Effective networking at events – Make 2016 your best business year part 4

Master the art of effective network at events

Empy seats at a networking event, not a good sign

Effective networking is simply talking and listening, and we can all do that.

Hopefully by reading this series of articles, you’re ready to make 2016 your best year in business. We’ve so far covered how to tackle that scary five year plan, the small steps that will help you plan your year, and the best ways to build your brand.

Now let’s talk about something that fills many people with dread – networking.

Like it or loathe it, you can’t avoid it, as networking is the lifeblood of many businesses.  Get it right, and you have multiplied your share of voice, increased your client facing time as well as your prospects.  Get it wrong, and people may talk about you and your business for all the wrong reasons.

Now there is a bit of an art to effective networking, and more often than not, people get it terribly wrong.  Why? Because they forget what it means to actually network.  It’s not about simply grabbing as many business cards as possible, and shouting to the other person about what you do.  Effective networking is simply talking and listening, and we should all be able to do that.

So before you reluctantly head out to your next event, heed this advice.

Why is networking so important?

The truth is, even with the emergence of social media, skype and remote working, people will still buy from people.  We still like a human voice at the end of the phone, a person to interact with if things go wrong.  The internet is great, but being human has its advantages when it comes to securing business.

Effective networking is the long game

There are apparently several stages in the buying decision making process, as can be seen here:

Effective networking can impact the Buying Cycle

So, apart from point of sale impulse purchases, you can see that most consumers take their time to buy and go through this considered process.  As a business that could potentially turn this decision maker into a client, you need to be at the front of their mind when they go through this buying process.  The only way to ensure this is to be visible and helpful, so the buyer knows you and trusts you.  And that is the key to effective networking.  Making yourself known, but not in a sales-y way.

Often people go to networking events expecting to come back with a handful of prospects there and then. But good, effective networking is the long game.  People need to get to know you and understand that you’re a safe pair of hands.  The biggest mistake that you can make is to come on too strong and expect sales straight away.  The person you’re speaking to may not require your services at that moment, or if they do, they may be put off by a bullish approach.

You need to see networking as an investment of time.  Keep meeting people, have good conversations and remain engaged.  It’s not unknown for a prospect getting back to you in six months, or recommending you to someone they know, providing you make a good impression.

It’s as much about listening as it is about speaking

Networking, just like speaking, is a two-way conversation. Don’t feel like you need to get across everything about your business in one chat.  It’s just as important to understand about the businessperson you are talking to, as they may have something to offer you. Remember, they have come to network for just the same reasons as you, so by focussing solely on flogging your wares may risk missing out on a potential collaboration opportunity, or even a service that you may need.  Also, if you don’t get to understand a person’s business, you won’t really have a reason for a follow up email in the future.

Don’t underestimate who you’re talking to

In the cut and thrust world of networking, it may seem natural to want to filter out the people who may be of least use to you.  However, it’s hugely important not to dismiss anybody, as you simply never know who they know.  While somebody’s role may seem irrelevant, they may have a black book full of your dream clients.  So don’t be quick to dismiss someone.  But at the same time…

Choose your network events carefully

Now if you’re in a big city, there is an abundance of networking events, both free and paid for.  As a result, it’s quite easy to go to events that are of no relevance to you.  However, even if the event is free, your time is a cost, so use it wisely. So before signing up check the following:

Who the event is run by – If your business supports start-ups and it’s an entrepreneur’s network event, then great.

What type of prospects will be attending – this will be largely dictated by the first point.

Is it structured networking, or a free for all? – structure sessions often lead to more effective networking, as you get a chance to hear what everyone does and have tangible objectives.  Free-mingling networking events often mean that you only really get to talk to the person you’re next to, unless you to barge into a conversation.

What is the opportunity cost of the event? – Could you be spending time on another new business strategy?  Does its cost outweigh the benefits? If it is free, will it attract the calibre of clientele you need (NB: paid for doesn’t always mean better).

I hope this is a useful insight into the world of networking.  If you do want more new business advice and tips delivered straight into your inbox, fill out your details below:

 

Halima Khatun
 

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