First of all, you must realise that business networking is a very, very effective way to generate leads and prospects for your business. Learning how to do it is a very important addition to your marketing strategy.
So, lets me give you 10 tips to implement immediately and turn your business networking efforts around as soon as possible.
1. Business Networking is not necessarily direct response marketing
I say this because you must expect to be committed to the process for at least a year. Do not go into a networking meeting expecting to sell everyone on your product and service the moment you walk in the door. It is tedious and annoying and that may be why you have not had any great results in the past.
If this is you, Stop that NOW!
You may sell to some people on the first visit but it is more likely that you will not. That is ok. Get to know people, let them get to know you and then start to pass referrals to you or buy from you themselves.
2. Be the Conversation Starter.
Look around the room when you walk in and realise immediately that everyone in there is as nervous as you are, no matter what they look like, no matter how confidently they come across. So, the idea of expecting someone to speak to you first could leave you waiting around a long time. Of course, there will probably be a host if this is your first visit who will link you in with some other people. However, whatever happens, you make the choice to be the conversation starter. Choose to walk up to someone and say ‘Hi, I do not think we have met yet, My name is ______, What is yours?’.
3. People Like to Talk About Themselves.
To continue from the last point, in order to get those conversations started, ask the question ‘Where are you from?’ and then lead into what they do. Let them talk, be the listener and people will consider you pretty interesting even without saying a word! Inevitably, they will finally ask about you.
4. Have a Compelling Story
So, when they ask about you, what are you going to say? At this point, it would be handy to have a compelling and yet quick description of what you do. Something that makes them want to work with you or refer people to you. Think through your unique selling proposition. And then figure out your ideal client, the more specific you can be, the better.
5. Keep The Conversation On Their Side
Find out who their own ideal client is. Ask the question – ‘Who do you want to be connected with?’. Business owners, sales people, business development peeps are at a business networking meeting to make contacts that will create sales so when you show interest in their needs, they get pretty excited about talking to you.
6. Stay Connected to The Conversation
I know there is a lot of focus on the other person and you may start to think this is of no use to you. Stick with it and really get an idea of what their needs are and also see if they know people that you want to be connected with.
7. Partner them with Other People
After listening and engaging with another business owner, figure out if you can put them together with someone you know in the room or elsewhere. Today, at my networking meeting, someone took the time to think through their contacts and ask if I wanted an introduction. It made me look at them differently and it will do the same for you if you become someone who partners people up.
It may seem counter intuitive to focus so much on giving but it puts you in good stead to receive a referral from them and maybe even a sale. the law of reciprocation comes into play here. Read the book ‘Influence’ by Robert Cialdini to find out more about that.
8. Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For The Sale
Yes, I know I said to focus on relationship and yes you must. And in order to further the relationship, consider it a gift to offer them your service if you know it will help them with their challenges. Do not switch into sales mode at this point, it will show. Make your offer as naturally as possible. Solve their problem if you can even if it is with your product or service.
Where possible, make an appointment right there and then.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, consistency is key to building those relationships. Attend the same meeting whenever it runs so that people really get to know you. Become a member of the group and where possible, become a member of the leadership team for the group.
10. Feel the fear and Do it Anyway
No explanation needed, right?