Networking is a great way to build your business, it is high-leverage, low-cost and when done right it can be incredibly profitable.
And now with the growing amount of baby-friendly business networks popping up, even we entrepreneurial parents who struggle to find suitable childcare can experience all the benefits networking has to offer.
When you have to network to a deadline – whether that be a client meeting following the event or the potential distraction of a crying baby – you need to know how to do it more efficiently to make the most of your time.
So here are six tips to help you get more profitable results from your networking.
1. Know what you do, who you do it for, why you do it and what makes you different
You only have a short window of time to get your value across to others, so you need to be able to articulate what you do, who you do it for and what makes you different, clearly and concisely.
Get SmartCompany FREE to your inbox every weekday
People aren’t going to remember long descriptions about what you do, so the more interesting and relevant you make your business, products and services the better chance they will have of remembering you. Is there a common frustration your product or service solves? Is there a story behind your business name or logo? Do you have a standout client testimonial or a well-known client?
2. Know and be able to articulate who and what you are looking for
Networking is about using other networks to grow your business and using your network to help others. It is leverage in the purest form. With this in mind, it pays to know what you want and who you want to connect with in terms of clients, alliances and business specialists (if you have a need in your own business).
Not only will this help you when someone asks “how can I help you?” at an event, it will also help you determine what networking groups you should be attending and who you should be speaking to at the event, making your networking far more strategic and profitable.
3. Work the room and build rapport
Many people define the success of their networking by how many business cards they end up with at the end of an event.
Though the true measure of your networking success is determined by how many valuable connections you make – and the only way you make these valuable connections is by talking to people and building rapport.
One of the aims of your networking should be to build rapport with as many people as possible to make following them up easier. So how do you build rapport with someone when you only have a couple of minutes?
- Find common ground – Like attracts like and conversations are more positive and comfortable when someone views us as similar to them. So while you are networking find something you have in common that you can talk about.
- Mirror the person you are speaking to – Mirroring or matching the body language, speech and tone of the person you are talking to can be a great way to build rapport quickly. Casually make the same gestures they do and if they talk slow, you talk slow or if they talk fast, you talk fast.
- Be confident and friendly – People are naturally attracted to warm, bubbly people so make sure you are happy and friendly. Not only will it make you more likeable, you will also help those who are nervous to feel more relaxed around you.
4. Present a professional image
First impressions really do count so when you attend an event make sure you present yourself as a successful business owner by dressing and acting the part.
Display a professional image by wearing business attire and having good quality promotional material (business cards and flyers) to hand out. A person will often determine how seriously they take you and your business based on the way you look and the quality of your business material.
5. Follow up
No business relationship is formed and no referral is passed on without first following up the people that you meet. The best way to look at a networking event is that it is an introduction, to build on that you need to get to know each other’s businesses to find out how you can potentially help each other.
When following up you need to be timely, you never want to let a contact go cold. Personally, I follow up within two business days of an event and introduce myself by mentioning where we met.
In some instances you may need to be persistent to connect with certain contacts, it is important though to be respectfully persistent and not harass, be sure to establish early if they are interested in meeting with you. Also remember that you need to ask permission before adding anyone to your mailing list to prevent spam complaints and upsetting contacts.
6. Treat referrals with respect
When someone refers you, everything you do – and don’t do is a direct reflection on them. For this reason it is important to treat referrals with the utmost respect. When you receive a referral follow them up promptly and deliver on everything you have promised.
It is also good practice to update the person who referred you with the progress you make. When people know you will look after the referrals they send you, your referrals will continue to grow.
Do you have any networking tips you’d like to share?