Your Business Network – Part 4 – Honing your Networking Skills

In this multi part blog, one of our founders, Robert Newman, analyses the best ways to grow your business network with exerts from his book –  ‘Your Business Network – How to build and grow your network’.

This week, we discuss the best tips and tricks to improve your networking skills in the future.

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Preparation

Do you have a specific target market?

Do you know where your best clients are and where they network?

Do you have the time to spend networking in general events like chamber of commerce meetings?

These events are excellent for meeting a wide range of people, but if you have only a limited amount of time to network, you should be spending it with the most target rich networkers.

For example, if your product is for women and you have time for only one event per month, that event should be held by a women’s organization. If you market to doctors, find out when their events are being held and get invited to one of them.

Examine the events that you generally attend. Write down each one. Then write down the groups you belong to. Are they best suited to promote your products and services, or would your time be better spent networking at other events and in other groups?

Next, determine who you need to know. You do this by deciding what you need to know, who you know that can help you with it now, and what new people you need to network with who can fill in the gaps in your information and experience. Decide what your goals are and what you need to do to reach them.

  • Which people do you know currently who can help you reach your goals?
  • Which people do you know currently who have connections with people who could help you reach your goals?
  • Who do you know currently who can help you strategize what you must do to meet your goals?

If possible, find a way to meet the people you need to know by researching what groups they are in and what events they might be attending in the near future.

Dress appropriately

Choose clean, comfortable, well‐fitting clothes that are appropriate for the event. Think about what you will need to bring with you. Do you need business cards? Do you need a briefcase? Do you need to bring something to eat or drink?

If you’re a little shy about meeting new people, remember that you have plenty to offer other people ‐ they will be as lucky to meet you as you are to meet them. Remember, this event is about meeting other people and you have your list.

Remember, this is a networking event and everybody is there for the same reason ‐ to meet other people. So don’t under socialize or over‐socialize ‐ meet the people you came there to meet, and enjoy yourself while you’re doing it.

 

Presentation

Arrive at the event early. It’s easier to meet people then because there aren’t so many people there yet.

Start a conversation with someone before the event officially begins; once people start to arrive, you will already have met a few people. If you arrive late, people will already be in groups of conversations, and that’s harder to break into.

Don’t be afraid to make the first move. Approach them instead of waiting for people to approach you. On the other hand, don’t feel you have to give your entire life story. That’s not appropriate these events. Instead, concentrate on remembering the other person’s name, find out what he/she does and what he/she needs, and then tell him what’s relevant to him/her about you.

Finding common ground is the foundation of most relationships. Since you’re attending the same event, you must have something in common. Find out what that is while you’re researching beforehand if possible, and build rapport based on what you have in common.

Follow‐Up

Now that you’ve invested time and energy into a networking event, you want to get the most benefit possible from it. That doesn’t mean putting the business cards in a drawer and forgetting all about them.

A great way to make sure you follow up is to ask everyone you meet ‘I’d like to keep in touch with you – is it ok if I add you to my Friday email that I send out. It’s a short email with a tip on (something that is a problem for your clients). By asking everyone this – you HAVE to add them to your database. If you don’t have a weekly keeping in touch email consider doing one. If that seems like too much of a task, then ask “I’d like to keep in touch, is email the best way of contacting you?”, and then follow up as outlined below – using their preferred method of communication.

1. Develop a tracking system

Whether it’s a Rolodex, a database, or another tracking system, you need to put the business card information into a searchable system that you can always refer to and bring up their name, company, what they do, and how you met.

2. Send an e‐mail

Fewer than 10% of people actually follow up after the first meeting. You will set yourself apart if you send an e‐mail with some information about something they’re interested in. For instance, if you talked about hobbies, vacations, or diets, Google some interesting information about that topic and attach it to your e‐mail. Not only are you remembering them, but you’re also sending them something of value. This will put you in the top 1% of
networkers.

3. Give a referral and follow up

If the person you met asked for a referral, you can follow up with an e‐mail that includes that referral, and then follow up again to see if the referral worked out.

4. Thank you notes

An alternative approach would be to send them a thank you note that includes a brief summary of what you discussed at the event along with some information relevant to something they talked about.

This cycle is very effective. Go to an event, follow‐up with an e‐mail and some information, and follow up with another e‐mail. Repeat the e‐mail, gift, e‐mail cycle. It takes some time to build a relationship, but this method is very effective.

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In the next blog, part 4, we’ll discuss the obstacles to good networking and how NOT to network!