There is no mystery to it …
Networking is simply about connecting with people, yet walking into a room where you don’t know anyone can rank up there with the other great fears such as public speaking when it comes to ‘out of the comfort zone’ experiences …
A lot of people are afraid of networking groups, but the truth is, we are all natural networkers; we do it every day with our family, friends and colleagues.
As we chat, add value and connect, we hope to uncover opportunities and increase our knowledge of other businesses so we can plug them into other contacts we may have and generate potential sales leads for our own business.
Even in today’s technology driven marketing environment, over 80% of new business is gained through formal or informal networks online and oﬄine through the oldest marketing tool, word of mouth.
So choosing not to include networking as an integral part of your marketing strategy cuts you off from a vital and vibrant source of new business.
Networking is deﬁned as “developing an extended group of people with similar interests or concerns who can interact and remain in contact for mutual assistance or support”. Something to note is that it’s important to develop these contacts well before you need them.
“Think of networking as a long-term proposition!”
It’s about cultivating positive relationships which are built on giving rather than taking. As well as identifying new business opportunities, networking allows you to share ideas, experience and good practice. You can meet inspirational role models, overcome isolation by meeting new people as being in business for yourself can be lonely at times, or maybe ﬁnd new suppliers as well as developing relationships already started.
It is easy to become isolated and lose touch with what is happening around you, especially in the early days of building a business. For me, the key to successful networking is being ready to serve ﬁrst, give rather than take, follow up professionally and always be willing to help others by introducing people and initiating relationships.
When it’s such a low cost, high reward activity, it amazes me how many business owners ﬁnd themselves committing one of the 7 Networking Sins without even realising it.
So what are the 7 Sins of Networking? Let’s explore them more:
Poor preparation and planning
Failure to set goals and research before the meeting.
Failure to act professionally
Lack of business cards, or being dressed inappropriately for your brand using poor body language.
Failure to work the room
Hiding in the shadows, avoiding eye contact and only talking to people you already know.
Failure in seeing the bigger picture, only seeing the people in the room and not understanding that everyone has a wider network behind them and remembering to celebrate the wins of others in the room.
Focused on getting vs giving
Selling hard without permission, not serving others ﬁrst.
Unable to deliver a clear message
Failure in being speciﬁc and clear on the pain that you solve for people, forgetting your target market and no offer or call to action.
Lack of follow-up
Failure to help generate business through referrals for others, lack of ‘permission’ database to stay in touch and no processes for keeping the conversation going.
Relationships matter. Most people have access to at least 250 contacts and your reputation needs to speak for itself. By going into networking with a ‘giving’ mindset, you’re creating an opportunity for people to really get to know you.
“You need to approach every networking situation with a genuine interest in people and a desire to help them!”
That’s how you leave a positive and lasting impression, and that’s why people will want to help you in return. That’s what networking (and life) is all about after all!
Now, don’t get stuck in a networking rut. Keep looking out for new and varied events to go to; clubs, associations, meetings, seminars, conferences, presentations, breakfast brieﬁngs, lunches, exhibitions.
Your aim is to increase your visibility, so present yourself as your brand and show people a consistent avatar. What I mean by that is that your online presence (website – Facebook – Twitter page etc) needs to match your offline presence (your business cards and yourself in person).
For example, I use the same photo on my Facebook proﬁle, LinkedIn page and on my business cards, and I regularly get people recognising me who I have never met, but who already feel a connection with me.
So how would you do that? Here are my 5 steps to creating your perfect pitch:
Always be positive – sounds like common sense, but you would be amazed how many people I meet when networking who look like they got dragged there! By having an open ‘can do’ attitude and having the belief in giving and sharing, as well as offering assistance, your reputation will soon grow, and people will be attracted to your energy and personality.
Develop the ability to ‘Schmooze’ – being able to talk to anyone is a valuable skill in its own right and essential in business. Being able to initiate a conversation means you are more likely come into contact with people who may turn out to be valuable connections. Have a few phrases such as, “How did you get started in … ?”, “What do you particularly need to help you succeed?” and, “How would I recognise your ideal customer if I met them?” up your sleeve.
Develop your listening skills – networking is not about selling, it is about listening to the other person, allowing others to open up and talk freely. Take an interest in what’s said and encourage them by using positive body language and subtle mirroring techniques to develop rapport.
Remember your business cards – only 25% of business people have a card that is up to date and gives the receiver precious information about them. Ensure it has all your contact information, including all your social media addresses. Connection is the goal after all. Plus use both sides!
It’s vital to be organised – keep a database of everyone you know and meet, using memory joggers and any mutual contacts for future reference. Invest in your own Contact Relationship Management (CRM) software to make this easier.
At most structured events you will get to present to the room with (up to) a one-minute presentation and you need to make the most of this opportunity.
After all, how often do you get the chance to spotlight your business to a whole room of interested people? It’s a true high-impact marketing strategy, so make sure you include all of the following 7 key stages of your perfect pitch:
Your business name – you would be amazed how many people forget this simple step, speak at a reasonable pace and clearly so everyone can understand
The problems you solve – Talk about the type of problems you solve for your clients, this will resonate much more with the room and enables the member to see those problems in their own businesses
How you can help them – explain a bit more about how you work and tell them about the results you get for clients
What’s unique about you – how your past or perhaps a hobby gives you a unique perspective on what you do, your qualifications etc
What you are looking for – Explain your target market, your ideal client and also talk about collaborators and suppliers you may be seeking to work alongside
Your call to action – what you want your audience to do next, maybe offer a complimentary meeting or schedule a 1:1
Your contact details – repeat your name and the best and easiest way to make contact with you
And ﬁnally for today, lets ﬁnish by making sure you always set your intentions. You can do this in a number of ways. Set your intention to go Networking right now, put dates in your diary and commit to go.
When you arrive at all those meetings, know your minimum success outcome, what you have to come away with to make that investment of your time worthwhile.
“And remember, the size of your network will determine the value of your networth so happy networking!”
If you’d like to know more about networking or are considering working with a coach to move your business and your life to the next level then call me on
01280 700405 or click here to send me an email enquiry and let’s talk.
Until next time …
If you’re looking for a partner to help grow your business, visit www.4pbusinessdevelopment.co.uk to discover how 4P Business Development can help you!