy or creepily invasive or aggressive, takes attending to the other person’s needs and context of their life and work.
Quiz: (see answers below)
- How many contacts does it take to make a sale? 3, 5, 10, 15
- How many new contacts have you made in the last month that ended with agreement for a meeting?
- How many new clients/customers have you brought on board in the past quarter?
- How many business cards have you handed out in the past two weeks?
- How often have you left your office?
- Your business will thrive on word of mouth? True _ False _ Maybe ___
- You really like people but are too tired to socialize. True__ False__
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org for a FREE INITIAL CONSULTATION!
1. How many contacts does it take to make a sale? 3, 5, 10, 15
The industry answer is 10. That is the average number of contacts you generally need to make in order to close a new contract or sale.
That is why business people who are just starting out have to work so hard – it takes tremendous staying power to accept those who reject the offer, deflect the offer, or otherwise tell the person ‘NO’. It takes being resilient and strong, able to get past the negatives. That often means a strong ego. Most business executives and owners have that, but some do not.
A strong ego does not necessarily mean arrogance, one-upmanship, or any of the other negatives associated with a strong ego. It does, however, protect the individual from personal feelings of failure when someone says no to them in terms of doing business with them, and allows them to quickly rebound from the disappointment and move on.
2. How many new contacts have you made in the last month that ended with agreement for a meeting?
If the number is less than 10 in the past month, ask yourself how many contacts you actually made that had potential for new business. Develop some metrics for attracting new business so you can measure on a monthly basis what you are doing. If the number is less than 5, review your daily schedule and work in some designated time daily and weekly for making new contacts to gather new business.
3. How many new clients/customers have you brought on board in the past quarter?
How many do you need to not just keep your business afloat and be able to pay the bills but to see your business grow? Identify that number. You already have your business plan laid out (if not, call me immediately) in which you have identified how many customers/clients you need to make a go of your business on a monthly, quarterly and yearly basis, based on a five year plan – right? If you cannot answer that question quickly, easily and
4. How many business cards have you handed out in the past two weeks?
Your business card is one of the least expensive means of advertising your business within your target community. Your business card is your entry point, the card that has the ability, if left with someone, to pop back up in the wallet, purse or briefcase, or to be photographed and catalogued for future reference. Hand it out wherever you go. It has the potential to take people to your website, your Facebook page, any of your social media sites. Hand it out liberally. It does no good sitting in the box in your office. You paid for it, use it.
5. How often have you left your office?
In the last week, or month, how many times? How often have you gone out to meet people face to face and engage them in conversation about what they are doing to get an idea of how and what your company can offer? How many conversations have you had where you were able to identify a need your company could fill? If the answer is anywhere between zero 10 times in the past month, how do you think your business is going to grow? Face to face is still one of the best ways to sell people on the wisdom of using your product or services.
6. Your business will thrive on word of mouth? True _ False _ Maybe ___
Depending on the type of business, the answer could be maybe and, it could be true or false.
If you are a new company, or have not got a front street presence to remind people that you are there, chances are that you can’t count on word of mouth.
And…every business always needs to attract new business. That can be done by advertising, but how do you develop loyal clientele to your business? It’s personal service! That means face to face in most cases. And if you are only face to face with people who are already your customers, you are hostage to their business or their referral to others. Difficult and dangerous in terms of long term survival of your business.
7. You really like people but are too tired to socialize. True__ False__
If the answer is ‘True’, think about why you got into business for yourself in the first place. Focus on your vision for you and your company.
Think about whether you are being negatively affected by the rejections of your company services, or the failure to grow over the past quarter or year, or whatever term you want to use as your measure.
If the answer is ‘False’, then let’s assume you are out there working the crowd. keep up the good work! Get out there and continue to work the crowd and the meet the people! Toot your horn and on a daily, weekly basis increase the number of people who know that your company exists.