Some people are cynical or uncertain about business networking - but if you do it right, the ways in which it helps your business will be endless. It might seem daunting to approach someone you don't know at first, but with the help of this guide, you'll be networking happy in no time. Here are the key steps to successful networking:
If you're going to an event, read a little bit around the subject it's based around or take a quick look at your industry's news so you have some conversation fodder when you get there. Look at the speaker and invitee list beforehand and figure out who you want to talk to - do your homework on them so you sound knowledgeable about what they do and impress them.
Remember that if you're at an event, everyone there is in the same shoes, or has been previously. That means that everyone is looking to speak to people, so they'll be glad if you approach them. Be smiley and confident - even if you don't feel it, no one will know the difference if you're faking. Don't butt in to conversations but say a friendly hello and introduce yourself by name to everyone you can.
Once you've introduced yourself and made a bit of small talk - what do you think of the event/location/speaker and so on - introduce your business. This is a mini-pitch - make it snappy, clear, informative and engaging. Practise or write out a few sentences that describe your business in this way before you go so you sound confident and in control of your idea.
Find out what the person you're talking to does and think of ways you could help them and they could help you. Discuss these openly - make helpful suggestions and explain what you're looking for. People will be more open to you if you can help them too. If you can't see or feel any connection, move on politely to the next person, but always give your business card to everyone you speak with - at the very least it's a bit of PR for your business.
Drop an email to the people you enjoyed meeting to tell them so. Keep it light - a simple "Good to meet you and hear your opinions on..." will do. Don't leave it too late - within a week is best. If you think there's some way you could do business with them in the future or would like discuss something further with them, suggest coffee or a meeting. Keep all your business cards or store contacts in a spreadsheet - you never know when you might need them. Some people find it useful to jot down what the person looked like on the card as a memory aid, in case you bump into them again.
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