While it is necessary to grow your online professional networks though the likes of LinkedIn, this should never replace face-to-face business networking.
Networking is an essential part of building relationships, opening yourself up to new ideas or ways of thinking, seeking opportunities and raising your profile. In fact, it is the personal connections you make that will create referrals for you and your business.
There are very few natural networkers. Most business owners and professionals must work at it. The good news is there are some easy things you can do to improve your networking skills and success.
Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Be one of the first to arrive. Don’t be late, but rather try and arrive a few minutes early. The event will not be busy yet, making it easier to find people to introduce yourself too. This is a lot less daunting that trying to break into already established groups deep in conversations.
- Try to ask open questions when meeting people. Use who, what, where, or when, rather than something that can be answered with a simple yes or no. This encourages discussion and shows listeners that you are interested in them.
- Don’t focus on selling your product or service! Networking is about building connections. There is nothing more off-putting than people who try to hard sell themselves or their business. People will want to speak with and are more likely to do business with you afterwards if you connect with them on a personal and authentic level.
- Remember people’s names. To help, repeat people’s names back to them when they introduce themselves. Then use the name once or twice throughout the conversation.
This will help you cement their name and face into your memory banks.
- Be prepared. Know how to tell people what you do or what your business is about in a few sentences. Also have business cards handy so you can easily give them out.
- Share your passion. People are more likely to remember you and connect with you if you share why you do what you do.
- Smile! Smiling is a networking super power. Not only will it make you feel more comfortable, it will put others at ease too. You will come across as warm and inviting and someone people want to meet and talk to.
- Follow-up. There is no point networking if you are not going to do the work after the event. Connect on LinkedIn with the people you have met, and if appropriate follow up with an email or phone call.
Now you have the skills and knowledge find where you can practise them. Search for networking groups in your area. You will be pleasantly surprised of what is around. In the Bay of Plenty we have the usual Chamber functions, but a host of other groups and events including Rotorua X, Tauranga Entrepreneurship Meetup, Export NZ, EMA Briefings and BNI to name a few.
If you’re unsure what’s around reach out to a local coworking space or economic development agency as they usually know what’s around.
So, get started now! Find out what’s available, put it in your diary and put these tips into action. You will quickly see your connections and networks grow and the positive impact it will have on your business.