NETWORKING IS NOT A FOUR-LETTER WORD!
In spite of social media, surveys show that 95% of people say face-to-face meetings are essential for building business relationships. The ideal way to meet others is … yep, it’s through NETWORKING! Since networking often has a negative connotation, let’s just call it what it is…. MEETING NEW PEOPLE! “But I hate to network, oops, I mean meet new people. I’m shy. I don’t know where to go. I’m not comfortable walking up to people I don’t know”, the excuses are innumerable. Think about it for a minute – EVERYONE YOU KNOW NOW was at one point a stranger to you – yet you met them and now you’ve developed some sort of a relationship with them. Here are some helpful tips for successfully MEETING NEW PEOPLE:
FIRST: Consider who your ideal customers are and where can you find them. Which organizations do they belong to? Which events do they attend? Those are the places where you want to focus your efforts.
SECOND: Look ahead (via Google perhaps) for the events where you can meet your ideal customers and mark your calendar to attend them, registering in advance when possible; this commitment reduces your likelihood of not making the time to attend.
FINALLY: Okay, now you’re at the event, confidently walk up and introduce yourself to someone you don’t know. Your mission is to meet new people, so don’t stick to talking with people you already know. Remember, your goal is to learn about THEM; after all you already know about you! After the initial introductions and small-talk, start digging deeper by asking questions like “What does your ideal client look like?”, or “In terms of growing your business, what’s your greatest challenge?” Notice the questions are about them? Then, actively listen and show interest in their response; you may identify some common ground or an opportunity to be a resource to them.
NEXT: Once you decide if this is someone you want to learn more about, exchange business cards and suggest that you reach back out to them for another visit. A networking event is not the place for monopolizing someone’s time; they, too, want to meet others. If they agree to meet again, right away stop and mark your calendar – for a couple of days later – to contact them so that you don’t forget to follow-up. While follow-up is critical to success, it’s very often the weak spot for many people in growing their business.
Ultimately, networking can be a powerful tool, enhancing your ability to lead and influence others – but only if the people in your network value being connected with you, and they won’t feel that way if they sense you have a personal agenda. Givers gain, and networking provides a real opportunity to experience that!
Cynthia L. Widlitze, Adduco Consulting
**This is a blog post from a Small Business Council Committee member