Golden rules of networking – your time is precious
How many times did you go to networking last year? Never? Wrong! Networking is a recent invention about to be named the most effective business tool.
How so? It’s simple. Think about the drill of choosing an accountant. Or a dentist. You most often pick someone based on the “word-of-mouth”. Business connections based on recommendation are the most precious in every industry becausethey don’t rely on a lower price but on the principle that “It’s worth to pay decent money to someone recommended and tried out by friends”. Networking doesn’t fall far from it. A short chat is enough to feel like you know the person. That’s a way to look for direct clients, promote your blog, or inform about an event you’re organizing. NetWORKing WORKs.
Still, I’ve sometimes felt that I don’t benefit much from networking events. By all means, they have to be well managed and attract our possible clients. But if you have an impression that you don’t get anything from participating in such meetings, then:
a) you have no idea that people you’re talking to are your potential partners or clients, b) you think networking is all about handing in your business card to one person and chasing another, c) you’re doing it wrong.
At the last event I went to, there were many people who couldn’t escape all three categories. I met coaches behaving as if they needed a proper coaching themselves, people who couldn’t clearly explain in 5 minutes what they do, and someone who ran up to the table next to me, gave me their card, introduced themselves so quickly that I didn’t manage to catch a word, and immediately moved to another group, saying: “I have to go”. They must have been terrified that someone wouldn’t get their card.
But networking is all about quality, not quantity. Here’s a list of tips to help you make the next event result in valuable connections.
- Preparation is key
How do you tackle it? Get your business cards ready, look neat, and in your head, prepare a self-introduction which will blow the interlocutors’ minds or at least, make a great impression.
- Listen before you speak
When meeting someone new, start with introducing yourself by asking the question: „My name’s Diana, and yours?”, and when already familiar with their name, follow up with “What do you do?”. This way, you have the upper hand, as you’ve taken the initiative; you also know what your potential client does, and what kind of message you should send them. Given that I’m a translator, I won’t offer translation services to another professional in this field. But I surely may exchange personal information, as they might specialize in something out of my depth.
And if I’m talking to a stylist, I may quickly consider how they could benefit from my work (and how my income could benefit from theirs).
- Ask questions
Networking is much more than introducing yourself and exchanging business cards. Ask detailed questions, so that you remember each other well. For example, the last time, I met a woman behind a school of grace. I had no idea what it was all about (who on earth knowns, anyway?), but without digging deeper, I wouldn’t have known if a) I was interested in her services, b) if she was willing to use mine.
- Stress quality, not quantity
In half-an-hour, you can have 5-10 constructive conversations with potential clients. Take initiative, but make sure there’s a point in talking at all. Abrupt leaving one interlocutor and going over to another is only allowed if you’re trapped with someone you definitely don’t want to speak with. For example, a coach with lips artificially plumped up as if on the brink of bursting, and 3-centimetre-lashes, who offers to make your life so much more fulfilling. No thanks – I think I’ve got it.
- Make notes on the business card
If something important comes to your mind during a conversation, jot it down quickly on the business card. There’s a reason they’re made of paper, instead of plastic.
- Keep your hands free
Usually, tea, coffee, water (sometimes even wine) are immediately up for grabs, but you’ll be nearly helpless with cards’ holder in one hand and a cup in the other. So, either next to a table, or put off your consumption a little bit – all in all – you’re not here to be a gourmet. You must keep better coffee and tea in your kitchen, anyway.
- Draw attention to cooperation opportunities
Make yourself remembered by sharing your ideas with the interlocutor. You may, for example, say: “Oh, you run an arts’ gallery? Interesting! To be frank, I rarely have time for visiting galleries, but I think we could cooperate on creating leaflets for your gallery in different languages”. And so on, after all, there’s always more than one solution. Adding specifics to the conversation makes it easier to remember it all, so you’d better skip the chitter-chatter and get to the detail.
- Step 1.
You enter the web page and analyze it from the angle of your services – is there room for cooperation?
- Step 2.
You start the message to a potential client by paying them a compliment. It’s a key strategy to make them happier, with you coming through as a nice person. The truth is people like to be praised, even for details.
- Step 3.
Adjust the message to the receiver. By looking through the page, you already know what you can bring up. There’s a bunch of options, either you ask directly if your services could come in handy, or you offer your help for future purposes, or you simply open with a specific service, pointing out advantages of the arrangement for the receiver.
- Step 4.
Start with a small free give-away. It may be subtle advice, or promise of a discount or preferential treatment. By granting the receiver something useful, you instantly become their friend.
- Step 5.
Attach a footer to your message. Mind you – most importantly, it has to contain basic information how to find you. And if it’s easy on the eyes and professional, you’ll make wonders happen.
- Step 6.
Wait for the receiver’s response and keep on working.
Bear in mind that the whole process is time-consuming. So if you know that you’ll not have a spare hour to meet your prospect clients again, perhaps it’s time to consider not attending. This kind of events often eat up money – sometimes only a few euros, but it’s a shame to spend even this amount if you’re not going to use the new connections.
Check out How to get the most out of conferences by Diana Jankowiak